Vanity is as old as the mammoth. Romantic lying, obviously connected with vanity, is justly alleged to be deve1oped in woman. No doubt woman's chief desire has been to appear beautiful, and it is quite open to question whether the leaves that clothed our best ancestress were gathered in a spirit of modesty rather than in response to a desire for adornment.
But it should not be too readily assumed that vanity is purely a feminine characteristic. It is a human characteristic, and the favor of any male savage can be bought at the price of a neck of beads or of an admiral's cocked hat. The modern man is modish too, as much as he dares. At Newport as at Brighton the dandy is supreme. It would be inaccurate, however, to limit vanity to clothes. Vanity is more subtle, and I would ask the reader which of the three principal motives that animate man—love, ambition, and gold lust—is the strongest. The desire to shine in the eyes of one's fellows has produced much in art and political service; it has produced much that is foolish and ignoble. It has led to political competition, to a wild race for ill-remunerated offices, governorships, memberships of Parliament. Representatives of the people often wish to serve the people; they also like to be marked out as the people's men. There are no limits to masculine desire for honors; seldom in England does a man refuse a peerage; Frenchmen are martyrs to their love of ribbons, and not a year passes without a scandal because an official has been bribed to obtain the Légion d'Honneur for somebody, or, funnier still, because an adventurer has blacked his face, set up in a small flat, impersonated a negro potentate, and distributed for value received grand crosses of fantastic kingdoms. Even democratic Americans have been known to seek titled husbands for their daughters, and a few have become Papal barons or counts.
Male vanity differs from female, but both are vanity. The two sexes even share that curious form of vanity which in man consists in his calling himself a 'plain man,' bragging of having come to New York without shoes and with a dime in his pocket; which, in woman, consists in neglecting her appearance. Both sexes convey more or less: 'I am what I am, a humble person. . . but quite good enough.' The arrogance of humility is simply repulsive.
Ideas such as the foregoing may proceed from a certain simplicity. Woman is much less complex than the poets believe. For instance, many men hold that woman's lack of self-consciousness, as exemplified by disturbances in shops, has its roots in some intricate reasoning process. One must not be carried away: the truth is that woman, having so long been dependent upon man, has an exaggerated idea of the importance of small sums. Man has earned money; woman has been taught only to save it. Thus she has been poor, and poverty has caused her to shrink from expenditure; often she has become mean and, paradoxically enough, she has at the same time become extravagant. Poverty has taught her to respect the penny, while it has taught her nothing about the pound. If woman finds it quite easy to spend one tenth of the household income on dress, and even more, [See my article, 'Uniforms for Women,' in the Atlantic of November, 1914, and observe extreme figures and details of feminine expenditure on clothes. — The Author] it is because her education makes it as difficult for her to conceive a thousand dollars as it is for a man to conceive a million. It is merely a question of familiarity with money.
Besides, foolish economy and reckless expenditure are indications of an elementary quality. In that sense woman is still something of a savage. She is still less civilized than man, largely because she has not been educated. This may be a very good thing, and it certainly is an agreeable one from the masculine point of view. Whether we consider woman's attitude to the law, to social service, or to war, it is the same thing. In most cases she is lawless; she will obey the law because she is afraid of it, but she will not respect it. For her it is always sic volo, sic jubeo. I suspect that if she had had a share in making the law she would not have been like this, for she would have become aware of the relation between law and life. Roughly she tends to look up on the law as tyrannous if she does not like it, as protective if she does like it. Probably there is little relation between her own moral impulse, which is generous and the law, which is only just. (That is, just in intention.) This is qualified by the moral spirit in woman which increasingly leads her to the view that certain things should be done and others not be done. But even then it is likely that at heart woman does not respect the law; she may respect what it represents,—strength,—but not what it implies,—equity. She is infinitely more rebellious than man, and where she has power she inflames the world in protest. I do not refer to the militant suffragists, but to woman's general attitude. For instance, when it is proposed to compel women to insure their servants, to pay employer's compensation for accident, to restrict married women's control of their property, to establish laws regulating the social evil, we find female opposition very violent. I do not mean material opposition although that does occur, but mental hostility. Woman surrenders because she must, man because he ought to.
