Equal Yet Diverse

“If I may be permitted to suggest what seems to me to be the teaching of the animal kingdom upon this matter, it would be that … in short, the male is best fitted to shine in public, the female in private; the male abroad, the female at home.”

“Man and woman are one, but the man is the one.”

“Man and woman are one, but the one is the woman.”

“Man and woman are two, equal and identical.”

“Man and woman are two halves of one, equal but diverse.”

Such are the four creeds of the four parties which include most thinking people of the day.

The first is based upon the past; upon barbaric ages of physical cruelty and oppression, and upon the mental neglect and repression of more modern times; upon every menial service which woman has performed, and upon every aspiration which man has crushed; upon all that has ever flowed from the selfish strength of man joined to woman’s weakness and submission.

The second is with some the doctrine of the present, the inevitable reaction toward the opposite extreme. It is preached by misguided or selfish women, and heard by unmanly or over-generous men; to its support is dragged every case of bodily or mental superiority in woman; and when put in practice it becomes a tyranny not less galling than that which it aims to supersede.

The third is, in the expectation of others, the creed of the future; their hearts are dead, and their minds are in doubt between the two extreme doctrines; so they take refuge in a mean and negative view; they burrow away from the light, and in the darkness they affirm, There is neither man nor woman any more.

But the last is, under Providence, the real creed of the future; far off, perhaps, but certain as the other life, where we may see all things clearly if we will: equal but not identical; diverse yet complementary; the man for the woman, and the woman for the man.

Such are different readings of the doctrine, man and woman are two halves of one, equal but diverse.

And it is to be hoped that many of my readers believe that there is a real and fundamental distinction of sex, which serves as the basis for two departments of labor and obligation; that the “man is half and the woman half”; that each has what the other lacks; and that, since “things indispensable are economically equal, equivalency rather than identity” is the true relation of the sexes in the work of life.

Some of the above sentences are quoted from the writings of a brilliant woman,1 but men are not wanting to confirm the doctrine in both prose and verse.

Says Emerson, “Everything is a half and suggests another thing to make it whole.”

A charming poet writes,

Female and male God made the man,
His image is the whole, not half

and again,

Nature, with endless being rife,
Parts all things into him and her,
And in the arithmetic of life
The smallest unit is a pair.

Turning from the English poet to the German philosopher, we read, “Every single thing is a duplicity.” And by a theologian we are told “that there are duties proper to the man, and duties proper to the wife; and that the wife cannot enter into the duties proper to the man, nor the man into the duties proper to the wife, and discharge them aright”; for it was a law of Moses that “there shall not be the garment of a woman upon a man, nor the garment of a man upon a woman.”

Now in all these teachings there is implied an equality between the sexes; and this is confirmed by the experience of all those who, having heard “ye twain are now one flesh,” are living a truly happy life; for each day proves to them that their very diversity is the ground of their unity; that “heart” is the equal of “head”; that the beauty and depth and warmth of affection may he fairly mated with the strength and height and light of thought; and that neither is, or can aspire to be, the superior of the other.

We leave a further confession of faith to the close of this article; and, in view of the general and peculiar interest which the relations of the sexes excites at the present time; in view of the diverse opinions held by different parties; in view of the superabundance of ideas and suggestions, and theories and suggestions already afloat and constantly launched; and especially in view of the apparently slight basis of fact which most of them possess, our better way is to avoid discussion of principles, and to bring together into the smallest possible compass all, the positive information we have bearing upon the mental and physical relation of the sexes, among animals as well as men, and to leave it as a contribution toward a more reliable basis for discussion than now seems to exist.

We take for granted that not even the fiercest iconoclasts aim their argumentative sledges at the time-honored recognition of distinct sexual functions in the individuals of a pair. Let us look, then, only for those peculiarities which, not being in themselves essential to the reproduction of the species, have been called accessory sexual features.

Under this title will come all distinction of size and color; all difference in form; all peculiarities of habit and instinct, too, whether such as involve the entire creature or are confined to the separate functions of particular organs.

