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Woman and Labour


Olive Schreiner

Author of "Dreams," "The Story of an African Farm," "Trooper Peter Halket,"
"Dream Life and Real Life," etc. etc.

Dedicated to Constance Lytton

"Glory of warrior, glory of orator, glory of song,
Paid with a voice flying by to be lost on an endless sea--
Glory of virtue, to fight, to struggle, to right the wrong--
Nay, but she aim'd not at glory, no lover of glory she:
Give her the glory of going on and still to be."


Olive Schreiner.
De Aar, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. 1911.



Chapter I. Parasitism

Chapter II. Parasitism (continued)

Chapter III. Parasitism (continued)

Chapter IV. Woman and War

Chapter V. Sex Differences

Chapter VI. Certain Objections


It is necessary to say a few words to explain this book. The original
title of the book was "Musings on Woman and Labour."

It is, what its name implies, a collection of musings on some of the points
connected with woman's work.

In my early youth I began a book on Woman. I continued the work till ten
years ago. It necessarily touched on most matters in which sex has a part,
however incompletely.

It began by tracing the differences of sex function to their earliest
appearances in life on the globe; not only as when in the animal world, two
amoeboid globules coalesce, and the process of sexual generation almost
unconsciously begins; but to its yet more primitive manifestations in plant
life. In the first three chapters I traced, as far as I was able, the
evolution of sex in different branches of non-human life. Many large facts
surprised me in following this line of thought by their bearing on the
whole modern sex problem. Such facts as this; that, in the great majority
of species on the earth the female form exceeds the male in size and
strength and often in predatory instinct; and that sex relationships may
assume almost any form on earth as the conditions of life vary; and that,
even in their sexual relations towards offspring, those differences which
we, conventionally, are apt to suppose are inherent in the paternal or the
maternal sex form, are not inherent--as when one studies the lives of
certain toads, where the female deposits her eggs in cavities on the back
of the male, where the eggs are preserved and hatched; or, of certain sea
animals, in which the male carries the young about with him and rears them
in a pouch formed of his own substance; and countless other such. And
above all, this important fact, which had first impressed me when as a
child I wandered alone in the African bush and watched cock-o-veets singing
their inter-knit love-songs, and small singing birds building their nests
together, and caring for and watching over, not only their young, but each
other, and which has powerfully influenced all I have thought and felt on
sex matters since;--the fact that, along the line of bird life and among
certain of its species sex has attained its highest and aesthetic, and one
might almost say intellectual, development on earth: a point of
development to which no human race as a whole has yet reached, and which
represents the realisation of the highest sexual ideal which haunts

When these three chapters we ended I went on to deal, as far as possible,
with woman's condition in the most primitive, in the savage and in the
semi-savage states. I had always been strangely interested from childhood
in watching the condition of the native African women in their primitive
society about me. When I was eighteen I had a conversation with a Kafir
woman still in her untouched primitive condition, a conversation which made
a more profound impression on my mind than any but one other incident
connected with the position of woman has ever done. She was a woman whom I
cannot think of otherwise than as a person of genius. In language more
eloquent and intense than I have ever heard from the lips of any other
woman, she painted the condition of the women of her race; the labour of
women, the anguish of woman as she grew older, and the limitations of her
life closed in about her, her sufferings under the condition of polygamy
and subjection; all this she painted with a passion and intensity I have
not known equalled; and yet, and this was the interesting point, when I
went on to question her, combined with a deep and almost fierce bitterness
against life and the unseen powers which had shaped woman and her
conditions as they were, there was not one word of bitterness against the
individual man, nor any will or intention to revolt; rather, there was a
stern and almost majestic attitude of acceptance of the inevitable; life
and the conditions of her race being what they were. It was this
conversation which first forced upon me a truth, which I have since come to
regard as almost axiomatic, that, the women of no race or class will ever
rise in revolt or attempt to bring about a revolutionary readjustment of
their relation to their society, however intense their suffering and
however clear their perception of it, while the welfare and persistence of
their society requires their submission: that, wherever there is a general
attempt on the part of the women of any society to readjust their position
in it, a close analysis will always show that the changed or changing
conditions of that society have made woman's acquiescence no longer
necessary or desirable.

Another point which it was attempted to deal with in this division of the
book was the probability, amounting almost to a certainty, that woman's
physical suffering and weakness in childbirth and certain other directions
was the price which woman has been compelled to pay for the passing of the
race from the quadrupedal and four-handed state to the erect; and which was
essential if humanity as we know it was to exist (this of course was dealt
with by a physiological study of woman's structure); and also, to deal with
the highly probable, though unproved and perhaps unprovable, suggestion,
that it was largely the necessity which woman was under of bearing her
helpless young in her arms while procuring food for them and herself, and
of carrying them when escaping from enemies, that led to the entirely erect
position being forced on developing humanity.

These and many other points throwing an interesting light on the later
development of women (such as the relation between agriculture and the
subjection of women) were gone into in this division of the book dealing
with primitive and semi-barbarous womanhood.

When this division was ended, I had them type-written, and with the first
three chapters bound in one volume about the year 1888; and then went on to
work at the last division, which I had already begun.

This dealt with what is more popularly known as the women's question: with
the causes which in modern European societies are leading women to attempt
readjustment in their relation to their social organism; with the direction
in which such readjustments are taking place; and with the results which in
the future it appears likely such readjustments will produce.

After eleven years, 1899, these chapters were finished and bound in a large
volume with the first two divisions. There then only remained to revise
the book and write a preface. In addition to the prose argument I had in
each chapter one or more allegories; because while it is easy clearly to
express abstract thoughts in argumentative prose, whatever emotion those
thoughts awaken I have not felt myself able adequately to express except in
the other form. (The allegory "Three Dreams in a Desert" which I published
about nineteen years ago was taken from this book; and I have felt that
perhaps being taken from its context it was not quite clear to every one.)
I had also tried throughout to illustrate the subject with exactly those
particular facts in the animal and human world, with which I had come into
personal contact and which had helped to form the conclusions which were
given; as it has always seemed to me that in dealing with sociological
questions a knowledge of the exact manner in which any writer has arrived
at his view is necessary in measuring its worth. The work had occupied a
large part of my life, and I had hoped, whatever its deficiencies, that it
might at least stimulate other minds, perhaps more happily situated, to an
enlarged study of the question.

In 1899 I was living in Johannesburg, when, owing to ill-health, I was
ordered suddenly to spend some time at a lower level. At the end of two
months the Boer War broke out. Two days after war was proclaimed I arrived
at De Aar on my way back to the Transvaal; but Martial Law had already been
proclaimed there, and the military authorities refused to allow my return
to my home in Johannesburg and sent me to the Colony; nor was I allowed to
send any communication through, to any person, who might have extended some
care over my possessions. Some eight months after, when the British troops
had taken and entered Johannesburg; a friend, who, being on the British
side, had been allowed to go up, wrote me that he had visited my house and
found it looted, that all that was of value had been taken or destroyed;
that my desk had been forced open and broken up, and its contents set on
fire in the centre of the room, so that the roof was blackened over the
pile of burnt papers. He added that there was little in the remnants of
paper of which I could make any use, but that he had gathered and stored
the fragments till such time as I might be allowed to come and see them. I
thus knew my book had been destroyed.

Some months later in the war when confined in a little up-country hamlet,
many hundreds of miles from the coast and from Johannesburg; with the brunt
of the war at that time breaking around us, de Wet having crossed the
Orange River and being said to have been within a few miles of us, and the
British columns moving hither and thither, I was living in a little house
on the outskirts of the village, in a single room, with a stretcher and two
packing-cases as furniture, and with my little dog for company. Thirty-six
armed African natives were set to guard night and day at the doors and
windows of the house; and I was only allowed to go out during certain hours
in the middle of the day to fetch water from the fountain, or to buy what I
needed, and I was allowed to receive no books, newspapers or magazines. A
high barbed wire fence, guarded by armed natives, surrounded the village,
through which it would have been death to try to escape. All day the pom-
poms from the armoured trains, that paraded on the railway line nine miles
distant, could be heard at intervals; and at night the talk of the armed
natives as they pressed against the windows, and the tramp of the watch
with the endless "Who goes there?" as they walked round the wire fence
through the long, dark hours, when one was allowed neither to light a
candle nor strike a match. When a conflict was fought near by, the dying
and wounded were brought in; three men belonging to our little village were
led out to execution; death sentences were read in our little market-place;
our prison was filled with our fellow-countrymen; and we did not know from
hour to hour what the next would bring to any of us. Under these
conditions I felt it necessary I should resolutely force my thought at
times from the horror of the world around me, to dwell on some abstract
question, and it was under these circumstances that this little book was
written; being a remembrance mainly drawn from one chapter of the larger
book. The armed native guards standing against the uncurtained windows, it
was impossible to open the shutters, and the room was therefore always so
dark that even the physical act of writing was difficult.

A year and a half after, when the war was over and peace had been
proclaimed for above four months, I with difficulty obtained a permit to
visit the Transvaal. I found among the burnt fragments the leathern back
of my book intact, the front half of the leaves burnt away; the back half
of the leaves next to the cover still all there, but so browned and
scorched with the flames that they broke as you touched them; and there was
nothing left but to destroy it. I even then felt a hope that at some
future time I might yet rewrite the entire book. But life is short; and I
have found that not only shall I never rewrite the book, but I shall not
have the health even to fill out and harmonise this little remembrance from

It is therefore with considerable pain that I give out this fragment. I am
only comforted by the thought that perhaps, all sincere and earnest search
after truth, even where it fails to reach it, yet, often comes so near to
it, that other minds more happily situated may be led, by pointing out its
very limitations and errors, to obtain a larger view.

I have dared to give this long and very uninteresting explanation, not at
all because I have wished by giving the conditions under which this little
book was written, to make excuse for any repetitions or lack of literary
perfection, for these things matter very little; but, because (and this
matters very much) it might lead to misconception on the subject-matter
itself if its genesis were not exactly understood.

Not only is this book not a general view of the whole vast body of
phenomena connected with woman's position; but it is not even a bird's-eye
view of the whole question of woman's relation to labour.

In the original book the matter of the parasitism of woman filled only one
chapter out of twelve, and it was mainly from this chapter that this book
was drawn. The question of the parasitism of woman is, I think, very
vital, very important; it explains many phenomena which nothing else
explains; and it will be of increasing importance. But for the moment
there are other aspects of woman's relation to labour practically quite as
pressing. In the larger book I had devoted one chapter entirely to an
examination of the work woman has done and still does in the modern world,
and the gigantic evils which arise from the fact that her labour,
especially domestic labour, often the most wearisome and unending known to
any section of the human race, is not adequately recognised or recompensed.
Especially on this point I have feared this book might lead to a
misconception, if by its great insistence on the problem of sex parasitism,
and the lighter dealing with other aspects, it should lead to the
impression that woman's domestic labour at the present day (something quite
distinct from, though indirectly connected with, the sexual relation
between man and woman) should not be highly and most highly recognised and
recompensed. I believe it will be in the future, and then when woman gives
up her independent field of labour for domestic or marital duty of any
kind, she will not receive her share of the earnings of the man as a more
or less eleemosynary benefaction, placing her in a position of subjection,
but an equal share, as the fair division, in an equal partnership. (It may
be objected that where a man and woman have valued each other sufficiently
to select one another from all other humans for a lifelong physical union,
it is an impertinence to suppose there could be any necessity to adjust
economic relations. In love there is no first nor last! And that the
desire of each must be to excel the other in service.