That is an attitude of barbarism. It is a changing attitude; the ranks of social service have during the last half-century been disproportionately swollen by woman. Our most active worker in the causes of factory inspection, child protection, anti-sweating, is today woman: Woman is emerging swiftly from the barbarous state in which she was long maintained. She will change yet more,—and further on his article I will attempt to show how,—but to-day it must be granted that there runs in her veins much vigorous barbarian blood. Her attitude to war is significant. During the past months I have met many women who were inflamed by the idea of blood; so long as they were not losing relatives or friends themselves, they tended to look upon the war as the most exciting serial they had ever read. Heat and heroism, at could be more romantic? Every woman to whom I told this said it was untrue, but in no country have the women's unions struck against war; the suffragettes have organized, not only hospitals, but kitchens, recreation rooms, canteens for the use of soldiers; many have clamored to be allowed to make shells; some, especially in Russia, have carried rifles. In England, thirteen thousand women volunteered to make war material; women filled the German factories. Of course, I recognize that this is partly economic: women live in wartime even at the price of men's lives, and I am aware that a great many women have done all they could to arrest the spread of war. In England many have prevented their men from volunteering; in America, I am told, women have been solid against war with Germany. But let the reader be not deceived. A subtle point arises which is often ignored. If women went instead of men, their attitude might be different. Consider, indeed, these two paragraphs, fictitious descriptions of a battlefield:—
'Before the trenches lay heaped hundreds of young men, with torn bodies, their faces pale in the moonlight. The rays lit up the face of one that lay near, made a glitter upon his little golden moustache.'
'Before the trenches lay heaped hundreds of young girls. The moonlight streamed upon their torn bodies and their fair skins. The rays fell upon one that lay near, drawing a glow from the masses of her golden hair.'
Let the masculine reader honestly read these two paragraphs (which I do not put forward as literature). The first will pain him; the second will hurt him more. That men should be slaughtered—how hateful! That girls should be slaughtered—it is unbearable. Here, I submit, is part of woman's opposition to war, of the exaggerated idea people have of her humanitarian attitude. I will not press the point that as a savage she may like blood better than man; I will confine myself to suggesting that a large portion of her opposition to war comes out of a sexual consciousness; it seems horrible to her that young men should be killed, just as horrible as my paragraph on the dead girls may seem to the male reader.
Some men have seen woman as barbarous and dangerous only, have based their attitude upon the words of Thomas Otway: 'She betrayed the Capitol, lost Mark Antony to the world, laid old Troy in ashes.' This is absurd; if man cannot resist the temptation of woman he can surely claim no greater nobility. Mark Antony 'lost' Cleopatra by wretched suicide as much as she 'lost' him. If because of Helen old Troy was laid in ashes, at least another woman, guiltless Andromache, paid the price; To represent woman so, to suggest that there were only two people in Eden, Adam and the Serpent, is as ridiculous as making a woman into a goddess. It is the hope of the future that woman shall be realized as neither diabolical nor divine, but as merely human.
We must recognize that the emotional quality in woman is not a characteristic of sex; it is merely the exaggeration of a human characteristic. For instance, it is currently said that women make trouble on committees. They do; I have sat with women on committees and will do it again as seldom as possible: their frequent inability to understand an obvious syllogism, their passion for side issues, their generalizations, and their particularism whenever emotion is aroused, make committee work very difficult. But every committee has its male member who cannot escape from his egotism or from his own conversation. What woman does man does, only he does it less. The difference is one of degree, not of quality.