In order to present as much material as possible, before alluding to any points likely to excite discussion, let us commence, not with man, where every fact is differently interpreted by different parties, but with the lower groups of the animal kingdom.

Our first example is perhaps the most remarkable, and exemplifies nearly all the peculiarities to be found anywhere, distinguishing the sexes from each other. In the exquisite shell which is called the paper nautilus lodges a creature closely resembling a common “squid,” or cuttle-fish, having eight arms or tentacles covered with suckers, with which it adheres to other bodies; as a whole, this animal is a female, and eggs are found in her which are deposited and hatched, thus showing that they must have been fertilized by the male; but no male of this species has been known to exist until quite recently, when it was found that one of the eight arms of the female became charged with an impregnating fluid, spontaneously detached itself from the body, and, taking on an independent existence, floated off in search of a mate. This detached arm, indeed, had been so far from suspicion of any previous attachment to the female nautilus, that it was placed in a distinct genus, called Hectocotylus. But now that we know what it really is, it is not easy to dignify it even by the name of animal at all; it is rather a fragment of an animal, endowed with fertilizing properties and the power of independent existence for a brief period; very much as if a single stamen of a monœcious flower should float away upon the wind, and so be carried to the pistil of another flower.

Scarcely less insignificant in size and structural importance is the male of some kinds of spider; that, for instance, of the Nephila plumipes is about one hundred and twenty-five times smaller than the female, is dull in color, spindle-shanked, and destitute of ornamentation; he is cowardly in disposition, and abstemious in habit, though not from choice apparently, but from lack of ability to construct a web for taking food: he roams disconsolately around the borders of his partner’s web, a “body hanging upon the verge of government, and is in daily apprehension of being devoured by her, though she is sometimes so considerate (not for him, but for the future of her race) as to carry him upon her broad back when they require to change their location. These are all negative and unworthy characteristics; and indeed almost his only positive claims to distinction are the enlarged, club-shaped ends of his palpi, or feelers, which in the female taper gradually to a point. This difference exists with all spiders, and, excepting with the diving spider (Argyroneta aquatica), the female is always the larger; but I am aware of no other such aggravated instance of “men’s wrongs” as that of the Nephila plumipes, in the arachnidian order of insects. Let us now turn to the true or winged representatives of the class.

Here it is an almost universal rule that the female is larger than the male; and this disproportion is sometimes so great, that in a beetle described by Reaumur the male was as a “hare set beside the largest cow”; the female of many gall insects is so large that the male traverses her back as an ample area for a walk. Whatever original difference exists is often due to the space required in the abdominal region of the females for the development of the immense number of eggs which they produce, and it is, of course, greatly exaggerated while the eggs are forming; in the white ant, for instance, the abdomen of the female becomes so distended that she exceeds the male many thousand times in bulk.

But while most insects conform to the above rule, at least in respect to the abdominal region of the body, there are some notable exceptions. The female dragon-flies are sometimes smaller, and never larger than the males; the males of the Dynastidæ and Lucanidæ among the beetles are considerably the larger; the male hive-bee is more robust than the female, and the difference is still more marked in some other allied species; the same is true among some of the Diptera, or two-winged flies. And when we consider the other regions of the insect body, especially the organs of offence and defence and of locomotion, we shall find many cases in which the male is evidently the better supplied. The male stag-beetle has tremendous jaws, serrated upon their edges and strongly hooked at their extremities, those of the female being much less formidable; the male bumblebee has a heavy curly beard upon the jaws, while the female has none; and the male antennæ are almost always larger, being sometimes composed of a greater number of joints, or, when feathered, as in certain moths, much broader and handsomer than those of the female.

In some insects wings occur upon only one sex, and this is always the male: such are, among the beetles, the glow-worm, or lampyris; among the Orthoptera, the cockroaches; among the moths, many species, as our common cankerworm; and finally, among the bugs, the aphides, or plant-lice.