That this should be so is true; that it is so now, in the case of union
between two perfectly morally developed humans, is also true, and that this
condition may in a distant future be almost universal is certainly true.
But dealing with this matter as a practical question today, we have to
consider not what should be, or what may be, but what, given traditions and
institutions of our societies, is, today.) Especially I have feared that
the points dealt with in this little book, when taken apart from other
aspects of the question, might lead to the conception that it was intended
to express the thought, that it was possible or desirable that woman in
addition to her child-bearing should take from man his share in the support
and care of his offspring or of the woman who fulfilled with regard to
himself domestic duties of any kind. In that chapter in the original book
devoted to the consideration of man's labour in connection with woman and
with his offspring more than one hundred pages were devoted to illustrating
how essential to the humanising and civilising of man, and therefore of the
whole race, was an increased sense of sexual and paternal responsibility,
and an increased justice towards woman as a domestic labourer. In the last
half of the same chapter I dealt at great length with what seems to me an
even more pressing practical sex question at this moment--man's attitude
towards those women who are not engaged in domestic labour; toward that
vast and always increasing body of women, who as modern conditions develop
are thrown out into the stream of modern economic life to sustain
themselves and often others by their own labour; and who yet are there
bound hand and foot, not by the intellectual or physical limitations of
their nature, but by artificial constrictions and conventions, the remnants
of a past condition of society. It is largely this maladjustment, which,
deeply studied in all its ramifications, will be found to lie as the
taproot and central source of the most terrible of the social diseases that
afflict us.

The fact that for equal work equally well performed by a man and by a
woman, it is ordained that the woman on the ground of her sex alone shall
receive a less recompense, is the nearest approach to a wilful and
unqualified "wrong" in the whole relation of woman to society today. That
males of enlightenment and equity can for an hour tolerate the existence of
this inequality has seemed to me always incomprehensible; and it is only
explainable when one regards it as a result of the blinding effects of
custom and habit. Personally, I have felt so profoundly on this subject,
that this, with one other point connected with woman's sexual relation to
man, are the only matters connected with woman's position, in thinking of
which I have always felt it necessary almost fiercely to crush down
indignation and to restrain it, if I would maintain an impartiality of
outlook. I should therefore much regret if the light and passing manner in
which this question has been touched on in this little book made it seem of
less vital importance than I hold it.

In the last chapter of the original book, the longest, and I believe the
most important, I dealt with the problems connected with marriage and the
personal relations of men and women in the modern world. In it I tried to
give expression to that which I hold to be a great truth, and one on which
I should not fear to challenge the verdict of long future generations--
that, the direction in which the endeavour of woman to readjust herself to
the new conditions of life is leading today, is not towards a greater
sexual laxity, or promiscuity, or to an increased self-indulgence, but
toward a higher appreciation of the sacredness of all sex relations, and a
clearer perception of the sex relation between man and woman as the basis
of human society, on whose integrity, beauty and healthfulness depend the
health and beauty of human life, as a whole. Above all, that it will lead
to a closer, more permanent, more emotionally and intellectually complete
and intimate relation between the individual man and woman. And if in the
present disco-ordinate transitional stage of our social growth it is found
necessary to allow of readjustment by means of divorce, it will not be
because such readjustments will be regarded lightly, but rather, as when,
in a complex and delicate mechanism moved by a central spring, we allow in
the structure for the readjustment and regulation of that spring, because
on its absolute perfection of action depends the movement of the whole
mechanism. In the last pages of the book, I tried to express what seems to
me a most profound truth often overlooked--that as humanity and human
societies pass on slowly from their present barbarous and semi-savage
condition in matters of sex into a higher, it will be found increasingly,
that over and above its function in producing and sending onward the
physical stream of life (a function which humanity shares with the most
lowly animal and vegetable forms of life, and which even by some noted
thinkers of the present day seems to be regarded as its only possible
function,) that sex and the sexual relation between man and woman have
distinct aesthetic, intellectual, and spiritual functions and ends, apart
entirely from physical reproduction. That noble as is the function of the
physical reproduction of humanity by the union of man and woman, rightly
viewed, that union has in it latent, other, and even higher forms, of
creative energy and life-dispensing power, and that its history on earth
has only begun. As the first wild rose when it hung from its stem with its
centre of stamens and pistils and its single whorl of pale petals, had only
begun its course, and was destined, as the ages passed, to develop stamen
upon stamen and petal upon petal, till it assumed a hundred forms of joy
and beauty.

And, it would indeed almost seem, that, on the path toward the higher
development of sexual life on earth, as man has so often had to lead in
other paths, that here it is perhaps woman, by reason of those very sexual
conditions which in the past have crushed and trammelled her, who is bound
to lead the way, and man to follow. So that it may be at last, that sexual
love--that tired angel who through the ages has presided over the march of
humanity, with distraught eyes, and feather-shafts broken, and wings
drabbled in the mires of lust and greed, and golden locks caked over with
the dust of injustice and oppression--till those looking at him have
sometimes cried in terror, "He is the Evil and not the Good of life!" and
have sought, if it were not possible, to exterminate him--shall yet, at
last, bathed from the mire and dust of ages in the streams of friendship
and freedom, leap upwards, with white wings spread, resplendent in the
sunshine of a distant future--the essentially Good and Beautiful of human

I have given this long and very wearisome explanation of the scope and
origin of this little book, because I feel that it might lead to grave
misunderstanding were it not understood how it came to be written.

I have inscribed it to my friend, Lady Constance Lytton; not because I
think it worthy of her, nor yet because of the splendid part she has played
in the struggle of the women fighting today in England for certain forms of
freedom for all women. It is, if I may be allowed without violating the
sanctity of a close personal friendship so to say, because she, with one or
two other men and women I have known, have embodied for me the highest
ideal of human nature, in which intellectual power and strength of will are
combined with an infinite tenderness and a wide human sympathy; a
combination which, whether in the person of the man or the woman, is
essential to the existence of the fully rounded and harmonised human
creature; and which an English woman of genius summed in one line when she
cried in her invocation of her great French sister:--

"Thou large-brained woman and large-hearted man!"

One word more I should like to add, as I may not again speak or write on
this subject. I should like to say to the men and women of the generations
which will come after us--"You will look back at us with astonishment! You
will wonder at passionate struggles that accomplished so little; at the, to
you, obvious paths to attain our ends which we did not take; at the
intolerable evils before which it will seem to you we sat down passive; at
the great truths staring us in the face, which we failed to see; at the
truths we grasped at, but could never quite get our fingers round. You
will marvel at the labour that ended in so little--but, what you will never
know is how it was thinking of you and for you, that we struggled as we did
and accomplished the little which we have done; that it was in the thought
of your larger realisation and fuller life, that we found consolation for
the futilities of our own."

"What I aspired to be, and was not, comforts me."


Chapter I. Parasitism.

In that clamour which has arisen in the modern world, where now this, and
then that, is demanded for and by large bodies of modern women, he who
listens carefully may detect as a keynote, beneath all the clamour, a
demand which may be embodied in such a cry as this: Give us labour and the
training which fits for labour! We demand this, not for ourselves alone,
but for the race.

If this demand be logically expanded, it will take such form as this: Give
us labour! For countless ages, for thousands, millions it may be, we have
laboured. When first man wandered, the naked, newly-erected savage, and
hunted and fought, we wandered with him: each step of his was ours.
Within our bodies we bore the race, on our shoulders we carried it; we
sought the roots and plants for its food; and, when man's barbed arrow or
hook brought the game, our hands dressed it. Side by side, the savage man
and the savage woman, we wandered free together and laboured free together.
And we were contented!

Then a change came.

We ceased from our wanderings, and, camping upon one spot of earth, again
the labours of life were divided between us. While man went forth to hunt,
or to battle with the foe who would have dispossessed us of all, we
laboured on the land. We hoed the earth, we reaped the grain, we shaped
the dwellings, we wove the clothing, we modelled the earthen vessels and
drew the lines upon them, which were humanity's first attempt at domestic
art; we studied the properties and uses of plants, and our old women were
the first physicians of the race, as, often, its first priests and

We fed the race at our breast, we bore it on our shoulders; through us it
was shaped, fed, and clothed. Labour more toilsome and unending than that
of man was ours; yet did we never cry out that it was too heavy for us.
While savage man lay in the sunshine on his skins, resting, that he might
be fitted for war or the chase, or while he shaped his weapons of death, he
ate and drank that which our hands had provided for him; and while we knelt
over our grindstone, or hoed in the fields, with one child in our womb,
perhaps, and one on our back, toiling till the young body was old before
its time--did we ever cry out that the labour allotted to us was too hard
for us? Did we not know that the woman who threw down her burden was as a
man who cast away his shield in battle--a coward and a traitor to his race?
Man fought--that was his work; we fed and nurtured the race--that was ours.
We knew that upon our labours, even as upon man's, depended the life and
well-being of the people whom we bore. We endured our toil, as man bore
his wounds, silently; and we were content.

Then again a change came.

Ages passed, and time was when it was no longer necessary that all men
should go to the hunt or the field of war; and when only one in five, or
one in ten, or but one in twenty, was needed continually for these labours.
Then our fellow-man, having no longer full occupation in his old fields of
labour, began to take his share in ours. He too began to cultivate the
field, to build the house, to grind the corn (or make his male slaves do
it); and the hoe, and the potter's tools, and the thatching-needle, and at
last even the grindstones which we first had picked up and smoothed to
grind the food for our children, began to pass from our hands into his.
The old, sweet life of the open fields was ours no more; we moved within
the gates, where the time passes more slowly and the world is sadder than
in the air outside; but we had our own work still, and were content.

If, indeed, we might no longer grow the food for our people, we were still
its dressers; if we did not always plant and prepare the flax and hemp, we
still wove the garments for our race; if we did no longer raise the house
walls, the tapestries that covered them were the work of our hands; we
brewed the ale, and the simples which were used as medicines we distilled
and prescribed; and, close about our feet, from birth to manhood, grew up
the children whom we had borne; their voices were always in our ears. At
the doors of our houses we sat with our spinning-wheels, and we looked out
across the fields that were once ours to labour in--and were contented.
Lord's wife, peasant's, or burgher's, we all still had our work to do!

A thousand years ago, had one gone to some great dame, questioning her why
she did not go out a-hunting or a-fighting, or enter the great hall to
dispense justice and confer upon the making of laws, she would have
answered: "Am I a fool that you put to me such questions? Have I not a
hundred maidens to keep at work at spinning-wheels and needles? With my
own hands daily do I not dispense bread to over a hundred folk? In the
great hall go and see the tapestries I with my maidens have created by the
labour of years, and which we shall labour over for twenty more, that my
children's children may see recorded the great deeds of their forefathers.
In my store-room are there not salves and simples, that my own hands have
prepared for the healing of my household and the sick in the country round?
Ill would it go indeed, if when the folk came home from war and the chase
of wild beasts, weary or wounded, they found all the womenfolk gone out a-
hunting and a-fighting, and none there to dress their wounds, or prepare
their meat, or guide and rule the household! Better far might my lord and
his followers come and help us with our work, than that we should go to
help them! You are surely bereft of all wit. What becomes of the country
if the women forsake their toil?"

And the burgher's wife, asked why she did not go to labour in her husband's
workshop, or away into the market-place, or go a-trading to foreign
countries, would certainly have answered: "I am too busy to speak with
such as you! The bread is in the oven (already I smell it a-burning), the
winter is coming on, and my children lack good woollen hose and my husband
needs a warm coat. I have six vats of ale all a-brewing, and I have
daughters whom I must teach to spin and sew, and the babies are clinging
round my knees. And you ask me why I do not go abroad to seek for new
labours! Godsooth! Would you have me to leave my household to starve in
summer and die of cold in winter, and my children to go untrained, while I
gad about to seek for other work? A man must have his belly full and his
back covered before all things in life. Who, think you, would spin and
bake and brew, and rear and train my babes, if I went abroad? New labour,
indeed, when the days are not long enough, and I have to toil far into the
night! I have no time to talk with fools! Who will rear and shape the
nation if I do not?"

And the young maiden at the cottage door, beside her wheel, asked why she
was content and did not seek new fields of labour, would surely have
answered: "Go away, I have no time to listen to you. Do you not see that
I am spinning here that I too may have a home of my own? I am weaving the
linen garments that shall clothe my household in the long years to come! I
cannot marry till the chest upstairs be full. You cannot hear it, but as I
sit here alone, spinning, far off across the hum of my spinning-wheel I
hear the voices of my little unborn children calling to me--'O mother,
mother, make haste, that we may be!'--and sometimes, when I seem to be
looking out across my wheel into the sunshine, it is the blaze of my own
fireside that I see, and the light shines on the faces round it; and I spin
on the faster and the steadier when I think of what shall come. Do you ask
me why I do not go out and labour in the fields with the lad whom I have
chosen? Is his work, then, indeed more needed than mine for the raising of
that home that shall be ours? Oh, very hard I will labour, for him and for
my children, in the long years to come. But I cannot stop to talk to you
now. Far off, over the hum of my spinning-wheel, I hear the voices of my
children calling, and I must hurry on. Do you ask me why I do not seek for
labour whose hands are full to bursting? Who will give folk to the nation
if I do not?"