Where the emotionalism of women grows more pronounced is in matters of religion and love. There is a vague correspondence between her attitude to the one and to the other, in outwardly Christian countries, I mean. She often finds in religion a curious philter, both a sedative and a stimulant. Religion is often for woman an allotrope of romance; blind as an earthworm she seeks the stars. I cannot enter here into the question which a mediaeval council so boldly discussed,—Has woman a soul?—for it would compel an opinion as to whether man can pretend to such a thing; but it is curious that religion should make so powerful an appeal to woman, considering how she has been treated by the faiths. The Moslem faith has made of her a toy and a reward; the Jewish, a submissive beast of burden; the Christian, a danger, a vessel of impurity. I mean the actual faiths, not their original theory; one must take a faith as one finds it, not as it is supposed to be, and in the case of woman the Christian religion is but little in accord with the view of Him who forgave the woman taken in adultery. The Christian religion has done everything it could to heap ignominy upon woman: head-coverings in church, practical tolerance of male infidelity, kingly repudiation of queens, compulsory child-bearing, and a multiplicity of other injustices. The Proverbs and the Bible in general are filled with strictures on 'a brawling woman,' 'a contentious woman'; when man is referred to, mankind is really implied. Yet woman has kissed the religious rods. One might think that indeed she was seduced and held only by cruelty and contempt. She is now, in a measure, turning against the faiths, but still she clings to them more closely than man because she is more capable of making an act of faith, believing that which she knows to be impossible.
The appeal of religion to woman is the appeal of self-surrender,—that is, ostensibly. In the case of love it is the same appeal, ostensibly; though I suspect that intuition has told many a woman who gave herself to a lover or to a god that she was absorbing more than she gave: in love using the man for nature whom she represents, in faith performing a pantheistic prodigy, the enclosing of Nirvana within her own bosom.
But speculation as to the impulse of sex in relation to religion, in Greece, in Egypt, in Latin countries, would draw me too far. I can record only that to all appearances a portion of the religious instinct of woman is derived from the love instinct which man believe to be woman's first and only motive. It is significant that among the sixty-five cases upon which this article is based [Mr. George explains in his earlier paper that the specific source of his information is the study sixty-five women representing, as he believes, typical classes of society.—The Editor] there are several deeply religious single women, while not one of the married men shows signs of more than conventional devotion. I incline to believe that woman is firstly animal, secondly, intellectual; while man appears to be occassionally animal and primarily intellectual.
Observe indeed the varying age at which paternal and maternal instincts manifest themselves. A woman's passion her child generally awakes at birth, and there are many cases where an unfortunate girl, intending to murder her child, as soon as it is born discovers that she loves it. On the other hand a great many men are indifferent to their children in infancy and are drawn to them only as they develop intellectual quality. This is just the time when woman drifts from them. Qualified by civilized custom, the attitude of woman toward her child is very much that of the cat toward her kitten; as soon as the kitten is a few weeks old, the mother neglects it. A few months later she will not know it. Her part is played. So it is not uncommon to find woman who has been enthralled by her baby giving it over entirely to hired help: the baby is growing intellectualized; it needs her no more except as a kindly but calm critic. And frequently at that time the father begins to intervene, to control the education, to prepare for the future. Whether in the mental field this means much more than difference in temperament between red hair and black hair (if that means anything), I do not know; but it is singular that so often the mother should drift away from her child just at the moment when the father thinks of teaching it to ride and shoot and tell the truth. Possibly by that time her critical work is done.
Indicative of the influence of the emotions is the peculiar intensification of love in moments of crisis, such as war, revolution, or accident. Men do not escape this any more than women: the German atrocities, for instance, largely proceed from extreme excitement. But men have but slender bonds to break, being nearly all ready to take their pleasure where they can, while women are more fastidious; Woman needs a more highly charged atmosphere, the whips of fear or grief, the intoxication of glory. When these are given her, her emotions more readily break down her reserves; and it is not remarkable that in times of war there should be an increase in illegitimate births as well as an increase in marriages. Woman's intellect under those pressures gives way. A number of the marriages contracted by British soldiers about to leave for the front are simple manifestations of hysteria.
As for caprice, it has long been regarded as woman's privilege, part of her charm. Man was the hunter, and his prey must run. Only he is annoyed when it runs too fast. He is ever asking woman to charm him by elusiveness and then complaining because she eludes him. There is hardly a man who would not to-day echo Sir Walter Scott's familiar lines,—
O Woman! in our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made.
It is not woman's fault. The poetry of the world is filled with the words 'to win' and 'to woo'; one cannot win or woo one who does not baffle; one can only take her, and men are not satisfied to do only that. Man loves sincerity until he finds it; he can live neither with it nor without it; this is true most notably in the lists of love. He is for falsehood, for affectation, lest the prize should too easily be won. Both sexes are equally guilty if guilt there be.