In most of the Hymenoptera the wings of each side are joined by little hooks upon the anterior edge of the hinder wings, which catch upon a slight rim on the posterior edge of the fore-wing; and it is found that the number of these hooks varies immensely in different species. Generally the female has the greater number, as in the bumble-bees and some other wild bees; but the male hive-bee, or drone, has twenty-one hooks, and the female, or queen, only seventeen; and in other kinds of bee, the difference is much greater, even as twenty-three to thirteen. By reference to the habits of all these insects it appears that the number of hooks is greater in those species and in that sex which perform the more rapid and continued flights, the hooks serving to connect the action of the two wings on each side.

The wings of the male house-cricket are so constructed as to serve in the production of sound when one is rubbed over the other; the nervures, or raised lines of the wings, are irregularly arranged, and moreover there is upon the lower surface of each wing a very strong nervure covered by minute teeth, which play upon the nervures of the other wing, and so produce the “shrilling.”

The female lampyris, or glow-worm, being destitute of wings with which to put herself in the path of the male, is compensated by the possession of luminous organs which occupy two or three segments of the abdomen, while the male has only a small luminous point on each side of one of these segments ; her light, however, ceases after the eggs are deposited.

Experienced cultivators of the silk-worm are generally able to distinguish the male from the female cocoon by the more pointed ends of the former; and it is said that some persons can predict the sex of the fowl to be hatched from an egg; but in neither of these cases are the rules infallible.

As is well known, the stings of bees and wasps correspond in structure to the tubular organs through which the ichneumons deposit their eggs in or upon the bodies of other creatures; but this latter instrument, the ovipositor, exists as such only in the female ichneumons; and it appears that the males of even the dreaded mosquitoes should be exonerated from the charges against the race, for they are said to be “beautiful, both physically and morally, as they do not bite; their manners are more retiring than those of their stronger-minded partners, as they rarely enter our dwellings, and live unnoticed in the woods.” We suspect the author of the above quotation of attempting an allegory respecting Socrates and Xantippe.

Differences in the color, the shape, the degree of pubescence, etc., of the two sexes of insects are very numerous, and familiar to every student of entomology; it is enough to say here, that in many cases the difference is such as would otherwise entitle us to consider the two sexes as different species, and even genera; indeed, there is one beetle the female of which has five joints to all the feet, and the male only four to the hinder pair; the one, therefore, coming under the pentamerous, the other under the heteromerous group of insects, if only those organs were regarded; but for these and many other instances of sexual differences, the reader is referred to Kirby and Spence’s Entomology.

Aside from the differences of habit and instinct, which would naturally exist with extreme distinctions of size and structure, there are other peculiarities to be observed in the character of the male and female of some insects, as shown by their proceedings. We can as yet assign no reason for the laziness of the male bee; nor can we easily understand why the worker in the hive should perform all the duties of both laborers and soldiers, since among the white ants the soldiers have one type of structure and the laborers another; so that they may be distinguished by their size and appearance as well as by their actions.

The males, too, of some species associate in large numbers during the pairing season; the little root beetle of England (Hoplia argentea) appears in myriads, unaccompanied by a single female; and the males of the cock-chafer and fern-chafer at that season hover in swarms over the trees and hedges where the female lies concealed.

Among the Crustacea, the female is supplied with the means of retaining her eggs after they are excluded from the body; in some species the anterior limbs have peculiar flat appendages for holding the eggs under the thorax, and in others they are retained beneath the abdomen by appendages of that region; these latter, of which the ordinary crabs are instances, have the abdomen so much widened as to distinguish them at first sight from the males; and, as among the insects, the differences sometimes affect other organs so much as to have caused naturalists to place the two sexes in two distinct genera.

Among the worms, the lowest class of articulate animals, the male is generally the smaller; but in Bilharia, a curious parasitic species of Africa, the female is much the smaller and lies enfolded in a concavity upon one side of the male.

We have seen, then, that, as a rule, the female of articulated animals is the larger and more powerful of the two sexes.

The limits assigned to this article preclude an equal consideration of all the classes of vertebrates, so I will mention only one or two striking instances of sexual differences in the fishes and the reptiles, and then pass on to the higher and warm-blooded groups.