Such would have been our answer in Europe in the ages of the past, if asked
the question why we were contented with our field of labour and sought no
other. Man had his work; we had ours. We knew that we upbore our world on
our shoulders; and that through the labour of our hands it was sustained
and strengthened--and we were contented.

But now, again a change has come.

Something that is entirely new has entered into the field of human labour,
and left nothing as it was.

In man's fields of toil, change has accomplished, and is yet more quickly
accomplishing, itself.

On lands where once fifty men and youths toiled with their cattle, today
one steam-plough, guided by but two pair of hands, passes swiftly; and an
automatic reaper in one day reaps and binds and prepares for the garner the
produce of fields it would have taken a hundred strong male arms to harvest
in the past. The iron tools and weapons, only one of which it took an
ancient father of our race long months of stern exertion to extract from
ore and bring to shape and temper, are now poured forth by steam-driven
machinery as a millpond pours forth its water; and even in war, the male's
ancient and especial field of labour, a complete reversal of the ancient
order has taken place. Time was when the size and strength of the muscles
in a man's legs and arms, and the strength and size of his body, largely
determined his fighting powers, and an Achilles or a Richard Coeur de Lion,
armed only with his spear or battle-axe, made a host fly before him; today
the puniest mannikin behind a modern Maxim gun may mow down in perfect
safety a phalanx of heroes whose legs and arms and physical powers a Greek
god might have envied, but who, having not the modern machinery of war,
fall powerless. The day of the primary import to humanity of the strength
in man's extensor and flexor muscles, whether in labours of war or of
peace, is gone by for ever; and the day of the all-importance of the
culture and activity of man's brain and nerve has already come.

The brain of one consumptive German chemist, who in his laboratory
compounds a new explosive, has more effect upon the wars of the modern
peoples than ten thousand soldierly legs and arms; and the man who invents
one new labour-saving machine may, through the cerebration of a few days,
have performed the labour it would otherwise have taken hundreds of
thousands of his lusty fellows decades to accomplish.

Year by year, month by month, and almost hour by hour, this change is
increasingly showing itself in the field of the modern labour; and crude
muscular force, whether in man or beast, sinks continually in its value in
the world of human toil; while intellectual power, virility, and activity,
and that culture which leads to the mastery of the inanimate forces of
nature, to the invention of machinery, and to that delicate manipulative
skill often required in guiding it, becomes ever of greater and greater
importance to the race. Already today we tremble on the verge of a
discovery, which may come tomorrow or the next day, when, through the
attainment of a simple and cheap method of controlling some widely
diffused, everywhere accessible, natural force (such, for instance, as the
force of the great tidal wave) there will at once and for ever pass away
even that comparatively small value which still, in our present stage of
material civilisation, clings to the expenditure of mere crude, mechanical,
human energy; and the creature, however physically powerful, who can merely
pull, push, and lift, much after the manner of a machine, will have no
further value in the field of human labour.

Therefore, even today, we find that wherever that condition which we call
modern civilisation prevails, and in proportion as it tends to prevail--
wherever steam-power, electricity, or the forces of wind and water, are
compelled by man's intellectual activity to act as the motor-powers in the
accomplishment of human toil, wherever the delicate adaptions of
scientifically constructed machinery are taking the place of the simple
manipulation of the human hand--there has arisen, all the world over, a
large body of males who find that their ancient fields of labour have
slipped or are slipping from them, and who discover that the modern world
has no place or need for them. At the gates of our dockyards, in our
streets, and in our fields, are to be found everywhere, in proportion as
modern civilisation is really dominant, men whose bulk and mere animal
strength would have made them as warriors invaluable members of any
primitive community, and who would have been valuable even in any simpler
civilisation than our own, as machines of toil; but who, owing to lack of
intellectual or delicate manual training, have now no form of labour to
offer society which it stands really in need of, and who therefore tend to
form our Great Male Unemployed--a body which finds the only powers it
possesses so little needed by its fellows that, in return for its intensest
physical labour, it hardly earns the poorest sustenance. The material
conditions of life have been rapidly modified, and the man has not been
modified with them; machinery has largely filled his place in his old field
of labour, and he has found no new one.

It is from these men, men who, viewed from the broad humanitarian
standpoint, are often of the most lovable and interesting type, and who
might in a simpler state of society, where physical force was the
dominating factor, have been the heroes, leaders, and chiefs of their
people, that there arises in the modern world the bitter cry of the male
unemployed: "Give us labour or we die!" (The problem of the unemployed
male is, of course, not nearly so modern as that of the unemployed female.
It may be said in England to have taken its rise in almost its present form
as early as the fifteenth century, when economic changes began to sever the
agricultural labourer from the land, and rob him of his ancient forms of
social toil. Still, in its most acute form, it may be called a modern

Yet it is only upon one, and a comparatively small, section of the males of
the modern civilised world that these changes in the material conditions of
life have told in such fashion as to take all useful occupation from them
and render them wholly or partly worthless to society. If the modern man's
field of labour has contracted at one end (the physical), at the other (the
intellectual) it has immeasurably expanded! If machinery and the command
of inanimate motor-forces have rendered of comparatively little value the
male's mere physical motor-power, the demand upon his intellectual
faculties, the call for the expenditure of nervous energy, and the exercise
of delicate manipulative skill in the labour of human life, have
immeasurably increased.

In a million new directions forms of honoured and remunerative social
labour are opening up before the feet of the modern man, which his
ancestors never dreamed of; and day by day they yet increase in numbers and
importance. The steamship, the hydraulic lift, the patent road-maker, the
railway-train, the electric tram-car, the steam-driven mill, the Maxim gun
and the torpedo boat, once made, may perform their labours with the
guidance and assistance of comparatively few hands; but a whole army of men
of science, engineers, clerks, and highly-trained workmen is necessary for
their invention, construction, and maintenance. In the domains of art, of
science, of literature, and above all in the field of politics and
government, an almost infinite extension has taken place in the fields of
male labour. Where in primitive times woman was often the only builder,
and patterns she daubed on her hut walls or traced on her earthen vessels
the only attempts at domestic art; and where later but an individual here
and there was required to design a king's palace or a god's temple or to
ornament it with statues or paintings, today a mighty army of men, a
million strong, is employed in producing plastic art alone, both high and
low, from the traceries on wall-paper and the illustrations in penny
journals, to the production of the pictures and statues which adorn the
national collections, and a mighty new field of toil has opened before the
anciently hunting and fighting male. Where once one ancient witch-doctress
may have been the only creature in a whole district who studied the nature
of herbs and earths, or a solitary wizard experimenting on poisons was the
only individual in a whole territory interrogating nature; and where later,
a few score of alchemists and astrologers only were engaged in examining
the structure of substances, or the movement of planets, today thousands of
men in every civilised community are labouring to unravel the mysteries of
nature, and the practical chemist, the physician, the anatomist, the
engineer, the astronomer, the mathematician, the electrician, form a mighty
and always increasingly important army of male labourers. Where once an
isolated bard supplied a nation with its literatures, or where later a few
thousand priests and men of letters wrote and transcribed for the few to
read, today literature gives labour to a multitude almost as countless as a
swarm of locusts. From the penny-a-liner to the artist and thinker, the
demand for their labour continually increases. Where one town-crier with
stout legs and lusty lungs was once all-sufficient to spread the town and
country news, a score of men now sit daily pen in hand, preparing the
columns of the morning's paper, and far into the night a hundred
compositors are engaged in a labour which requires a higher culture of
brain and finger than most ancient kings and rulers possessed. Even in the
labours of war, the most brutal and primitive of the occupations lingering
on into civilised life from the savage state, the new demand for labour of
an intellectual kind is enormous. The invention, construction, and working
of one Krupp gun, though its mere discharge hardly demands more crude
muscular exertion than a savage expends in throwing his boomerang, yet
represents an infinitude of intellectual care and thought, far greater than
that which went to the shaping of all the weapons of a primitive army.
Above all, in the domain of politics and government, where once a king or
queen, aided by a handful of councillors, was alone practically concerned
in the labours of national guidance or legislation; today, owing to the
rapid means of intercommunication, printing, and the consequent diffusion
of political and social information throughout a territory, it has become
possible, for the first time, for all adults in a large community to keep
themselves closely informed on all national affairs; and in every highly-
civilised state the ordinary male has been almost compelled to take his
share, however small, in the duties and labours of legislation and
government. Thus there has opened before the mass of men a vast new sphere
of labour undreamed of by their ancestors. In every direction the change
which material civilisation has wrought, while it has militated against
that comparatively small section of males who have nothing to offer society
but the expenditure of their untrained muscular energy (inflicting much and
often completely unmerited suffering upon them), has immeasurably extended
the field of male labour as a whole. Never before in the history of the
earth has the man's field of remunerative toil been so wide, so
interesting, so complex, and in its results so all-important to society;
never before has the male sex, taken as a whole, been so fully and
strenuously employed.

So much is this the case, that, exactly as in the earlier conditions of
society an excessive and almost crushing amount of the most important
physical labour generally devolved upon the female, so under modern
civilised conditions among the wealthier and fully civilised classes, an
unduly excessive share of labour tends to devolve upon the male. That
almost entirely modern, morbid condition, affecting brain and nervous
system, and shortening the lives of thousands in modern civilised
societies, which is vulgarly known as "overwork" or "nervous breakdown," is
but one evidence of the even excessive share of mental toil devolving upon
the modern male of the cultured classes, who, in addition to maintaining
himself, has frequently dependent upon him a larger or smaller number of
entirely parasitic females. But, whatever the result of the changes of
modern civilisation may be with regard to the male, he certainly cannot
complain that they have as a whole robbed him of his fields of labour,
diminished his share in the conduct of life, or reduced him to a condition
of morbid inactivity.

In our woman's field of labour, matters have tended to shape themselves
wholly otherwise! The changes which have taken place during the last
centuries, and which we sum up under the compendious term "modern
civilisation," have tended to rob woman, not merely in part but almost
wholly, of the more valuable of her ancient domain of productive and social
labour; and, where there has not been a determined and conscious resistance
on her part, have nowhere spontaneously tended to open out to her new and
compensatory fields.

It is this fact which constitutes our modern "Woman's Labour Problem."

Our spinning-wheels are all broken; in a thousand huge buildings steam-
driven looms, guided by a few hundred thousands of hands (often those of
men), produce the clothings of half the world; and we dare no longer say,
proudly, as of old, that we and we alone clothe our peoples.

Our hoes and our grindstones passed from us long ago, when the ploughman
and the miller took our place; but for a time we kept fast possession of
the kneading-trough and the brewing-vat. Today, steam often shapes our
bread, and the loaves are set down at our very door--it may be by a man-
driven motor-car! The history of our household drinks we know no longer;
we merely see them set before us at our tables. Day by day machine-
prepared and factory-produced viands take a larger and larger place in the
dietary of rich and poor, till the working man's wife places before her
household little that is of her own preparation; while among the wealthier
classes, so far has domestic change gone that men are not unfrequently
found labouring in our houses and kitchens, and even standing behind our
chairs ready to do all but actually place the morsels of food between our
feminine lips. The army of rosy milkmaids has passed away for ever, to
give place to the cream-separator and the, largely, male-and-machinery
manipulated butter pat. In every direction the ancient saw, that it was
exclusively the woman's sphere to prepare the viands for her household, has
become, in proportion as civilisation has perfected itself, an antiquated

Even the minor domestic operations are tending to pass out of the circle of
woman's labour. In modern cities our carpets are beaten, our windows
cleaned, our floors polished, by machinery, or extra domestic, and often
male labour. Change has gone much farther than to the mere taking from us
of the preparation of the materials from which the clothing is formed.
Already the domestic sewing-machine, which has supplanted almost entirely
the ancient needle, begins to become antiquated, and a thousand machines
driven in factories by central engines are supplying not only the husband
and son, but the woman herself, with almost every article of clothing from
vest to jacket; while among the wealthy classes, the male dress-designer
with his hundred male-milliners and dressmakers is helping finally to
explode the ancient myth, that it is woman's exclusive sphere, and a part
of her domestic toil, to cut and shape the garments she or her household

Year by year, day by day, there is a silently working but determined
tendency for the sphere of woman's domestic labours to contract itself; and
the contraction is marked exactly in proportion as that complex condition
which we term "modern civilisation" is advanced.