More true is it that many women lie and curvet as a policy because they believe thus best to manage men. They generally believe that they can manage men. They look upon them as 'poor dears.' They honestly believe that the 'poor dears' cannot cook, or run houses, or trim hats, ignoring the fact that the 'poor dears' do these things better than anybody, in kitchens, in hotels, and in hat shops. Especially they believe that they can outwit them in the game of love. This curious idea is due to woman's consciousness of having been sought after in the past and told that she did not seek man but was sought by him. Centuries of thraldom and centuries of flattery have caused her to believe this—the poor dear!
In ordinary times, when no world-movements stimulate, the chief exasperation of woman resides in jealousy. It differs from male jealousy, for the male is generally possessive, the female competitive. I suspect that Euripides was generalizing rashly when he said that woman is woman's natural ally. She is too sex-conscious for that, and many of us have observed the annoyance of a mother when her son weds. Competition is always violent, so much so that woman is generally mocking or angry if a man praises ever so slightly another woman. If she is young and able to make a claim on all men, she tends to be still more virulent because her claim is on all men. This is partly due to the marriage market and its restrictions, but it is also partly natural. No doubt because it is natural, woman attempts to conceal that jealousy, nature being generally considered ignoble by the civilized world. In this respect we must accept that an assumption of coldness is considered a means of enticing man. It may well be that, where woman does not exhibit jealousy, she is with masterly skill suggesting to the man a problem: why is she not jealous? On which follows the desire to make her jealous, and entanglement.
Because of these powerful preoccupations when woman adopts a career she has hitherto frequently allowed herself to be diverted therefrom by love. Up to the end of the nineteenth century it was very common for a woman to abandon the stage, the concert platform, and so forth, when she married. A change has come about, and there is a growing tendency in women, whether or not at the expense of love I do not know, to retain their occupations when they marry. But the tendency of woman still is to revert to the instinctive function. In days to come, when we have developed the individual and broken up the socialized society in which we live, when the home has been swept away and the family destroyed, I do not believe that this factor will operate so powerfully. In the way of change stand the remnants of woman's slavish habit. No longer a slave, she tends to follow, to submit, to adjust her conduct to the wish of man, and it is significant that a powerful man is seldom henpecked. The henpecked deserve to be henpecked, and I would point out that there is no intention in these notes to attempt to substitute henpecked husbands for for cockpecked wives. The tendency is all the other way, for woman tends to mould herself to man.
A number of cases lie before me:—
Case 61 married a barrister. Before her marriage she lived in a commerical atmosphere; after marriage she grew violently legal in her conversation. Her husband developed a passion for motoring; so did Case 61. Observe that during a previous attachment to a doctor, Case 61 had manifested a growing interest in medicine.
Case 18 comes from a hunting family, married a literary man, and within a years has ceased to take any exercise and mixes exclusively with literary people.
Case 38, on becoming engaged to a member of the Indian Civil Service, became a sedulous student of Indian literature and religion. On her husband's appointment to a European post her interest did not diminish. She has paid a lengthy visit to India.
There are compensating cases among men: I have two. In one case a soldier who married a literary woman has turned into a scholar. In the other a commercial man, who married a popular actress, has been completely absorbed by the theatre, and is now writing successful plays.
It would appear from these rather disjointed notes that the emotional quality in woman is more or less at war with her intellectual aims. Indeed it is sometimes suggested that where woman appears narrowness follows; that books by women are mostly confined to love, are not cosmic in feeling. This is generally true, for reasons which I hope to indicate a little farther on; but it is not true that books where women are the chief characters are narrow. Such novels as Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Une Vie, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, make that point obvious. As a rule, books about men, touching as they do, not only upon love, but upon art, politics, business, are more powerful than books about women. But one should not forget that books written round women are mostly written by women. As women are far less powerful in literature than men, we must not conclude that books about women are naturally lesser than books about men. The greatest books about women have been written by men. But few men are sufficiently unprejudiced to grasp women; only a genius can do so, and that is why few books about women exist that deserve the epithet great. It remains to be seen whether an increased understanding of the affairs of the world will develop among women a literary power which, together with the world, will embrace herself.