The male salmon has a hooked jaw, with which it fights with other males; and the males of some species of skates have teeth very much sharper than the females, and probably use them as weapons, since it can scarcely be supposed that the two sexes live upon different kinds of food.

I do not know which is the larger among fishes, or among the reptiles generally; but in Surinam is a very remarkable toad of which the female is immense, and the male, the little “man toad” as the natives call it, a very insignificant creature.

The birds have been well said to represent the insects; and the analogy holds good when we examine the diversified and often apparently contradictory relation which the sexes bear to each other in different species.. Among the insects, however, there are very few (excepting, of course, the true social species, as ants, bees, and white ants) which provide for their young after the latter are hatched. The parents take great care to place the eggs in such situations as shall insure an abundance of food for the newly hatched larvae, and they then either die or perform the same labors elsewhere for another brood. But what is thus an exception among the aerial articulates is the almost universal rule among the aerial vertebrates; and the birds far surpass the cold-blooded fishes and reptiles in the variety, extent, and duration of the offices they perform for the sake of their offspring, not only in the location and construction of nests, but in the feeding and protection of the young after hatching.

Among the birds, too, there is an additional element whose importance has led many naturalists to recognize a twofold division of the entire class in reference to it. No observer of the habits of the feathered tribes can fail to have noted that the condition in which the young leave the egg is very different in different species; that, for instance, a newly hatched chicken is as lively and active, and as fully in possession of all its faculties, as the old hen herself; it runs briskly about after its mother, makes astonishing efforts to feed, and generally gets into trouble of one sort or another so early that even the proud parent seems at times to consider her offspring rather precocious. Now the species which are found to be thus able at birth to look out for themselves to a greater or less extent are called Præcoces; and they are the common fowls, in all variety, — the turkeys, partridges, and quails, the plovers and bustards, the snipes and curlews, coots and rails, the ducks and geese, the penguins, auks, and grebes; but, on the other hand, the young pigeon is helpless, and is not only fed by the mother with what she collects for them, but also with a whitish fluid secreted by the crop, so that the relation between them seems prophetic of the close and intimate dependency which exists among the mammalia. The young eagles also are unable to fly, and must be for a long time fed by the parent birds; they are very scantily supplied with feathers, too, whereas the Præecoces are covered with thick down, and can thus maintain their proper temperature, at least while in active motion; and, in view of the nursing duties of the parents in the birds of prey, the pigeons, the ordinary singing birds, the parrots, and cuckoos, the gulls and the cormorants, the cranes and storks, the name Altrices has been given to them.

Now, it is interesting to note that all of the Altrices are decidedly aerial birds; or, if a part of their time is spent upon the water, or upon the earth, as with the last two groups, they also possess very considerable power of flight; but nearly all of the Præcoces are heavy bodied, some having no power of flight whatever, and the others passing by far the larger part of their lives either swimming or wading or walking, but never seeking their food upon the wing. In this respect we are certainly inclined to rank the Altrices higher than the Præcoces.

But now let us see what are the relations of the sexes in these two groups. As a rule, the Altrices, are monogamous; they live in pairs, and the two mates share all the work of the family, sometimes with a more or less complete division of labor, sometimes by taking turns at each kind of duty. But among the Præcoces one group, that of the fowls, are confirmed polygamists and, however gallant the cock may be in public, when, strutting grandly at the head of his peripatetic harem, he summons his wives to pick up a worm, and looks upon their struggle for the morsel with an air of self-abnegation and supreme indifference to all considerations of appetite; however all this may be, no sooner does one of the hens retire for what is no doubt the chief purpose of her existence, than he appears to forget all about her, never goes to inquire for her well-being, and, beyond an unearthly scream in answer to her cackle of oviposition, never manifests the least concern for the result she may set many weary days upon her eggs, but he never carries food to her; and, even after the chickens are hatched, seems to look upon them rather in the light of a necessary evil, which it is no unpardonable sin to peck at and to step upon. Here is a striking contrast to what we saw among the pigeons and the birds of prey. But does this low state of family relation exist among the other precocious birds? It would be interesting to know; but the information seems to be very scanty, or at most confined to particular species. In domestication the ducks and geese are polygamous, but we do not know how it is in nature. I am inclined to think that the other groups—all wading or swimming birds—live in pairs, but they are zoölogically in bad company; and, so long as it is not certain, we must regard the Præcoces as presenting a lower grade of domestic relations than the Altrices.