It manifests itself more in England and America than in Italy and Spain,
more in great cities than in country places, more among the wealthier
classes than the poorer, and is an unfailing indication of advancing modern
civilisation. (There is, indeed, often something pathetic in the attitude
of many a good old mother of the race, who having survived, here and there,
into the heart of our modern civilisation, is sorely puzzled by the change
in woman's duties and obligations. She may be found looking into the eyes
of some ancient crone, who, like herself, has survived from a previous
state of civilisation, seeking there a confirmation of a view of life of
which a troublous doubt has crept even into her own soul. "I," she cries,
"always cured my own hams, and knitted my own socks, and made up all the
linen by hand. We always did it when we were girls--but now my daughters
object!" And her old crone answers her? "Yes, we did it; it's the right
thing; but it's so expensive. It's so much cheaper to buy things ready
made!" And they shake their heads and go their ways, feeling that the
world is strangely out of joint when duty seems no more duty. Such women
are, in truth, like a good old mother duck, who, having for years led her
ducklings to the same pond, when that pond has been drained and nothing is
left but baked mud, will still persist in bringing her younglings down to
it, and walks about with flapping wings and anxious quack, trying to induce
them to enter it. But the ducklings, with fresh young instincts, hear far
off the delicious drippings from the new dam which has been built higher up
to catch the water, and they smell the chickweed and the long grass that is
growing up beside it; and absolutely refuse to disport themselves on the
baked mud or to pretend to seek for worms where no worms are. And they
leave the ancient mother quacking beside her pond and set out to seek for
new pastures--perhaps to lose themselves upon the way?--perhaps to find
them? To the old mother one is inclined to say, "Ah, good old mother duck,
can you not see the world has changed? You cannot bring the water back
into the dried-up pond! Mayhap it was better and pleasanter when it was
there, but it has gone for ever; and, would you and yours swim again, it
must be in other waters." New machinery, new duties.)

But it is not only, nor even mainly, in the sphere of women's material
domestic labours that change has touched her and shrunk her ancient field
of labour.

Time was, when the woman kept her children about her knees till adult years
were reached. Hers was the training and influence which shaped them. From
the moment when the infant first lay on her breast, till her daughters left
her for marriage and her sons went to take share in man's labour, they were
continually under the mother's influence. Today, so complex have become
even the technical and simpler branches of education, so mighty and
inexorable are the demands which modern civilisation makes for specialised
instruction and training for all individuals who are to survive and retain
their usefulness under modern conditions, that, from the earliest years of
its life, the child is of necessity largely removed from the hands of the
mother, and placed in those of the specialised instructor. Among the
wealthier classes, scarcely is the infant born when it passes into the
hands of the trained nurse, and from hers on into the hands of the
qualified teacher; till, at nine or ten, the son in certain countries often
leaves his home for ever for the public school, to pass on to the college
and university; while the daughter, in the hands of trained instructors and
dependents, owes in the majority of cases hardly more of her education or
formation to maternal toil. While even among our poorer classes, the
infant school, and the public school; and later on the necessity for manual
training, takes the son and often the daughter as completely, and always
increasingly as civilisation advances, from the mother's control. So
marked has this change in woman's ancient field of labour become, that a
woman of almost any class may have borne many children and yet in early
middle age be found sitting alone in an empty house, all her offspring gone
from her to receive training and instruction at the hands of others. The
ancient statement that the training and education of her offspring is
exclusively the duty of the mother, however true it may have been with
regard to a remote past, has become an absolute misstatement; and the woman
who should at the present day insist on entirely educating her own
offspring would, in nine cases out of ten, inflict an irreparable injury on
them, because she is incompetent.

But, if possible, yet more deeply and radically have the changes of modern
civilisation touched our ancient field of labour in another direction--in
that very portion of the field of human labour which is peculiarly and
organically ours, and which can never be wholly taken from us. Here the
shrinkage has been larger than in any other direction, and touches us as
women more vitally.

Time was, and still is, among almost all primitive and savage folk, when
the first and all-important duty of the female to her society was to bear,
to bear much, and to bear unceasingly! On her adequate and persistent
performance of this passive form of labour, and of her successful feeding
of her young from her own breast, and rearing it, depended, not merely the
welfare, but often the very existence, of her tribe or nation. Where, as
is the case among almost all barbarous peoples, the rate of infant
mortality is high; where the unceasing casualties resulting from war, the
chase, and acts of personal violence tend continually to reduce the number
of adult males; where, surgical knowledge being still in its infancy, most
wounds are fatal; where, above all, recurrent pestilence and famine,
unfailing if of irregular recurrence, decimated the people, it has been all
important that woman should employ her creative power to its very uttermost
limits if the race were not at once to dwindle and die out. "May thy
wife's womb never cease from bearing," is still today the highest
expression of goodwill on the part of a native African chief to his
departing guest. For, not only does the prolific woman in the primitive
state contribute to the wealth and strength of her nation as a whole, but
to that of her own male companion and of her family. Where the social
conditions of life are so simple that, in addition to bearing and suckling
the child, it is reared and nourished through childhood almost entirely
through the labour and care of the mother, requiring no expenditure of
tribal or family wealth on its training or education, its value as an adult
enormously outweighs, both to the state and the male, the trouble and
expense of rearing it, which falls almost entirely on the individual woman
who bears it. The man who has twenty children to become warriors and
labourers is by so much the richer and the more powerful than he who has
but one; while the state whose women are prolific and labour for and rear
their children stands so far insured against destruction. Incessant and
persistent child-bearing is thus truly the highest duty and the most
socially esteemed occupation of the primitive woman, equalling fully in
social importance the labour of the man as hunter and warrior.

Even under those conditions of civilisation which have existed in the
centuries which divide primitive savagery from high civilisation, the
demand for continuous, unbroken child-bearing on the part of the woman as
her loftiest social duty has generally been hardly less imperious.
Throughout the Middle Ages of Europe, and down almost to our own day, the
rate of infant mortality was almost as large as in a savage state; medical
ignorance destroyed innumerable lives; antiseptic surgery being unknown,
serious wounds were still almost always fatal; in the low state of sanitary
science, plagues such as those which in the reign of Justinian swept across
the civilised world from India to Northern Europe, well nigh depopulating
the globe, or the Black Death of 1349, which in England alone swept away
more than half the population of the island, were but extreme forms of the
destruction of population going on continually as the result of zymotic
disease; while wars were not merely far more common but, owing to the
famines which almost invariably followed them, were far more destructive to
human life than in our own days, and deaths by violence, whether at the
hands of the state or as the result of personal enmity, were of daily
occurrence in all lands. Under these conditions abstinence on the part of
woman from incessant child-bearing might have led to almost the same
serious diminution or even extinction of her people, as in the savage
state; while the very existence of her civilisation depended on the
production of an immense number of individuals as beasts of burden, without
the expenditure of whose crude muscular force in physical labour of
agriculture and manufacture those intermediate civilisations would, in the
absence of machinery, have been impossible. Twenty men had to be born, fed
at the breast, and reared by women to perform the crude brute labour which
is performed today by one small, well-adjusted steam crane; and the demand
for large masses of human creatures as mere reservoirs of motor force for
accomplishing the simplest processes was imperative. So strong, indeed,
was the consciousness of the importance to society of continuous child-
bearing on the part of woman, that as late as the middle of the sixteenth
century Martin Luther wrote: "If a woman becomes weary or at last dead
from bearing, that matters not; let her only die from bearing, she is there
to do it;" and he doubtless gave expression, in a crude and somewhat brutal
form, to a conviction common to the bulk of his contemporaries, both male
and female.

Today, this condition has almost completely reversed itself.

The advance of science and the amelioration of the physical conditions of
life tend rapidly toward a diminution of human mortality. The infant
death-rate among the upper classes in modern civilisations has fallen by
more than one-half; while among poorer classes it is already, though
slowly, falling: the increased knowledge of the laws of sanitation has
made among all highly civilised peoples the depopulation by plague a thing
of the past, and the discoveries of the next twenty or thirty years will
probably do away for ever with the danger to man of zymotic disease.
Famines of the old desolating type have become an impossibility where rapid
means of transportation convey the superfluity of one land to supply the
lack of another; and war and deeds of violence, though still lingering
among us, have already become episodal in the lives of nations as of
individuals; while the vast advances in antiseptic surgery have caused even
the effects of wounds and dismemberments to become only very partially
fatal to human life. All these changes have tended to diminish human
mortality and protract human life; and they have today already made it
possible for a race not only to maintain its numbers, but even to increase
them, with a comparatively small expenditure of woman's vitality in the
passive labour of child-bearing.

But yet more seriously has the demand for woman's labour as child-bearer
been diminished by change in another direction.

Every mechanical invention which lessens the necessity for rough,
untrained, muscular, human labour, diminishes also the social demand upon
woman as the producer in large masses of such labourers. Already
throughout the modern civilised world we have reached a point at which the
social demand is not merely for human creatures in the bulk for use as
beasts of burden, but, rather, and only, for such human creatures as shall
be so trained and cultured as to be fitted for the performance of the more
complex duties of modern life. Not, now, merely for many men, but, rather,
for few men, and those few, well born and well instructed, is the modern
demand. And the woman who today merely produces twelve children and
suckles them, and then turns them loose on her society and family, is
regarded, and rightly so, as a curse and down draught, and not the
productive labourer, of her community. Indeed, so difficult and expensive
has become in the modern world the rearing and training of even one
individual, in a manner suited to fit it for coping with the complexities
and difficulties of civilised life, that, to the family as well as to the
state, unlimited fecundity on the part of the female has already, in most
cases, become irremediable evil; whether it be in the case of the artisan,
who at the cost of immense self-sacrifice must support and train his
children till their twelfth or fourteenth year, if they are ever to become
even skilled manual labourers, and who if his family be large often sinks
beneath the burden, allowing his offspring, untaught and untrained, to
become waste products of human life; or, in that of the professional man,
who by his mental toil is compelled to support and educate, at immense
expense, his sons till they are twenty or older, and to sustain his
daughters, often throughout their whole lives should they not marry, and to
whom a large family proves often no less disastrous; while the state whose
women produce recklessly large masses of individuals in excess of those for
whom they can provide instruction and nourishment is a state, in so far,
tending toward deterioration. The commandment to the modern woman is now
not simply "Thou shalt bear," but rather, "Thou shalt not bear in excess of
thy power to rear and train satisfactorily;" and the woman who should today
appear at the door of a workhouse or the tribunal of the poor-law guardians
followed by her twelve infants, demanding honourable sustenance for them
and herself in return for the labour she had undergone in producing them,
would meet with but short shrift. And the modern man who on his wedding-
day should be greeted with the ancient good wish, that he might become the
father of twenty sons and twenty daughters, would regard it as a
malediction rather than a blessing. It is certain that the time is now
rapidly approaching when child-bearing will be regarded rather as a lofty
privilege, permissible only to those who have shown their power rightly to
train and provide for their offspring, than a labour which in itself, and
under whatever conditions performed, is beneficial to society. (The
difference between the primitive and modern view on this matter is aptly
and quaintly illustrated by two incidents. Seeing a certain Bantu woman
who appeared better cared for, less hard worked, and happier than the mass
of her companions, we made inquiry, and found that she had two impotent
brothers; because of this she herself had not married, but had borne by
different men fourteen children, all of whom when grown she had given to
her brothers. "They are fond of me because I have given them so many
children, therefore I have not to work like the other women; and my
brothers give me plenty of mealies and milk," she replied, complacently,
when questioned, "and our family will not die out." And this person, whose
conduct was so emphatically anti-social on all sides when viewed from the
modern standpoint, was evidently regarded as pre-eminently of value to her
family and to society because of her mere fecundity. On the other hand, a
few weeks back appeared an account in the London papers of an individual
who, taken up at the East End for some brutal offence, blubbered out in
court that she was the mother of twenty children. "You should be ashamed
of yourself!" responded the magistrate; "a woman capable of such conduct
would be capable of doing anything!" and the fine was remorselessly
inflicted. Undoubtedly, if somewhat brutally, the magistrate yet gave true
voice to the modern view on the subject of excessive and reckless child-

Further, owing partly to the diminished demand for child-bearing, rising
from the extreme difficulty and expense of rearing and education, and to
many other complex social causes, to which we shall return later, millions
of women in our modern societies are so placed as to be absolutely
compelled to go through life not merely childless, but without sex
relationship in any form whatever; while another mighty army of women is
reduced by the dislocations of our civilisation to accepting sexual
relationships which practically negate child-bearing, and whose only
product is physical and moral disease.

