June 1926 November 2012

Glandular Activity and Feminine Talent

Rebuffing a piece published two months earlier, Fairfield dismissed the popular notion that women are biologically inferior to men. Real societal barriers—not then-supposed differences in the endocrine system—were the reason women were held back, Fairfield argued.
Female public school athletes, circa 1915 (Library of Congress)

The progress of man has never been impeded by preconceived ideas regarding his abilities, his proper interests, and his appropriate activities. Woman has always been so hampered. For generations her existence was narrowly prescribed because she was considered an inferior creature lacking a soul and possessing but a rudimentary intellect … She is repeatedly reminded that the greatest scientists, musicians, and artists have never been numbered among her sex … She is encouraged to believe that her humble place among the geniuses has no relation to repression, but is due to an unknown factor in her physiologic construction … But why endlessly close one’s eyes to present-day factors of environment and training which have an overwhelmingly inhibitory effect on feminine ambitions?

It is said that impressions obtained before the age of seven are sufficient to determine the course of action in adult life. If so, by the time she is seven it is definitely established that the little girl will never attempt to break through convention to make over society more to her liking. She will always endeavor to live up to man-made standards of her conduct, and will eventually become a well-disciplined housewife, subordinating her intellect and desire to those of her husband.

Read the full article in the June 1926 Atlantic.

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