Now comes the question which really concerns us in this connection, — how do the males and the females compare with each other in these two groups as to size, beauty of plumage, and disposition?

That there are differences between the two sexes of many species is too well known to require further mention; and these differences are often so great that the two would never be suspected of belonging to the same species; but while this is recognized by some authors so far as to induce them to give separate descriptions and measurements of the two sexes, it is not heeded at all by others, or even by the former in all their works; so that the state of our information is extremely unsatisfactory when we seek to generalize as to one feature among all the groups of birds.

Among the Præcoces, the only group concerning which all the facts are certain is the Gallinæ, or fowl-tribe, in which the male is conspicuously larger, stronger, handsomer, and often provided with appendages (the comb, wattle, and spur) which the female either wants altogether or possesses in a less degree. The common fowl, the turkey, and, par excellence, the peacock, are striking examples. The same rule seems to hold among the Lamellirostræ or duck family, and the male is the brighter in plumage if not always the larger. And as in the Gallinæ, both the voice and the disposition differ decidedly in the two sexes.

Among the wading birds the female is said by one author to be the larger, but in some species the male is the more brightly colored; and concerning the short-winged penguin and auks, I have no information.

With the Altrices, our information is more extensive, but at the same time somewhat contradictory. Among the birds of prey the female is always the larger; her length exceeding that of the male by one or two inches, according to the size of the species. The reason for this it is not easy to understand, but it has probably some reference to the females having not only to take living prey as well as the male, but also to cover the young and shelter them, at least more than he, although he may at times relieve her. But though smaller in size, he is more brilliant in plumage, like all the other Altrices of which the facts are recorded; and the male is also the larger among the doves, the perchers, and singing birds, the pelicans and cormorants, the gulls and the petrels; as to the cranes and storks, the parrots and cuckoos, I know nothing certainly.

The male carrier pigeon has wattles under the head, reminding us of the larger combs and wattles of the cocks and the turkey-cocks; the latter has also a peculiar tuft of long hair on the breast. Among the singing birds the males always excel in musical power, and every work upon the habits of birds mentions traits of character peculiar to one of the sexes; so many are known as to lead us to infer that their existence is universal, but until naturalists recognize all such facts as bearing upon the discussion of very important principles, only the more striking instances will be recorded by them.

Of the two hundred and fifty species of birds described in Samuels’s “Ornithology of New England,” only about sixty are referred to as presenting sexual differences; but what is already known of these and of some tropical species shows the utter insufficiency of a measurement or a description of either plumage, structure, or habits which does not include both sexes.

I approach the consideration of the Mammalia with interest, and at the same time with considerable caution; for it is the class to which man himself belongs, so far as concerns his bodily organization, and of which he is, both by structure and by function as well as by the decree of his Maker, the ruler and the archetype. Throughout the class we can trace an effort to approximate the human body; from the horizontal whale, through the gradually elevated seals and quadrupeds, to the semi-erect apes, all its members strive, though forever in vain, to attain the vertical position of man. In all out studies of their habits and dispositions, their organs and functions, constant reference is made to the human body, and to the natural passions and appetites and social and domestic relations of man; and, finally, try to shut our eyes to it as we may, not a fact or an opinion can be stated upon the relations of the two sexes among the mammalia, without our passing an immediate judgment upon it accordingly as it seems to favor or disprove the particular theory which we hold at the time concerning what are, or have been, or ought to be, the relation of man to woman and woman to man.

As has been already intimated, I have my own opinion upon this point; but, in its basis, it savors of religion rather than of science, and cannot, therefore, be advanced here where it is my especial purpose to offer some purely scientific facts grouped in the simplest manner, and not at all with reference to any particular theory of sexual relation.