Thus, it has come to pass that vast numbers of us are, by modern social
conditions, prohibited from child-bearing at all; and that even those among
us who are child-bearers are required, in proportion as the class of race
to which we belong stands high in the scale of civilisation, to produce in
most cases a limited number of offspring; so that even for these of us,
child-bearing and suckling, instead of filling the entire circle of female
life from the first appearance of puberty to the end of middle age, becomes
an episodal occupation, employing from three or four to ten or twenty of
the threescore-and-ten-years which are allotted to human life. In such
societies the statement (so profoundly true when made with regard to most
savage societies, and even largely true with regard to those in the
intermediate stages of civilisation) that the main and continuous
occupation of all women from puberty to age is the bearing and suckling of
children, and that this occupation must fully satisfy all her needs for
social labour and activity, becomes an antiquated and unmitigated

Not only are millions of our women precluded from ever bearing a child, but
for those of us who do bear the demand is ever increasingly in civilised
societies coupled with the condition that if we would act socially we must
restrict our powers. (As regards modern civilised nations, we find that
those whose birthrate is the highest per woman are by no means the
happiest, most enlightened, or powerful; nor do we even find that the
population always increases in proportion to the births. France, which in
many respects leads in the van of civilisation, has one of the lowest
birthrates per woman in Europe; and among the free and enlightened
population of Switzerland and Scandinavia the birthrate is often
exceedingly low; while Ireland, one of the most unhappy and weak of
European nations, had long one of the highest birthrates, without any
proportional increase in population or power. With regard to the different
classes in one community, the same effect is observable. The birthrate per
woman is higher among the lowest and most ignorant classes in the back
slums of our great cities, than among the women of the upper and cultured
classes, mainly because the age at which marriages are contracted always
tends to become higher as the culture and intelligence of individuals
rises, but also because of the regulation of the number of births after
marriage. Yet the number of children reared to adult years among the more
intelligent classes probably equals or exceeds those of the lowest, owing
to the high rate of infant mortality where births are excessive.)

Looking round, then, with the uttermost impartiality we can command, on the
entire field of woman's ancient and traditional labours, we find that fully
three-fourths of it have shrunk away for ever, and that the remaining
fourth still tends to shrink.

It is this great fact, so often and so completely overlooked, which lies as
the propelling force behind that vast and restless "Woman's Movement" which
marks our day. It is this fact, whether clearly and intellectually
grasped, or, as is more often the case, vaguely and painfully felt, which
awakes in the hearts of the ablest modern European women their passionate,
and at times it would seem almost incoherent, cry for new forms of labour
and new fields for the exercise of their powers.

Thrown into strict logical form, our demand is this: We do not ask that
the wheels of time should reverse themselves, or the stream of life flow
backward. We do not ask that our ancient spinning-wheels be again
resuscitated and placed in our hands; we do not demand that our old
grindstones and hoes be returned to us, or that man should again betake
himself entirely to his ancient province of war and the chase, leaving to
us all domestic and civil labour. We do not even demand that society shall
immediately so reconstruct itself that every woman may be again a child-
bearer (deep and over-mastering as lies the hunger for motherhood in every
virile woman's heart!); neither do we demand that the children whom we bear
shall again be put exclusively into our hands to train. This, we know,
cannot be. The past material conditions of life have gone for ever; no
will of man can recall them; but this is our demand: We demand that, in
that strange new world that is arising alike upon the man and the woman,
where nothing is as it was, and all things are assuming new shapes and
relations, that in this new world we also shall have our share of honoured
and socially useful human toil, our full half of the labour of the Children
of Woman. We demand nothing more than this, and we will take nothing less.
This is our "WOMAN'S RIGHT!"

Chapter II. Parasitism (continued).

Is it to be, that, in the future, machinery and the captive motor-forces of
nature are largely to take the place of human hand and foot in the labour
of clothing and feeding the nations; are these branches of industry to be
no longer domestic labours?--then, we demand in the factory, the warehouse,
and the field, wherever machinery has usurped our ancient labour-ground,
that we also should have our place, as guiders, controllers, and
possessors. Is child-bearing to become the labour of but a portion of our
sex?--then we demand for those among us who are allowed to take no share in
it, compensatory and equally honourable and important fields of social
toil. Is the training of human creatures to become a yet more and more
onerous and laborious occupation, their education and culture to become
increasingly a high art, complex and scientific?--if so, then, we demand
that high and complex culture and training which shall fit us for
instructing the race which we bring into the world. Is the demand for
child-bearing to become so diminished that, even in the lives of those
among us who are child-bearers, it shall fill no more than half a dozen
years out of the three-score-and-ten of human life?--then we demand that an
additional outlet be ours which shall fill up with dignity and value the
tale of the years not so employed. Is intellectual labour to take ever and
increasingly the place of crude muscular exertion in the labour of life?--
then we demand for ourselves that culture and the freedom of action which
alone can yield us the knowledge of life and the intellectual vigour and
strength which will enable us to undertake the same share of mental which
we have borne in the past in physical labours of life. Are the rulers of
the race to be no more its kings and queens, but the mass of the peoples?--
then we, one-half of the nations, demand our full queens' share in the
duties and labours of government and legislation. Slowly but
determinately, as the old fields of labour close up and are submerged
behind us, we demand entrance into the new.

We make this demand, not for our own sakes alone, but for the succour of
the race.

A horseman, riding along on a dark night in an unknown land, may chance to
feel his horse start beneath him; rearing, it may almost hurl him to the
earth: in the darkness he may curse his beast, and believe its aim is
simply to cast him off, and free itself for ever of its burden. But when
the morning dawns and lights the hills and valleys he has travelled,
looking backward, he may perceive that the spot where his beast reared,
planting its feet into the earth, and where it refused to move farther on
the old road, was indeed the edge of a mighty precipice, down which one
step more would have precipitated both horse and rider. And he may then
see that it was an instinct wiser than his own which lead his creature,
though in the dark, to leap backward, seeking a new path along which both
might travel. (Is it not recorded that even Balaam's ass on which he rode
saw the angel with flaming sword, but Balaam saw it not?)

In the confusion and darkness of the present, it may well seem to some,
that woman, in her desire to seek for new paths of labour and employment,
is guided only by an irresponsible impulse; or that she seeks selfishly
only her own good, at the cost of that of the race, which she has so long
and faithfully borne onward. But, when a clearer future shall have arisen
and the obscuring mists of the present have been dissipated, may it not
then be clearly manifest that not for herself alone, but for her entire
race, has woman sought her new paths?

For let it be noted exactly what our position is, who today, as women, are
demanding new fields of labour and a reconstruction of our relationship
with life.

It is often said that the labour problem before the modern woman and that
before the unemployed or partially or almost uselessly employed male, are
absolutely identical; and that therefore, when the male labour problem of
our age solves itself, that of the woman will of necessity have met its
solution also.

This statement, with a certain specious semblance of truth, is yet, we
believe, radically and fundamentally false. It is true that both the male
and the female problems of our age have taken their rise largely in the
same rapid material changes which during the last centuries, and more
especially the last ninety years, have altered the face of the human world.
Both men and women have been robbed by those changes of their ancient
remunerative fields of social work: here the resemblance stops. The male,
from whom the changes of modern civilisation have taken his ancient field
of labour, has but one choice before him: he must find new fields of
labour, or he must perish. Society will not ultimately support him in an
absolutely quiescent and almost useless condition. If he does not
vigorously exert himself in some direction or other (the direction may even
be predatory) he must ultimately be annihilated. Individual drones, both
among the wealthiest and the poorest classes (millionaires' sons, dukes, or
tramps), may in isolated cases be preserved, and allowed to reproduce
themselves without any exertion or activity of mind or body, but a vast
body of males who, having lost their old forms of social employment, should
refuse in any way to exert themselves or seek for new, would at no great
length of time become extinct. There never has been, and as far as can be
seen, there never will be, a time when the majority of the males in any
society will be supported by the rest of the males in a condition of
perfect mental and physical inactivity. "Find labour or die," is the
choice ultimately put before the human male today, as in the past; and this
constitutes his labour problem. (The nearest approach to complete
parasitism on the part of a vast body of males occurred, perhaps, in
ancient Rome at the time of the decay and downfall of the Empire, when the
bulk of the population, male as well as female, was fed on imported corn,
wine, and oil, and supplied even with entertainment, almost entirely
without exertion or labour of any kind; but this condition was of short
duration, and speedily contributed to the downfall of the diseased Empire
itself. Among the wealthy and so-called upper classes, the males of
various aristocracies have frequently tended to become completely parasitic
after a lapse of time, but such a condition has always been met by a short
and sharp remedy; and the class has fallen, or become extinct. The
condition of the males of the upper classes in France before the Revolution
affords an interesting illustration of this point.)

The labour of the man may not always be useful in the highest sense to his
society, or it may even be distinctly harmful and antisocial, as in the
case of the robber-barons of the Middle Ages, who lived by capturing and
despoiling all who passed by their castles; or as in the case of the share
speculators, stock-jobbers, ring-and-corner capitalists, and monopolists of
the present day, who feed upon the productive labours of society without
contributing anything to its welfare. But even males so occupied are
compelled to expend a vast amount of energy and even a low intelligence in
their callings; and, however injurious to their societies, they run no
personal risk of handing down effete and enervated constitutions to their
race. Whether beneficially or unbeneficially, the human male must,
generally speaking, employ his intellect, or his muscle, or die.

The position of the unemployed modern female is one wholly different. The
choice before her, as her ancient fields of domestic labour slip from her,
is not generally or often at the present day the choice between finding new
fields of labour, or death; but one far more serious in its ultimate
reaction on humanity as a whole--it is the choice between finding new forms
of labour or sinking slowly into a condition of more or less complete and
passive sex-parasitism! (It is not without profound interest to note the
varying phenomena of sex-parasitism as they present themselves in the
animal world, both in the male and in the female form. Though among the
greater number of species in the animal world the female form is larger and
more powerful rather than the male (e.g., among birds of prey, such as
eagles, falcons, vultures, &c., and among fishes, insects, &c.), yet sex-
parasitism appears among both sex forms. In certain sea-creatures, for
example, the female carries about in the folds of her covering three or
four minute and quite inactive males, who are entirely passive and
dependent upon her. Among termites, on the other hand, the female has so
far degenerated that she has entirely lost the power of locomotion; she can
no longer provide herself or her offspring with nourishment, or defend or
even clean herself; she has become a mere passive, distended bag of eggs,
without intelligence or activity, she and her offspring existing through
the exertions of the workers of the community. Among other insects, such,
for example, as certain ticks, another form of female parasitism prevails,
and while the male remains a complex, highly active, and winded creature,
the female, fastening herself by the head into the flesh of some living
animal and sucking its blood, has lost wings and all activity, and power of
locomotion; having become a mere distended bladder, which when filled with
eggs bursts and ends a parasitic existence which has hardly been life. It
is not impossible, and it appears, indeed, highly probable, that it has
been this degeneration and parasitism on the part of the female which has
set its limitation to the evolution of ants, creatures which, having
reached a point of mental development in some respects almost as high as
that of man, have yet become curiously and immovably arrested. The whole
question of sex-parasitism among the lower animals is one throwing
suggestive and instructive side-lights on human social problems, but is too
extensive to be here entered on.)

Again and again in the history of the past, when among human creatures a
certain stage of material civilisation has been reached, a curious tendency
has manifested itself for the human female to become more or less
parasitic; social conditions tend to rob her of all forms of active,
conscious, social labour, and to reduce her, like the field-tick, to the
passive exercise of her sex functions alone. And the result of this
parasitism has invariably been the decay in vitality and intelligence of
the female, followed after a longer or shorter period by that of her male
descendants and her entire society.

Nevertheless, in the history of the past the dangers of the sex-parasitism
have never threatened more than a small section of the females of the human
race, those exclusively of some comparatively small dominant race or class;
the mass of women beneath them being still compelled to assume many forms
of strenuous activity. It is at the present day, and under the peculiar
conditions of our modern civilisation, that for the first time sex-
parasitism has become a danger, more or less remote, to the mass of
civilised women, perhaps ultimately to all.

In the very early stages of human growth, the sexual parasitism and
degeneration of the female formed no possible source of social danger.
Where the conditions of life rendered it inevitable that all the labour of
a community should be performed by the members of that community for
themselves, without the assistance of slaves or machinery, the tendency has
always been rather to throw an excessive amount of social labour on the
female. Under no conditions, at no time, in no place, in the history of
the world have the males of any period, of any nation, or of any class,
shown the slightest inclination to allow their own females to become
inactive or parasitic, so long as the actual muscular labour of feeding and
clothing them would in that case have devolved upon themselves!

The parasitism of the human female becomes a possibility only when a point
in civilisation is reached (such as that which was attained in the ancient
civilisations of Greece, Rome, Persia, Assyria, India, and such as today
exists in many of the civilisations of the East, such as those of China and
Turkey), when, owing to the extensive employment of the labour of slaves,
or of subject races or classes, the dominant race or class has become so
liberally supplied with the material goods of life, that mere physical toil
on the part of its own female members has become unnecessary. It is when
this point has been reached, and never before, that the symptoms of female
parasitism have in the past almost invariably tended to manifest
themselves, and have become a social danger. The males of the dominant
class have almost always contrived to absorb to themselves the new
intellectual occupations, with the absence of necessity for the old forms
of physical toil made possible in their societies; and the females of the
dominant class or race, for whose muscular labours there was now also no
longer any need, not succeeding in grasping or attaining to these new forms
of labour, have sunk into a state in which, performing no species of active
social duty, they have existed through the passive performance of sexual
functions alone, with how much or how little of discontent will now never
be known, since no literary record has been made by the woman of the past,
of her desires or sorrows. Then, in place of the active labouring woman,
upholding society by her toil, has come the effete wife, concubine, or
prostitute, clad in fine raiment, the work of others' fingers; fed on
luxurious viands, the result of others' toil, waited on and tended by the
labour of others. The need for her physical labour having gone, and mental
industry not having taken its place, she bedecked and scented her person,
or had it bedecked and scented for her, she lay upon her sofa, or drove or
was carried out in her vehicle, and, loaded with jewels, she sought by
dissipations and amusements to fill up the inordinate blank left by the
lack of productive activity. And as the hand whitened and frame softened,
till, at last, the very duties of motherhood, which were all the
constitution of her life left her, became distasteful, and, from the
instant when her infant came damp from her womb, it passed into the hands
of others, to be tended and reared by them; and from youth to age her
offspring often owed nothing to her personal toil. In many cases so
complete was her enervation, that at last the very joy of giving life, the
glory and beatitude of a virile womanhood, became distasteful; and she
sought to evade it, not because of its interference with more imperious
duties to those already born of her, or to her society, but because her
existence of inactivity had robbed her of all joy in strenuous exertion and
endurance in any form. Finely clad, tenderly housed, life became for her
merely the gratification of her own physical and sexual appetites, and the
appetites of the male, through the stimulation of which she could maintain
herself. And, whether as kept wife, kept mistress, or prostitute, she
contributed nothing to the active and sustaining labours of her society.
She had attained to the full development of that type which, whether in
modern Paris or New York or London, or in ancient Greece, Assyria, or Rome,
is essentially one in its features, its nature, and its results. She was
the "fine lady," the human female parasite - the most deadly microbe which
can make its appearance on the surface of any social organism. (The
relation of female parasitism generally, to the peculiar phenomenon of
prostitution, is fundamental. Prostitution can never be adequately dealt
with, either from the moral or the scientific standpoint, unless its
relation to the general phenomenon of female parasitism be fully
recognised. It is the failure to do this which leaves so painful a sense
of abortion on the mind, after listening to most modern utterances on the
question, whether made from the emotional platform of the moral reformer,
or the intellectual platform of the would-be scientist. We are left with a
feeling that the matter has been handled but not dealt with: that the
knife has not reached the core.)

Wherever in the history of the past this type has reached its full
development and has comprised the bulk of the females belonging to any
dominant class or race, it has heralded its decay. In Assyria, Greece,
Rome, Persia, as in Turkey today, the same material conditions have
produced the same social disease among wealthy and dominant races; and
again and again when the nation so affected has come into contact with
nations more healthily constituted, this diseased condition has contributed
to its destruction.

In ancient Greece, in its superb and virile youth, its womanhood was richly
and even heavily endowed with duties and occupations. Not the mass of the
woman alone, but the king's wife and the prince's daughter do we find going
to the well to bear water, cleansing the household linen in the streams,
feeding and doctoring their households, manufacturing the clothing of their
race, and performing even a share of the highest social functions as
priestesses and prophetesses. It was from the bodies of such women as
these that sprang that race of heroes, thinkers, and artists who laid the
foundations of Grecian greatness. These females underlay their society as
the solid and deeply buried foundations underlay the more visible and
ornate portions of a great temple, making its structure and persistence
possible. In Greece, after a certain lapse of time, these virile labouring
women in the upper classes were to be found no more. The accumulated
wealth of the dominant race, gathered through the labour of slaves and
subject people, had so immensely increased that there was no longer a call
for physical labour on the part of the dominant womanhood; immured within
the walls of their houses as wives or mistresses, waited on by slaves and
dependents, they no longer sustained by their exertion either their own
life or the life of their people. The males absorbed the intellectual
labours of life; slaves and dependents the physical. For a moment, at the
end of the fifth and beginning of the fourth century, when the womanhood of
Greece had already internally decayed, there was indeed a brilliant
intellectual efflorescence among her males, like to the gorgeous colours in
the sunset sky when the sun is already sinking; but the heart of Greece was
already rotting and her vigour failing. Increasingly, division and
dissimilarity arose between male and female, as the male advanced in
culture and entered upon new fields of intellectual toil while the female
sank passively backward and lower in the scale of life, and thus was made
ultimately a chasm which even sexual love could not bridge. The abnormal
institution of avowed inter-male sexual relations upon the highest plane
was one, and the most serious result, of this severance. The inevitable
and invincible desire of all highly developed human natures, to blend with
their sexual relationships their highest intellectual interests and
sympathies, could find no satisfaction or response in the relationship
between the immured, comparatively ignorant and helpless females of the
upper classes, in Greece, and the brilliant, cultured, and many-sided males
who formed its dominant class in the fifth and fourth centuries. Man
turned towards man; and parenthood, the divine gift of imparting human
life, was severed from the loftiest and profoundest phases of human
emotion: Xanthippe fretted out her ignorant and miserable little life
between the walls of her house, and Socrates lay in the Agora, discussing
philosophy and morals with Alcibiades; and the race decayed at its core.
(See Jowett's translation of Plato's "Banquet"; but for full light on this
important question the entire literature of Greece in the fifth and fourth
centuries B.C. should be studied.) Here and there an Aspasia, or earlier
still a Sappho, burst through the confining bonds of woman's environment,
and with the force of irresistible genius broke triumphantly into new
fields of action and powerful mental activity, standing side by side with
the male; but their cases were exceptional. Had they, or such as they,
been able to tread down a pathway, along which the mass of Grecian women
might have followed them; had it been possible for the bulk of the women of
the dominant race in Greece at the end of the fifth century to rise from
their condition of supine inaction and ignorance and to have taken their
share in the intellectual labours and stern activities of their race,
Greece would never have fallen, as she fell at the end of the fourth
century, instantaneously and completely, as a rotten puff-ball falls in at
the touch of a healthy finger; first, before the briberies of Philip, and
then yet more completely before the arms of his yet more warlike son, who
was also the son of the fierce, virile, and indomitable Olympia. (Like
almost all men remarkable for either good or evil, Alexander inherited from
his mother his most notable qualities--his courage, his intellectual
activity, and an ambition indifferent to any means that made for his own
end. Fearless in her life, she fearlessly met death "with a courage worthy
of her rank and domineering character, when her hour of retribution came";
and Alexander is incomprehensible till we recognise him as rising from the
womb of Olympia.) Nor could she have been swept clean, a few hundred years
later, from Thessaly to Sparta, from Corinth to Ephesus, her temples
destroyed, her effete women captured by the hordes of the Goths--a people
less skilfully armed and less civilised than the descendants of the race of
Pericles and Leonidas, but who were a branch of that great Teutonic folk
whose monogamous domestic life was sound at the core, and whose fearless,
labouring, and resolute women yet bore for the men they followed to the
ends of the earth, what Spartan women once said they alone bore--men.

In Rome, in the days of her virtue and vigour, the Roman matron laboured
mightily, and bore on her shoulders her full half of the social burden,
though her sphere of labour and influence was even somewhat smaller than
that of the Teutonic sisterhood whose descendants were finally to supplant
her own. From the vestal virgin to the matron, the Roman woman in the days
of the nation's health and growth fulfilled lofty functions and bore the
whole weight of domestic toil. From the days of Lucretia, the great Roman
dame whom we find spinning with her handmaidens deep into the night, and
whose personal dignity was so dear to her that, violated, she sought only
death, to those of the mother of the Gracchi, one of the last of the great
line, we find everywhere, erect, labouring, and resolute, the Roman woman
who gave birth to the men who built up Roman greatness. A few centuries
later, and Rome also had reached that dangerous spot in the order of social
change which Greece had reached centuries before her. Slave labour and the
enjoyment of the unlimited spoils of subject races had done away for ever
with the demand for physical labour on the part of the members of the
dominant race. Then came the period when the male still occupied himself
with the duties of war and government, of legislation and self-culture; but
the Roman matron had already ceased for ever from her toils. Decked in
jewels and fine clothing, brought at the cost of infinite human labour from
the ends of the earth, nourished on delicate victuals, prepared by others'
hands, she sought now only with amusement to pass away a life that no
longer offered her the excitement and joy of active productive exertion.
She frequented theatres or baths, or reclined on her sofa, or drove in her
chariot; and like more modern counterparts, painted herself, wore patches,
affected an artistic walk, and a handshake with the elbow raised and the
fingers hanging down. Her children were reared by dependents; and in the
intellectual labour and government of her age she took small part, and was
fit to take none. There were not wanting writers and thinkers who saw
clearly the end to which the enervation of the female was tending, and who
were not sparing in their denunciations. "Time was," cries one Roman
writer of that age, "when the matron turned the spindle with the hand and
kept at the same time the pot in her eye that the pottage might not be
singed, but now," he adds bitterly, "when the wife, loaded with jewels,
reposes among pillows, or seeks the dissipation of baths and theatres, all
things go downward and the state decays." Yet neither he nor that large
body of writers and thinkers who saw the condition towards which the
parasitism of woman was tending to reduce society, preached any adequate
remedy. (Indeed, must not the protest and the remedy in all such cases, if
they are to be of any avail, take their rise within the diseased class

Thoughtful men sighed over the present and yearned for the past, nor seem
to have perceived that it was irrevocably gone; that the Roman lady who,
with a hundred servants standing idle about her, should, in imitation of
her ancestress, have gone out with her pitcher on her head to draw water
from the well, while in all her own courtyards pipe-led streams gushed
forth, would have acted the part of the pretender; that had she insisted on
resuscitating her loom and had sat up all night to spin, she could never
have produced those fabrics which alone her household demanded, and would
have been but a puerile actor; that it was not by attempting to return to
the ancient and for ever closed fields of toil, but by entering upon new,
that she could alone serve her race and retain her own dignity and
virility. That not by bearing water and weaving linen, but by so training
and disciplining herself that she should be fitted to bear her share in the
labour necessary to the just and wise guidance of a great empire, and be
capable of training a race of men adequate to exercise an enlightened,
merciful, and beneficent rule over the vast masses of subject people--that
so, and so only, could she fulfil her duty toward the new society about
her, and bear its burden together with man, as her ancestresses of bygone
generations had borne the burden of theirs.

That in this direction, and this alone, lay the only possible remedy for
the evils of woman's condition, was a conception apparently grasped by
none; and the female sank lower and lower, till the image of the parasitic
woman of Rome (with a rag of the old Roman intensity left even in her
degradation!)--seeking madly by pursuit of pleasure and sensuality to fill
the void left by the lack of honourable activity; accepting lust in the
place of love, ease in the place of exertion, and an unlimited consumption
in the place of production; too enervated at last to care even to produce
offspring, and shrinking from every form of endurance--remains, even to the
present day, the most perfect, and therefore the most appalling, picture of
the parasite female that earth has produced--a picture only less terrible
than it is pathetic.

We recognise that it was inevitable that this womanhood--born it would seem
from its elevation to guide and enlighten a world, and in place thereof
feeding on it--should at last have given birth to a manhood as effete as
itself, and that both should in the end have been swept away before the
march of those Teutonic folk, whose women were virile and could give birth
to men; a folk among whom the woman received on the morning of her
marriage, from the man who was to be her companion through life, no
contemptible trinket to hang about her throat or limbs, but a shield, a
spear, a sword, and a yoke of oxen, while she bestowed on him in return a
suit of armour, in token that they two were henceforth to be one in toil
and in the facing of danger; that she too should dare with him in war and
suffer with him in peace; and of whom another writer tells us, that their
women not only bore the race and fed it at their breasts without the help
of others' hands, but that they undertook the whole management of house and
lands, leaving the males free for war and chase; of whom Suetonius tells
us, that when Augustus Caesar demanded hostages from a tribe, he took
women, not men, because he found by experience that the women were more
regarded than men, and of whom Strabo says, that so highly did the Germanic
races value the intellect of their women that they regarded them as
inspired, and entered into no war or great undertaking without their advice
and counsel; while among the Cimbrian women who accompanied their husbands
in the invasion of Italy were certain who marched barefooted in the midst
of the lines, distinguished by their white hair and milk-white robes, and
who were regarded as inspired, and of whom Florus, describing an early
Roman victory, says, "The conflict was not less fierce and obstinate with
the wives of the vanquished; in their carts and wagons they formed a line
of battle, and from their elevated situation, as from so many turrets,
annoyed the Romans with their poles and lances. (The South African Boer
woman after two thousand years appears not wholly to have forgotten the
ancestral tactics.) Their death was as glorious as their martial spirit.
Finding that all was lost, they strangled their children, and either
destroyed themselves in one scene of mutual slaughter, or with the sashes
that bound up their hair suspended themselves by the neck to the boughs of
trees or the tops of their wagons." It is of these women that Valerius
Maximus says, that, "If the gods on the day of battle had inspired the men
with equal fortitude, Marius would never have boasted of his Teutonic
victory;" and of whom Tacitus, speaking of those women who accompanied
their husbands to war, remarks, "These are the darling witnesses of his
conduct, the applauders of his valour, at once beloved and valued. The
wounded seek their mothers and their wives; undismayed at the sight, the
women count each honourable scar and suck the gushing blood. They are even
hardy enough to mix with the combatants, administering refreshment and
exhorting them to deeds of valour," and adds moreover, that "To be
contented with one wife was peculiar to the Germans; while the woman was
contented with one husband, as with one life, one mind, one body."

It was inevitable that before the sons of women such as these, the sons of
the parasitic Roman should be swept from existence, as the offspring of the
caged canary would fall in conflict with the offspring of the free.

Again and again with wearisome reiteration, the same story repeats itself.
Among the Jews in the days of their health and growth, we find their women
bearing the major weight of agricultural and domestic toil, full always of
labour and care--from Rachel, whom Jacob met and loved as she watered her
father's flocks, to Ruth, the ancestress of a line of kings and heroes,
whom her Boas noted labouring in the harvest-fields; from Sarah, kneading
and baking cakes for Abraham's prophetic visitors, to Miriam, prophetess
and singer, and Deborah, who judging Israel from beneath her palm-tree,
"and the land had rest for forty years." Everywhere the ancient Jewish
woman appears, an active sustaining power among her people; and perhaps the
noblest picture of the labouring woman to be found in any literature is
contained in the Jewish writings, indited possibly at the very time when
the labouring woman was for the first time tending among a section of the
Jews to become a thing of the past; when already Solomon, with his seven
hundred parasitic wives and three hundred parasitic concubines, loomed
large on the horizon of the national life, to take the place of flock-
tending Rachel and gleaning Ruth, and to produce amid their palaces of
cedar and gold, among them all, no Joseph or David, but in the way of
descendant only a Rehoboam, under whose hand the kingdom was to totter to
its fall. (The picture of the labouring as opposed to the parasitic ideal
of womanhood appears under the heading, "The words of King Lemuel; the
oracle which his mother taught him." At risk of presenting the reader with
that with which he is already painfully familiar, we here transcribe the
passage; which, allowing for differences in material and intellectual
surroundings, paints also the ideal of the labouring womanhood of the
present and of the future:-
"Her price is far above rubies,
The heart of her husband trusteth in her,
And he shall have no lack of gain,
She doeth him good and not evil
All the days of her life,
She seeketh wool and flax,
And worketh willingly with her hands,
She is like the merchant ships;
She bringeth her food, from afar,
She riseth up while it is yet night
And giveth meat to her household,
And their task to her maidens,
She considereth a field, and buyeth it;
With the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
She girdeth her loins with strength,
And maketh strong her arms.
She perceiveth that her merchandise is profitable;
Her lamp goeth not out by night,
She layeth her hands to the distaff,
And her hands hold the spindle.
She spreadeth out her hand to the poor:
Yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy,
She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She maketh herself carpets of tapestry;
Her clothing is fine and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sitteth among the elders of the land,
She maketh linen garments and selleth them,
And delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing;
And she laugheth at the time to come.
She openeth her mouth with wisdom,
And the law of kindness is on her tongue,
She looketh well to the ways of her household,
And eateth not the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed,
Her husband also, and he praiseth her, saying,
Many daughters have done virtuously,
But thou excellest them all,
Give her the fruit of her hand,
And let her works praise her in the gate."

In the East today the same story has wearisomely written itself: in China,
where the present vitality and power of the most ancient of existing
civilisations may be measured accurately by the length of its woman's
shoes; in Turkish harems, where one of the noblest dominant Aryan races the
world has yet produced, is being slowly suffocated in the arms of a
parasite womanhood, and might, indeed, along ago have been obliterated, had
not a certain virility and strength been continually reinfused into it
through the persons of purchased wives, who in early childhood and youth
had been themselves active labouring peasants. Everywhere, in the past as
in the present, the parasitism of the female heralds the decay of a nation
or class, and as invariably indicates disease as the pustules of smallpox
upon the skin indicate the existence of a purulent virus in the system.

We are, indeed, far from asserting that the civilisations of the past which
have decayed, have decayed alone through the parasitism of their females.
Vast, far-reaching social phenomena have invariably causes and reactions
immeasurably too complex to be summed up under one so simple a term.
Behind the phenomenon of female parasitism has always lain another and yet
larger social phenomenon; it has invariably been preceded, as we have seen,
by the subjugation of large bodies of other human creatures, either as
slaves, subject races, or classes; and as the result of the excessive
labours of those classes there has always been an accumulation of unearned
wealth in the hands of the dominant class or race. It has invariably been
by feeding on this wealth, the result of forced or ill-paid labour, that
the female of the dominant race or class has in the past lost her activity
and has come to exist purely through the passive performance of her sexual
functions. Without slaves or subject classes to perform the crude physical
labours of life and produce superfluous wealth, the parasitism of the
female would, in the past, have been an impossibility.

There is, therefore, a profound truth in that universal saw which states
that the decay of the great nations and civilisations of the past has
resulted from the enervation caused by excessive wealth and luxury; and
there is a further, and if possible more profound, truth underlying the
statement that their destruction has ultimately been the result of the
enervation of the entire race, male and female.

But when we come further to inquire how, exactly, this process of decay
took place, we shall find that the part which the parasitism of the female
has played has been fundamental. The mere use of any of the material
products of labour, which we term wealth, can never in itself produce that
decay, physical or mental, which precedes the downfall of great civilised
nations. The eating of salmon at ten shillings a pound can in itself no
more debilitate and corrupt the moral, intellectual, and physical
constitution of the man consuming it, than it could enervate his naked
forefathers who speared it in their rivers for food; the fact that an
individual wears a robe made from the filaments of a worm, can no more
deteriorate his spiritual or physical fibre, than were it made of sheep's
wool; an entire race, housed in marble palaces, faring delicately, and clad
in silks, and surrounded by the noblest products of literature and plastic
art, so those palaces, viands, garments, and products of art were the
result of their own labours, could never be enervated by them. The
debilitating effect of wealth sets in at that point exactly (and never
before) at which the supply of material necessaries and comforts, and of
aesthetic enjoyments, clogs the individuality, causing it to rest satisfied
in the mere passive possession of the results of the labour of others,
without feeling any necessity or desire for further productive activity of
its own. (Of the other deleterious effects of unearned wealth on the
individual or class possessing it, such as its power of lessening human
sympathy, &c., &c., we do not now speak, as while ultimately and
indirectly, undoubtedly, tending to disintegrate a society, they do not
necessarily and immediately enervate it, which enervation is the point we
are here considering.)

The exact material condition at which this point will be reached will vary,
not only with the race and the age, but with the individual. A Marcus
Aurelius in a palace of gold and marble was able to retain his simplicity
and virility as completely as though he had lived in a cow-herd's hut;
while on the other hand, it is quite possible for the wife of a savage
chief who has but four slaves to bring her her corn and milk and spread her
skins in the sun, to become almost as purely parasitic as the most
delicately pampered female of fashion in ancient Rome, or modern Paris,
London, or New York; while the exact amount of unearned material wealth
which will emasculate individuals in the same society, will vary exactly as
their intellectual and moral fibre and natural activity are strong or weak.
(It is not uncommon in modern societies to find women of a class relatively
very moderately wealthy, the wives and daughters of shopkeepers or
professional men, who if their male relations will supply them with a very
limited amount of money without exertion on their part, will become as
completely parasitic and useless as women with untold wealth at their

The debilitating effect of unlaboured-for wealth lies, then, not in the
nature of any material adjunct to life in itself, but in the power it may
possess of robbing the individual of all incentive to exertion, thus
destroying the intellectual, the physical, and finally, the moral fibre.

In all the civilisations of the past examination will show that almost
invariably it has been the female who has tended first to reach this point,
and we think examination will show that it has almost invariably been from
the woman to the man that enervation and decay have spread.

Why this should be so is obvious. Firstly, it is in the sphere of domestic
labour that slave or hired labour most easily and insidiously penetrates.
The force of blows or hireling gold can far more easily supply labourers as
the preparers of food and clothing, and even as the rearers of children,
than it can supply labourers fitted to be entrusted with the toils of war
and government, which have in the past been the especial sphere of male
toil. The Roman woman had for generations been supplanted in the sphere of
her domestic labours and in the toil of rearing and educating her
offspring, and had long become abjectly parasitic, before the Roman male
had been able to substitute the labour of the hireling and barbarian for
his own, in the army, and in the drudgeries of governmental toil.