In the attempt to indicate what the future may reserve for woman it is important to consider what she has done, because she has achieved much in the face of conservatism, of male egotism, of male jealousy, of poverty, of ignorance, and of prejudice. These chains are weaker to-day, and the goodwill that shall not die will break them yet; but many women, a few of whose names follow, gave while enslaved an idea of woman's quality. Examine indeed this short list: [I associate the arts with intellectual quality for reasons that I cannot explain here. Broadly, I believe that all achievements, artistic or otherwise, proceed from intellect.—The Author]
Painting: Angelica Kauffmann, Madame Vigée le Brun, Rosa Bonheur.
Music and drama: Rachel, Siddons, Ellen Terry, Sarah Bernhardt, Teresa Carreño Sadayacco.
Literature: George Eliot, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Madame de Staël, Madame de Sévigné, Christina Rossetti, Elizabeth Browning. More recent, Mrs. Alice Meynell, Miss May Sinclair, 'Lucas Malet,' Mrs. Edith Wharton, 'Vernon Lee.'
Social service and politics: Mrs. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Miss Jane Addams, Madame Montessori, Mrs. Fawcett, Mrs. Ennis Richmond, Mrs. Beecher Stowe, Florence Nightingale, Mrs. Havelock Ellis, Mrs. Sidney Webb, Miss Clementina Black, Josephine Butler, Mrs. Pankhurst, Elizabeth Fry. Observe the curious case of Mrs. Hetty Green, financier.
This list could be enormously increased, and, as it is, it is a random list, omitting women of distinction and including women of lesser distinction. But still it contains no unknown names, and, though I do not pretend that it compares with a similar list of men, it is an indication. I am anxious that the reader should not think that I want to compare Angelica Kauffmann with Leonardo, or Jane Austen with Shakespeare. In every walk of life since history began there have been score of men for every woman of talent, and there has never been a female genius. That should not impress us: genius is an accident; it may be a disease. It may be that mankind has produced only two or three geniuses, and that one or two women in days to come may redress the balance, and it may be that several women have been mute inglorious Miltons. We do not know. But in the matter of talent, notably in the arts, I submit that woman can be hopeful, particularly because most of the names I give are those of women of the nineteenth century. The nineteenth century was better for woman than the eighteenth, the eighteenth better than the seventeenth: what could be more significant? In the arts I feel that woman has never had her opportunity. She has been hailed as an executive artist, actress, singer, pianist; but as a creator, novelist, poet, painter, she has been steadfastly discounted,—told that what she did was very pretty, until she grew unable to do anything but the pretty-pretty. She has grown up in an atmosphere of patronage and roses, deferential, subservient. She has persistently been told that certain subjects were 'not fit for nice young ladies'; she has been shut away from the expression of life.
Here is a typical masculine attitude, that of Mr. George Moore, in A Modern Lover. Mr. George Moore, who seems to know a great deal about females but less about women, causes this book Harding, the novelist, who generally expresses him, to criticize George Sand, George Eliot, and Rosa Bonheur: 'If they have created anything new, how is it that their art is exactly like our own? I defy any one to say that George Eliot's novels are woman's writing, or that The Horse Fair was not painted by a man. I defy you to show me a trace of feminality anything they ever did; that is the point I raise. I say that women as yet have not been able to transfuse in art a trace of their sex; in other words, unable to assume a point of view of their own, they have adopted ours.'
This is cool! I have read a great deal of Mr. George Moore's art criticism when it deals with the work of a man he never seeks the masculine touch. He judges a man's work as art; he will not judge a woman's work as art. He starts from the assumption that man's art is art, while woman's art is—well, woman's art. That is the sort of thin which has discouraged woman; that is the atmosphere of tolerance and good conduct prizes which she is breathed, and at is the stifling stupidity through which she is breaking. She will break through, for I believe that she loves the arts better than does man. She is better ground for the development of a great artist, for she approaches art with sympathy, while the great bulk of men approach it with fear and dislike shrinking from the idea that it may disturb their self-complacency. The prejudice goes so far that, while women are attracted to artists as lovers, men are generally afraid of women who practice the arts, or they dislike them. It is not a question of sex; it is a question of art. All that is part of sexual heredity, of which I must say a few words.
But, before doing so, let me waste a few lines on the male conception of love, which has influenced woman because love is still her chief business. To this day, though it dies slowly, the male attitude is still the attitude to a toy. It is the attitude of Nietzsche saying, 'Man is for war, woman for recreation of the warrior.' This is so prevalent that Great Britain, in its alleged struggle against Nietszchean ideas, is making abundant use of the Nietzschean point of view. No wonder the idea runs not only through men but through Englishmen: 'woman the reward of war,'—that is a prevalent idea, notably among men who make war in the neighborhood of waste-paper baskets. It has been exemplified by the British war propaganda in every newspaper and in every music hall, begging women to refuse to be with a man unless he is in khaki. It has had government recognition in shape of recruiting posters, asking women 'whether their best boy is in khaki.' It has been popularly formulated on picture postcards touchingly inscribed, 'No gun, no girl.'
All that—woman as the prize (a theory repudiated in the case of Belgian atocities)—is an idea deeply rooted in man. In the eighteen-sixties the customary proposal was, 'Will you be mine?' Very faintly signs are showing at men will yet say, 'May I be yours?' It will take time, for the possessive the dominating instinct in man is still strong; and long may it live, for that is the vigor of the race. Only we do not want that instinct to carry man away, any more than we want a well-bred horse to clench its teeth upon the bit and bolt.
We want to do everything we can to get rid of what may be called the creed of the man of the world, which is as repulsively suggested as anywhere in Rudyard Kipling's 'Departmental Ditties':—
My Son, if a maiden deny thee and scufflingly bid thee give o'er,
Yet lip meets with lip at the lastward—get out! She has been there before.
They are pecked on the ear and the chin and the nose who are lacking in lore.
Pleasant the snaffle of Courtship, improving the manners and carriage;
But the colt who is wise will abstain from the terrible thorn-bit of Marriage.
Blister we not for bursati? So when the heart is vext
The pain of one maiden's refusal is drowned in the pain of the next.
There is a great deal of this sort of thing in Moliere, in Thackeray, in Casanova. The old idea of woman eluding and lying; of woman stigmatized if she has 'been there before,' while man, may brag of having 'been there before' as often as possible; of man lovelacing for his credit's sake and woman adventuring at her peril.
I submit that each man and woman has two heredities: one the ordinary heredity from two parents and their forbears, the other more complex and purely mental—the tradition of sex. Heredity through sex may be defined as the resultant of consecutive environments. I mean that a woman, for instance, is considerably influenced by the ideas and attitudes of her mother, grandmothers, and all female ascendants. They had a tradition, and it is the basis of her outlook. Any boy born in a slum can, as he grows educated, realize that the world lies before him; literature and history soon show him that many as lowly as he have risen to fame, as artists, scientists, statesmen; he may even dream of becoming a king, like Bonaparte. To the boy nothing is impossible; if he is brave, there is nothing he may not tear from the world. He knows it and it strengthens him; it gives him confidence. What his fathers did he may do; the male sexual heredity is a proud heritage, and only yesterday a man said to me, 'Thank God, I am a man.' Contrast with this the corresponding type of heredity in woman. Woman carries in her the slave tradition of her maternal forbears, of people who never did anything because they were never allowed to; who were told that they could do nothing but please, until they at last believed it, until by believing they lost the power of action; who were never taught, and because uneducated were ashamed; who were never helped to understand the work of the world, political, financial, scientific, and, therefore, grew to believe that such realms were not for them. I need not labor the comparison: obviously any woman, inspired by centuries of dependence, instinctively feels that, while everything is open to man, very little is open to her. She comes into the arena with a leaden sword; in most cases she hardly has energy to struggle.
A few days ago, when Britain was floating a large war loan, one woman told me that she could not understand its terms. We went into them together and she found that she understood perfectly. She was surprised. She had always assumed that she did not understand finance, and the assumption had kept her down, prevented her from understanding it. Likewise, and until they try, many women think they cannot read maps and time-tables.
With that heredity environment has coalesced, and I think no one will deny that a continuous suggestion of helplessness and mental inferiority must affect woman. It means most during youth, when one is easily snubbed, when one looks up to one's elders. By the time one has found out one's elders it is generally too late; the imprint is made, and woman, looking upon herself as inferior, hands on to her daughters the old slavery that was in her forbears' blood. To me this seems foolish and during the past thirty or forty years a great many have come to think so too; they have shown it by opening wide to woman the doors of colleges, many occupations and professions. Many are to-day impatient because woman has not done enough, has not justified this new freedom. I think they are unjust; they do not understand stand that a generation of training and of relative liberty is not enough to undo evils neolithic in origin. All that we are doing to-day by opening gates to women is to counter-influence the old tradition, to implant in the woman of to-morrow the new faith that nothing is beyond her powers. It lies with the woman of to-day to make that faith so strong as to move mountains. I think she will succeed, for I doubt whether any mental power is inherent in sex. There are differences of degree, differences of quality; but I suspect that they are mainly due to sexual heredity, to environment, to suggestion, and that indeed, if I may trench upon biology, human creatures are never entirely male or entirely female; there are no men, there are no women, but only sexual majorities.
The evolution of woman toward mental assimilation with man though particularly swift in the past half-century, has been steady since the Renaissance. Roughly, one might say that the woman of the year 1450 had no education at all; in this she was more like man than she ever was later, for the knights could not read and learning existed only among the priests. The time had not yet come for the learned nobleman; Sir Philip Sidney, the Earl of Surrey, the Euphuists, had not yet dispelled the medieval fogs, and few among the laymen, save Cheke and Ascham, had any learning at all. In those days woman sang songs and brought up babies. Two hundred and fifty years later the well-to-do woman had become somebody; she could even read, though she mainly read tales such as 'The Miraculous Love of Prince Alzamore.' She was growing significant in the backstairs of politics. Sometimes she took a bath. Round out 1850 she turned into the 'perfect lady' who kept an album bound in morocco leather. She wrote verses that embodied yearnings. Often she had a Turkish parlor, and usually as many babies as she could. But already the Brontes and George Eliot had come to knock at the door; Miss Braddon was promising to be, if not a glory, at least a power, and before twenty years were out John Stuart Mill was to lead the first suffragettes to the House of Commons.
To-day it is another picture: woman in every trade except those in which she intends to be; woman demanding and using political power; woman governing her own property; woman senior to man in the civil service. She has not yet her charter, and still suffers much from the tradition of inferiority, from her lack of confidence in herself. But many women are all ambition, and within the last year two young women novelists have convinced me that the thing they most desire is to be great in their art. Whether they will succeed does not matter much; what does matter is that they should harbor such a wish. Whether woman's physical disabilities, her present bias toward unduly moral and inadequately intellectual judgments, will forever hamper her, I do not know; but I do not think so. Whether the influence of woman, more inherently lawless, more anarchic than man, will result in the breaking down of conventions and the despising of the law, I do not know either. But if world is to be remoulded I think it much more likely to be remoulded by woman than by man, simply because tthat as a sex he is in power, and the people who are in power never want to alter anything.
Woman's rebellion is everywhere indicated: her brilliance, her failings, her unreasonableness, all these are excellent signs of her revolt. She is even revolting against her own beauty; often she neglects her clothes, her hair, her complexion, her teeth. This is a pity, but it must not be taken too seriously: men on active service grow beards, and woman in her emancipation campaign is still too busy to think of the art of charming. I suspect that as time passes and she suffers less intolerably from a sense of injustice, she will revert to the old graces. The art of charming was a response to convention; and of late years unconventionality, a great deal of which is ridiculous, has grown much more among women than among men. That is not wonderful, for there were so many things woman might not do. Almost any movement would bring her up against a barrier; that is why it seems that she does nothing in the world except break barriers. How genuine woman's rebellion is no man can say. It may be that woman's impulse toward male occupations and rights is only a reaction against the growing difficulty of gaining a mate, children, and a home. But I very much more believe that woman is straining toward a new order, that the swift evolution of her mind is leading her to contest more and more violently the assumption that there are ineradicable differences between the male and the female mind. As she grows more capable of grasping at education she will become more worthy of it; her intellect will harden, tend to resemble that of man; and so, having escaped from the emptiness of the past into the special fields which have been conceded her, she will make for broader fields, fields so vast that they will embrace the world.