The first and simplest distinction to be looked for is that of size; and among the Mammalia there is a uniformity which enables us to offer a statement, doubtless refreshing to the weary reader who, after reading the bird section half a dozen times, still feels himself in danger of forgetting “which are which.” All male mammals are larger and stronger than the females; there are, of course, individual exceptions, but that is the rule.

To say that they are also handsomer will, for the reason already stated, bring a blush of modesty to the brow of manhood, a glow of assent to the cheek of womanhood, and, perchance a flush of indignation to both cheeks and brows of some who, through either native deficiency or mistaken views or disappointed affections, deny that manhood and womanhood any longer exist.

But, in truth, perhaps, it ought not so to be said; for the colors of the Mammalia are rarely bright in either sex, and so the beauty of neither is comparable with that of the birds whose hues are certainly more brilliant in the males. And it is probable that the general opinion that the male among our common animals is the handsomer comes from the very same mistaken view of what constitutes excellence of both mind and body with men; of this, more further on; but it is certain that in the possession, or at least in the greater development of certain weapons and showy appendages, the male mammal presents in very many cases the more striking and imposing appearance.

The lion has a flowing mane, which his mate wants altogether; though there is a species, or at least a variety, inhabiting Guzerat in India, where neither sex has a mane; and not again until we reach the human family does the quantity or the collection of the hairy covering constitute a sexual peculiarity.

Horns and teeth, like hair, are really and primarily outgrowths from the skin, and are only attached to the bony skeleton at a later period, to give them greater firmness and availability as organs of combat and of mastication.

The one or two horns upon the snout of the rhinoceros are considered to be a mere agglutination of hairs, growing side by side, and attached by their base to a rough spot upon the bones of the nose. There does not appear to be any sexual distinction in them.

The true horns in pairs are found only in the order Ruminantia, or “cud-chewers,” including the cattle, sheep, deer, antelopes, and giraffes; and with all these they are larger in the male, and in a few species exist only in that sex, or are merely rudimentary in the female, as in some antelopes. The greater number of branches upon the horns of the male deer and stags, and the strongly curved form which they assume in the rams and he-goats, are well known. It is true that among the domestic cattle, the bulls have the smallest horns, the cows rather larger, and the oxen the largest and most strongly curved; but the exception is more apparent than real, since the horns of the bull, though smaller, are sharper and straighter and more effective in thrusting than those of either the cow or the ox; and, more than that, the neck of the bull is so very much stronger as to enable him to use his short sharp horns to the best advantage; and so, taking quality into consideration rather than quantity, the rule holds good, that the male ruminant is better supplied with horns than the female.

There are some other ruminating animals which have no horns at all, — the camels and llamas; but these have as weapons of offence and defence sharp-pointed teeth in both jaws, which do not exist or are not sharp-pointed in the ordinary Ruminants; and these teeth are larger and sharper in the male camel and llama than in the female.

And this leads us to consider the teeth among the other Mammalia, — not the chewing or grinding teeth, which are subservient only to digestion, and which, since both sexes eat the same food, would not be expected to present any sexual distinction; but, sharp-pointed teeth existing in nearly all mammals which may be used for seizing and tearing food, and which in the males are more largely developed, so as to be quite formidable weapons. Such are the long canine teeth of the male lion and tiger, of the male gorilla and other apes, and boars of some wild species in which they project beyond the lips, and may even curve upward and over so as to be capable of inflicting terrible wounds; the stallion has short but sharp canines in both jaws, the gelding has them smaller, and in the mare they are wanting altogether.

All these teeth are true “canines,” but in some species the front or incisor teeth may take on the form and function of tusks; those of the elephants and mastodons and mammoths, for instance, are enormously developed incisor teeth, which are larger and more strongly curved in the male than in the female; though in certain parts of Africa the elephants are said not to differ as to the tusks in the two sexes. I venture to suggest, however, that in this, as in many other cases, the comparisons have not been made with sufficient care.