Secondly, the female having one all-important though passive function which
cannot be taken from her, and which is peculiarly connected with her own
person, in the act of child-bearing, and her mere sexual attributes being
an object of desire and cupidity to the male, she is liable in a peculiarly
insidious and gradual manner to become dependent on this one sexual
function alone for her support. So much is this the case, that even when
she does not in any way perform this function there is still a curious
tendency for the kudos of the function still to hang about her, and for her
mere potentiality in the direction of a duty which she may never fulfil, to
be confused in her own estimation and that of society with the actual
fulfilment of that function. Under the mighty aegis of the woman who bears
and rears offspring and in other directions labours greatly and actively
for her race, creeps in gradually and unnoticed the woman who does none of
these things. From the mighty labouring woman who bears human creatures to
the full extent of her power, rears her offspring unaided, and performs at
the same time severe social labour in other directions (and who is,
undoubtedly, wherever found, the most productive toiler known to the race);
it is but one step, though a long one, from this woman to the woman who
produces offspring freely but does not herself rear them, and performs no
compensatory social labour. While from this woman, again, to the one who
bears few or no children, but who, whether as a wife or mistress, lives by
the exercise of her sex function alone, the step is short. There is but
one step farther to the prostitute, who affects no form of productive
labour, and who, in place of life, is recognised as producing disease and
death, but who exists parasitically through her sexual attribute. Enormous
as is the distance between the women at the two extremes of this series,
and sharply opposed as their relation to the world is, there is yet, in
actual life, no sharp, clear, sudden-drawn line dividing the women of the
one type from those of the other. They shade off into each other by
delicate and in sensible degrees. And it is down this inclined plane that
the women of civilised races are peculiarly tempted, unconsciously, to
slip; from the noble height of a condition of the most strenuous social
activity, into a condition of complete, helpless, and inactive parasitism,
without being clearly aware of the fact themselves, and without society's
becoming so--the woman who has ceased to rear her own offspring, or who has
ceased to bear offspring at all, and who performs no other productive
social function, yet shields the fact from her own eyes by dwelling on the
fact that she is a woman, in whom the capacity is at least latent. (There
is, indeed, an interesting analogous tendency on the part of the parasitic
male, wherever found, to shield his true condition from his own eyes and
those of the world by playing at the ancient ancestral forms of male
labour. He is almost always found talking loudly of the protection he
affords to helpless females and to society, though he is in truth himself
protected through the exertion of soldiers, policemen, magistrates, and
society generally; and he is almost invariably fond of dangling a sword or
other weapon, and wearing some kind of uniform, for the assumption of
militarism without severe toil delights him. But it is in a degenerate
travesty of the ancient labour of hunting (where, at terrible risk to
himself, and with endless fatigue, his ancestors supplied the race with its
meat and defended it from destruction by wild beasts) that he finds his
greatest satisfaction; it serves to render the degradation and uselessness
of his existence less obvious to himself and to others than if he passed
his life reclining in an armchair.

On Yorkshire moors today may be seen walls of sod, behind which hide
certain human males, while hard-labouring men are employed from early dawn
in driving birds towards them. As the birds are driven up to him, the
hunter behind his wall raises his deadly weapon, and the bird, which it had
taken so much human labour to rear and provide, falls dead at his feet;
thereby greatly to the increase of the hunter's glory, when, the toils of
the chase over, he returns to his city haunts to record his bag. One might
almost fancy one saw arise from the heathery turf the shade of some ancient
Teutonic ancestor, whose dust has long reposed there, pointing a finger of
scorn at his degenerate descendant, as he leers out from behind the sod
wall. During the the later Roman Empire, Commodus, in the degenerate days
of Rome, at great expense had wild beasts brought from distant lands that
he might have the glory of slaying them in the Roman circus; and medals
representing himself as Hercules slaying the Nemean lion were struck at his
orders. We are not aware that any representation has yet been made in the
region of plastic art of the hero of the sod wall; but history repeats
itself--and that also may come. It is to be noted that these hunters are
not youths, but often ripely adult men, before whom all the lofty
enjoyments and employments possible to the male in modern life, lie open.)

These peculiarities in her condition have in all civilised societies laid
the female more early and seriously open to the attacks of parasitism than
the male. And while the accumulation of wealth has always been the
antecedent condition, and the degeneracy and effeteness of the male the
final and obvious cause, of the decay of the great dominant races of the
past; yet, between these two has always lain, as a great middle term, the
parasitism of the female, without which the first would have been
inoperative and the last impossible.

Not slavery, nor the most vast accumulations of wealth, could destroy a
nation by enervation, whose women remained active, virile, and laborious.

The conception which again and again appears to have haunted successive
societies, that it was a possibility for the human male to advance in
physical power and intellectual vigour, while his companion female became
stationary and inactive, taking no share in the labours of society beyond
the passive fulfilment of sexual functions, has always been negated. It
has ended as would end the experiment of a man seeking to raise a breed of
winning race-horses out of unexercised, short-winded, knock-kneed mares.
No, more disastrously! For while the female animal transmits herself to
her descendant only or mainly by means of germinal inheritance, and through
the influence she may exert over it during gestation, the human female, by
producing the intellectual and moral atmosphere in which the early infant
years of life are passed, impresses herself far more indelibly on her
descendants. Only an able and labouring womanhood can permanently produce
an able and labouring manhood; only an effete and inactive male can
ultimately be produced by an effete and inactive womanhood. The curled
darling, scented and languid, with his drawl, his delicate apparel, his
devotion to the rarity and variety of his viands, whose severest labour is
the search after pleasure, and for whom even the chase, which was for his
remote ancestor an invigorating and manly toil essential for the meat and
life of his people, becomes a luxurious and farcical amusement;--this male,
whether found in the later Roman Empire, the Turkish harem of today, or in
our Northern civilisations, is possible only because generations of
parasitic women have preceded him. More repulsive than the parasite female
herself, because a yet further product of decay, it is yet only the scent
of his mother's boudoir that we smell in his hair. He is like to the bald
patches and rotten wool on the back of a scabby sheep; which indeed
indicate that, deep beneath the surface, a parasite insect is eating its
way into the flesh, but which are not so much the cause of disease, as its
final manifestation.

As we have said it is the power of the human female to impress herself on
her descendants, male and female, not only through germinal inheritance,
through influence during the period of gestation, but above all by
producing the mental atmosphere in which the impressionable infant years of
life are passed, which makes the condition of the child-bearing female one
of paramount interest of the race. It is this fact which causes even
prostitution (in many other respects the most repulsive of all the forms of
female parasitism which afflicts humanity) to be, probably, not more
adverse to the advance and even to the conservation of a healthy and
powerful society, than the parasitism of its child-bearing women. For the
prostitute, heavily as she weights society for her support, returning
disease and mental and emotional disintegration for what she consumes, does
not yet so immediately affect the next generation as the kept wife, or kept
mistress, who impresses her effete image indelibly on the generations
succeeding. (It cannot be too often repeated that the woman who merely
bears and brings a child into the world, and then leaves it to be fed and
reared by the hands of another, has performed very much less than half of
the labour of producing adult humans; in such cases it is the nurse and not
the mother who is the most important labourer.)

No man ever yet entered life farther than the length of one navel-cord from
the body of the woman who bore him. It is the woman who is the final
standard of the race, from which there can be no departure for any distance
for any length of time, in any direction: as her brain weakens, weakens
the man's she bears; as her muscle softens, softens his; as she decays,
decays the people.

Other causes may, and do, lead to the enervation and degeneration of a
class or race; the parasitism of its child-bearing women must.

We, the European women of this age, stand today where again and again, in
the history of the past, women of other races have stood; but our condition
is yet more grave, and of wider import to humanity as a whole than theirs
ever was. Let us again consider more closely why this is so.

Chapter III. Parasitism (continued).

We have seen that, in the past, no such thing as the parasitism of the
entire body or large majority of the females inhabiting any territory was
possible. Beneath that body of women of the dominant class or race, who
did not labour either mentally or physically, there has always been of
necessity a far more vast body of females who not only performed the crude
physical toil essential to the existence of society before the introduction
of mechanical methods of production, but who were compelled to labour the
more intensely because there was a parasite class above them to be
maintained by their physical toil. The more the female parasite flourished
of old, in one class or race, the more certainly all women of other classes
or races were compelled to labour only too excessively; and ultimately
these females and their descendants were apt to supplant the more enervated
class or race. In the absence of machinery and of a vast employment of the
motor-forces of nature, parasitism could only threaten a comparatively
small section of any community, and a minute section of the human race as a
whole. Female parasitism in the past resembled gout--a disease dangerous
only to the over-fed, pampered, and few, never to the population of any
society as a whole.

At the present day, so enormous has been the advance made in the
substitution of mechanical force for crude, physical, human exertion
(mechanical force being employed today even in the shaping of feeding-
bottles and the creation of artificial foods as substitutes for mother's
milk!), that it is now possible not only for a small and wealthy section of
women in each civilised community to be maintained without performing any
of the ancient, crude, physical labours of their sex, and without depending
on the slavery of, or any vast increase in the labour of, other classes of
females; but this condition has already been reached, or is tending to be
reached, by that large mass of women in civilised societies, who form the
intermediate class between poor and rich. During the next fifty years, so
rapid will undoubtedly be the spread of the material conditions of
civilisation, both in the societies at present civilised and in the
societies at present unpermeated by our material civilisation, that the
ancient forms of female, domestic, physical labour of even the women of the
poorest classes will be little required, their place being taken, not by
other females, but by always increasingly perfected labour-saving

Thus, female parasitism, which in the past threatened only a minute section
of earth's women, under existing conditions threatens vast masses, and may,
under future conditions, threaten the entire body.

If woman is content to leave to the male all labour in the new and all-
important fields which are rapidly opening before the human race; if, as
the old forms of domestic labour slip from her for ever and evitably, she
does not grasp the new, it is inevitable, that, ultimately, not merely a
class, but the whole bodies of females in civilised societies, must sink
into a state of more or less absolute dependence on their sexual functions
alone. (How real is this apparently very remote danger is interestingly
illustrated by a proposition gravely made a few years ago by a man of note
in England. He proposed that a compulsory provision should be made for at
least the women of the upper and middle classes, by which they might be
maintained through life entirely without regard to any productive labour
they might perform, not even the passive labour of sexual reproduction
being of necessity required of them. That this proposal was received by
the women striving to reconstruct the relation of the modern woman to life
without acclamation and with scorn, may have surprised its maker; but with
no more reason than that man would have for feeling surprise who, seeing a
number of persons anxious to escape the infection of some contagious
disease, should propose as a cure to inoculate them all with it in its most
virulent form!)

As new forms of natural force are mastered and mechanical appliances
perfected, it will be quite possible for the male half of all civilised
races (and therefore ultimately of all) to absorb the entire fields of
intellectual and highly trained manual labour; and it would be entirely
possible for the female half of the race, whether as prostitutes, as kept
mistresses, or as kept wives, to cease from all forms of active toil, and,
as the passive tools of sexual reproduction, or, more decadently still, as
the mere instruments of sexual indulgence, to sink into a condition of
complete and helpless sex-parasitism.

Sex-parasitism, therefore, presents itself at the end of the nineteenth
century and beginning of the twentieth in a guise which it has never before
worn. We, the European women of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,
stand therefore in a position the gravity and importance of which was not
equalled by that of any of our forerunners in the ancient civilisation. As
we master and rise above, or fall and are conquered by, the difficulties of
our position, so also will be the future, not merely of our own class, or
even of our own race alone, but also of those vast masses who are following
on in the wake of our civilisation. The decision we are called on to make
is a decision for the race; behind us comes on the tread of incalculable
millions of feet.

There is thus no truth in the assertion so often made, even by thoughtful
persons, that the male labour question and the woman's question of our day
are completely one, and that, would the women of the European race of today
but wait peacefully till the males alone had solved their problem, they
would find that their own had been solved at the same time.

Were the entire male labour problem of this age satisfactorily settled
tomorrow; were all the unemployed or uselessly employed males at both ends
of societies, whom the changes of modern civilisation have robbed of their
ancient forms of labour, so educated and trained that they were perfectly
fitted for the new conditions of life; and were the material benefit and
intellectual possibilities, which the substitution of mechanical for human
labour now makes possible to humanity, no longer absorbed by the few but
dispersed among the whole mass of males in return for their trained labour,

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