In the Narwhal the young of both sexes possess two rudimentary tusks at the end of the upper jaw, which in the female never project beyond the gum; but in the male that of the left side soon increases in length, and finally forms a straight though twisted tusk, which may attain a thickness of four inches, and a length of nine or ten feet.

Among the lower orders of the true Mammalia—as the Rodents and Insectivora—the sexes are externally so much alike as to require a very close comparison in order to detect them; but with the Marsupials as the opossums, kangaroos, and the like—most of them inhabiting Australia, the female is at once known by the possession of the marsupium, a pouch upon the abdomen in which the young are deposited, and where, by sucking the milk from the nipples which open into it, they gradually advance from the immature and perfectly helpless condition in which they are first born to one corresponding with that in which the ordinary mammals come into the world. The males have no such open pouch, but under the skin of the abdomen may be felt the two slender marsupial bones, which in them as in the females reach forward and outward from the loin of the pelvis.

In the male Ornithorhynchus is a very peculiar hollow spur upon each hind leg, and a gland concealed at its base, both these being rudimentary in the female. Its use is not known.

The mammary glands, the milk-secreting organs which distinguish the Mammalia from all other classes of vertebrates, are likewise distinctive marks of sex within the class; not by their existence in the female alone, but by their greater size and ordinary functional development; for, like men, all the males of the monkeys, the quadrupeds, the seals, and the whales possess rudimentary glands, or at least the nipples, in the various locations where they are developed in the females; in some, as in the bats and apes, two in number upon the chest; in others numerous along the whole lower surface of the body; in others, as in the cow and horse, few in number, and brought within a small space between the hinder legs; even in mankind, however, their position may be altered, for in an otherwise well-formed man there was a breast about three inches in diameter, with a nipple, located upon the front of one thigh; no milk could be obtained from it, but there have been at different times several male individuals who not only possessed well-developed mammary glands, but even secreted through them a milky fluid capable of nourishing infants; in all these cases the general form and aspect of the body was rather feminine.

And this leads us to a consideration of the outline and proportions of the body in the two sexes. These have been studied more by artists than by anatomists, and are so generally admitted as to require a mere mention here. The shoulders of man are wider, but the hips in woman; the legs of man are longer, so that when standing he is the taller; but there is little or no difference in the length of the trunk, so that when sitting the distinction is lost.

But beside these definite peculiarities, the two sexes are usually distinguishable by the general form and character of all parts. In man the skin is rougher, the hands and feet larger, the cheekbones more prominent, and all the joints larger; there is less fat between the muscles, so that the form is less rounded than in the female; but beyond all this there are distinctions constant and easy to see, though not easy to describe, between the masculine and feminine features which rarely allow us to mistake the one for the other.

From the external to the true internal organs an easy passage is afforded by the vocal apparatus, which, though concealed from direct view, yet projects beneath the skin, and still more readily indicates sexual differences by the quality and quantity of the sounds produced.

The greater size of the male larynx is indicated by the prominence called Adam’s apple; and the length of the “chink of the glottis,” through which air passes in speaking or singing, is as three in man to two in woman.

In considering the size of various internal organs, we ought to give both the absolute weight and the weight relative to that of the entire body.

For instance, the average heart of women weighs eight or ten ounces, and that of man ten or twelve; which fact, when viewed in the common idea of the heart’s mental relations, rather militates against the affectional superiority of woman. But if these figures are compared with the weight of the body in the two sexes, the case looks better; for in man the heart is as one to one hundred and sixty-nine, in woman as one to one hundred and forty-nine. The action of the heart, too, is more rapid in women, the average pulsations being five or ten more per minute than in men of the same age.

The lungs, however, are, both absolutely and relatively, larger in man, constituting in him one thirty-seventh, and in woman one forty-third, of the weight of the body. The statements regarding the number of respirations per minute are contradictory; but we should incline to expect them to be more numerous in man. The red blood-corpuscles are said to be more numerous in man than in woman.

It is said by good authorities that women are more impressible to the action of medicines than men, and that the action is apt to be also more irregular; they are also said to endure surgical operations better than the sterner sex.

And now, last but by no means least, the nervous system claims our attention; and he would be a very brave or a very ignorant person who should venture, without some trepidation, upon the presentment of facts, much less of opinions. He stands between two fiercely hostile parties, and a hair’s-breadth leaning toward the one will call down upon him the wrath and condemnation of the other. I will therefore state the facts of other people, and let my readers form their own opinions.

By the careful weighing of many human brains it has been found:

1. That the average brain of man weighs fifty ounces, and that of woman weighs forty-four ounces.

2. That the cerebrum, which is generally regarded as the organ of the higher mental powers, is not as a rule larger in proportion to the cerebellum, in either man or woman.

And if the advocates of man’s superiority base their claim for him upon a larger organ of the mind than exists in woman, they must take into account a third fact.

3. That both elephants and whales, the latter of which have never been deemed to possess any remarkable intelligence, have brains weighing from eighty to one hundred and sixty ounces, whereas the largest human brains—those of Cuvier and Dupuytren—weighed only fifty-nine and fifty-eight ounces respectively; if then, it is objected that the human brain is bigger in proportion to the size of the body than that of the whale or elephant, we must first explain away this next fact.

4. In certain birds, in some small quadrupeds, and even in some monkeys, the size of the brain is, relatively to the size of the body, greater than in man.

It is evident, now, that neither absolute nor relative size proves anything; and even if it did, little help would be afforded in our estimate of masculine and feminine mental organs; for the proportion between the weight of the brain and that of the body is the same in the two sexes, or, according to some authors, a little larger in woman.

Some assistance might be derived from a comparison of the size of the brain with that of the nerves which proceed from it, or, what would probably amount to the same thing, a comparison of the gray or cellular and dynamic nervous substance with the white or fibrous and conducting portions; for it is certain that in this respect the brain of man excels all others. But there are no observations which enable us to make the comparison between the two sexes of human beings.

Let us, then, leave mere quantity out of the question entirely, and consider the quality of brains and their structural complexity. This promises well; for

5. Although there are apparent and perhaps real exceptions among the animals as compared with each other, — the sheep’s brain, for instance, being more convoluted than the cat’s, — yet there is no question but that the human brain surpasses that of all others, — even that of the apes, — in the number and depth of its convolutions and the amount of the gray matter. But here, unfortunately, there are no materials for making such a comparison between the brain of man and of woman.

If now we attempt to judge of them by the degree or quality of their intellectual manifestations, then we at once diverge from the safe, though narrow highway of facts into the broad fields of individual estimates and opinions, which would indeed involve the begging of the very question which we are trying to solve.

Here I leave the subject. If the height of wisdom is to be aware of our ignorance, my candid readers are certainly wiser than before, and may move forward in the investigation with no fear of having to retrace their steps.

And if I may be permitted to suggest what seems to me to be the teaching of the animal kingdom upon this matter, it would be that, among the more highly organized forms, and among those which seem to represent the better and nobler qualities of humanity, the principle of division of labor is carried to the greatest degree; that thus the male and the female mutually aid and comfort one another; that each may perform more or less completely the offices usually in charge of the other; but that the male does the courting, the fighting, and the larger part of the talking; that he is generally the larger and stronger, often the handsomer, and is provided with weapons and endowed with greater vocal powers; that the female, on the contrary, is less striking in appearance, more retiring in disposition, softer and gentler in conversation, careful of her offspring, and ready to defend them too, with what strength she may possess that, in short, the male is best fitted to shine in public, the female in private; the male abroad, the female at home; and that each feels the other to be so fully essential that neither envy nor contempt can exist between them. And that, finally, if any distinction can be drawn between them, it is that, while both work together and equally well, the powers of the male seem to flow from the heart through the head, and those of the female as instinctive perceptions of necessities from the head through the heart, so as to fit her better for works of intimate care and affection.

And Nature, the unperverted mouth-piece of God, does not say to us that the head is better than the heart, or the heart better than the head, but that each is the equal of the other, and each noble and good and beautiful in its own way.

  1. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe.