Anarchism and Other Essays
Part 3 out of 4
Its originator, though on a small scale, was that sweet spirit,
Louise Michel. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our own great
Louise felt long ago that the future belongs to the young generation;
that unless the young be rescued from that mind and soul destroying
institution, the bourgeois school, social evils will continue to
exist. Perhaps she thought, with Ibsen, that the atmosphere is
saturated with ghosts, that the adult man and woman have so many
superstitions to overcome. No sooner do they outgrow the deathlike
grip of one spook, lo! they find themselves in the thralldom of
ninety-nine other spooks. Thus but a few reach the mountain peak of
The child, however, has no traditions to overcome. Its mind is not
burdened with set ideas, its heart has not grown cold with class and
caste distinctions. The child is to the teacher what clay is to the
sculptor. Whether the world will receive a work of art or a wretched
imitation, depends to a large extent on the creative power of the
Louise Michel was pre-eminently qualified to meet the child's soul
cravings. Was she not herself of a childlike nature, so sweet and
tender, unsophisticated and generous. The soul of Louise burned
always at white heat over every social injustice. She was invariably
in the front ranks whenever the people of Paris rebelled against some
wrong. And as she was made to suffer imprisonment for her great
devotion to the oppressed, the little school on Montmartre was soon
no more. But the seed was planted, and has since borne fruit in many
cities of France.
The most important venture of a Modern School was that of the great,
young old man, Paul Robin. Together with a few friends he
established a large school at Cempuis, a beautiful place near Paris.
Paul Robin aimed at a higher ideal than merely modern ideas in
education. He wanted to demonstrate by actual facts that the
bourgeois conception of heredity is but a mere pretext to exempt
society from its terrible crimes against the young. The contention
that the child must suffer for the sins of the fathers, that it must
continue in poverty and filth, that it must grow up a drunkard or
criminal, just because its parents left it no other legacy, was too
preposterous to the beautiful spirit of Paul Robin. He believed that
whatever part heredity may play, there are other factors equally
great, if not greater, that may and will eradicate or minimize the
so-called first cause. Proper economic and social environment, the
breath and freedom of nature, healthy exercise, love and sympathy,
and, above all, a deep understanding for the needs of the
child--these would destroy the cruel, unjust, and criminal stigma
imposed on the innocent young.
Paul Robin did not select his children; he did not go to the
so-called best parents: he took his material wherever he could find
it. From the street, the hovels, the orphan and foundling asylums,
the reformatories, from all those gray and hideous places where a
benevolent society hides its victims in order to pacify its guilty
conscience. He gathered all the dirty, filthy, shivering little
waifs his place would hold, and brought them to Cempuis. There,
surrounded by nature's own glory, free and unrestrained, well fed,
clean kept, deeply loved and understood, the little human plants
began to grow, to blossom, to develop beyond even the expectations of
their friend and teacher, Paul Robin.
The children grew and developed into self-reliant, liberty loving men
and women. What greater danger to the institutions that make the
poor in order to perpetuate the poor. Cempuis was closed by the
French government on the charge of co-education, which is prohibited
in France. However, Cempuis had been in operation long enough to
prove to all advanced educators its tremendous possibilities, and to
serve as an impetus for modern methods of education, that are slowly
but inevitably undermining the present system.
Cempuis was followed by a great number of other educational
attempts,--among them, by Madelaine Vernet, a gifted writer and poet,
author of L'AMOUR LIBRE, and Sebastian Faure, with his LA RUCHE,*
which I visited while in Paris, in 1907.
* THE BEEHIVE.
Several years ago Comrade Faure bought the land on which he built his
LA RUCHE. In a comparatively short time he succeeded in transforming
the former wild, uncultivated country into a blooming spot, having
all the appearance of a well kept farm. A large, square court,
enclosed by three buildings, and a broad path leading to the garden
and orchards, greet the eye of the visitor. The garden, kept as only
a Frenchman knows how, furnishes a large variety of vegetables for LA
Sebastian Faure is of the opinion that if the child is subjected to
contradictory influences, its development suffers in consequence.
Only when the material needs, the hygiene of the home, and
intellectual environment are harmonious, can the child grow into a
healthy, free being.
Referring to his school, Sebastian Faure has this to say:
"I have taken twenty-four children of both sexes, mostly orphans, or
those whose parents are too poor to pay. They are clothed, housed,
and educated at my expense. Till their twelfth year they will
receive a sound, elementary education. Between the age of twelve and
fifteen--their studies still continuing--they are to be taught some
trade, in keeping with their individual disposition and abilities.
After that they are at liberty to leave LA RUCHE to begin life in the
outside world, with the assurance that they may at any time return to
LA RUCHE, where they will be received with open arms and welcomed as
parents do their beloved children. Then, if they wish to work at our
place, they may do so under the following conditions: One third of
the product to cover his or her expenses of maintenance, another
third to go towards the general fund set aside for accommodating new
children, and the last third to be devoted to the personal use of the
child, as he or she may see fit.
"The health of the children who are now in my care is perfect. Pure
air, nutritious food, physical exercise in the open, long walks,
observation of hygienic rules, the short and interesting method of
instruction, and, above all, our affectionate understanding and care
of the children, have produced admirable physical and mental results.
"It would be unjust to claim that our pupils have accomplished
wonders; yet, considering that they belong to the average, having had
no previous opportunities, the results are very gratifying indeed.
The most important thing they have acquired--a rare trait with
ordinary school children--is the love of study, the desire to know,
to be informed. They have learned a new method of work, one that
quickens the memory and stimulates the imagination. We make a
particular effort to awaken the child's interest in his surroundings,
to make him realize the importance of observation, investigation, and
reflection, so that when the children reach maturity, they would not
be deaf and blind to the things about them. Our children never
accept anything in blind faith, without inquiry as to why and
wherefore; nor do they feel satisfied until their questions are
thoroughly answered. Thus their minds are free from doubts and fear
resultant from incomplete or untruthful replies; it is the latter
which warp the growth of the child, and create a lack of confidence
in himself and those about him.
"It is surprising how frank and kind and affectionate our little ones
are to each other. The harmony between themselves and the adults at
LA RUCHE is highly encouraging. We should feel at fault if the
children were to fear or honor us merely because we are their elders.
We leave nothing undone to gain their confidence and love; that
accomplished, understanding will replace duty; confidence, fear; and
"No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness, and
generosity hidden in the soul of the child. The effort of every true
educator should be to unlock that treasure--to stimulate the child's
impulses, and call forth the best and noblest tendencies. What
greater reward can there be for one whose life-work is to watch over
the growth of the human plant, than to see its nature unfold its
petals, and to observe it develop into a true individuality. My
comrades at LA RUCHE look for no greater reward, and it is due to
them and their efforts, even more than to my own, that our human
garden promises to bear beautiful fruit."*
* MOTHER EARTH, 1907.
Regarding the subject of history and the prevailing old methods of
instruction, Sebastian Faure said:
"We explain to our children that true history is yet to be
written,--the story of those who have died, unknown, in the effort to
aid humanity to greater achievement."*
Francisco Ferrer could not escape this great wave of Modern School
attempts. He saw its possibilities, not merely in theoretic form,
but in their practical application to every-day needs. He must have
realized that Spain, more than any other country, stands in need of
just such schools, if it is ever to throw off the double yoke of
priest and soldier.
When we consider that the entire system of education in Spain is in
the hands of the Catholic Church, and when we further remember the
Catholic formula, "To inculcate Catholicism in the mind of the child
until it is nine years of age is to ruin it forever for any other
idea," we will understand the tremendous task of Ferrer in bringing
the new light to his people. Fate soon assisted him in realizing his
Mlle. Meunier, a pupil of Francisco Ferrer, and a lady of wealth,
became interested in the Modern School project. When she died, she
left Ferrer some valuable property and twelve thousand francs yearly
income for the School.
It is said that mean souls can conceive of naught but mean ideas.
If so, the contemptible methods of the Catholic Church to blackguard
Ferrer's character, in order to justify her own black crime, can
readily be explained. Thus the lie was spread in American Catholic
papers, that Ferrer used his intimacy with Mlle. Meunier to get
possession of her money.
Personally, I hold that the intimacy, of whatever nature, between a
man and a woman, is their own affair, their sacred own. I would
therefore not lose a word in referring to the matter, if it were not
one of the many dastardly lies circulated about Ferrer. Of course,
those who know the purity of the Catholic clergy will understand the
insinuation. Have the Catholic priests ever looked upon woman as
anything but a sex commodity? The historical data regarding the
discoveries in the cloisters and monasteries will bear me out in
that. How, then, are they to understand the co-operation of a man
and a woman, except on a sex basis?
As a matter of fact, Mlle. Meunier was considerably Ferrer's senior.
Having spent her childhood and girlhood with a miserly father and a
submissive mother, she could easily appreciate the necessity of love
and joy in child life. She must have seen that Francisco Ferrer was
a teacher, not college, machine, or diploma-made, but one endowed
with genius for that calling.
Equipped with knowledge, with experience, and with the necessary
means; above all, imbued with the divine fire of his mission, our
Comrade came back to Spain, and there began his life's work. On the
ninth of September, 1901, the first Modern School was opened. It was
enthusiastically received by the people of Barcelona, who pledged
their support. In a short address at the opening of the School,
Ferrer submitted his program to his friends. He said: "I am not a
speaker, not a propagandist, not a fighter. I am a teacher; I love
children above everything. I think I understand them. I want my
contribution to the cause of liberty to be a young generation ready
to meet a new era."
He was cautioned by his friends to be careful in his opposition to
the Catholic Church. They knew to what lengths she would go to
dispose of an enemy. Ferrer, too, knew. But, like Brand, he
believed in all or nothing. He would not erect the Modern School on
the same old lie. He would be frank and honest and open with the
Francisco Ferrer became a marked man. From the very first day of the
opening of the School, he was shadowed. The school building was
watched, his little home in Mangat was watched. He was followed
every step, even when he went to France or England to confer with his
colleagues. He was a marked man, and it was only a question of time
when the lurking enemy would tighten the noose.
It succeeded, almost, in 1906, when Ferrer was implicated in the
attempt on the life of Alfonso. The evidence exonerating him was too
strong even for the black crows;* they had to let him go--not for
good, however. They waited. Oh, they can wait, when they have set
themselves to trap a victim.
* Black crows: The Catholic clergy.
The moment came at last, during the anti-military uprising in Spain,
in July, 1909. One will have to search in vain the annals of
revolutionary history to find a more remarkable protest against
militarism. Having been soldier-ridden for centuries, the people of
Spain could stand the yoke no longer. They would refuse to
participate in useless slaughter. They saw no reason for aiding a
despotic government in subduing and oppressing a small people
fighting for their independence, as did the brave Riffs. No, they
would not bear arms against them.
For eighteen hundred years the Catholic Church has preached the
gospel of peace. Yet, when the people actually wanted to make this
gospel a living reality, she urged the authorities to force them to
bear arms. Thus the dynasty of Spain followed the murderous methods
of the Russian dynasty,--the people were forced to the battlefield.
Then, and not until then, was their power of endurance at an end.
Then, and not until then, did the workers of Spain turn against their
masters, against those who, like leeches, had drained their strength,
their very life-blood. Yes, they attacked the churches and the
priests, but if the latter had a thousand lives, they could not
possibly pay for the terrible outrages and crimes perpetrated upon
the Spanish people.
Francisco Ferrer was arrested on the first of September, 1909.
Until October first, his friends and comrades did not even know what
had become of him. On that day a letter was received by L'HUMANITE,
from which can be learned the whole mockery of the trial. And the
next day his companion, Soledad Villafranca, received the following
"No reason to worry; you know I am absolutely innocent. Today I am
particularly hopeful and joyous. It is the first time I can write to
you, and the first time since my arrest that I can bathe in the rays
of the sun, streaming generously through my cell window. You, too,
must be joyous."
How pathetic that Ferrer should have believed, as late as October
fourth, that he would not be condemned to death. Even more pathetic
that his friends and comrades should once more have made the blunder
in crediting the enemy with a sense of justice. Time and again they
had placed faith in the judicial powers, only to see their brothers
killed before their very eyes. They made no preparation to rescue
Ferrer, not even a protest of any extent; nothing. "Why, it is
impossible to condemn Ferrer; he is innocent." But everything is
possible with the Catholic Church. Is she not a practiced henchman,
whose trials of her enemies are the worst mockery of justice?
On October fourth Ferrer sent the following letter to L'HUMANITE:
The Prison Cell, Oct. 4, 1909.
My dear Friends--Notwithstanding most absolute innocence, the
prosecutor demands the death penalty, based on denunciations of
the police, representing me as the chief of the world's
Anarchists, directing the labor syndicates of France, and guilty
of conspiracies and insurrections everywhere, and declaring that
my voyages to London and Paris were undertaken with no other
With such infamous lies they are trying to kill me.
The messenger is about to depart and I have not time for more.
All the evidence presented to the investigating judge by the
police is nothing but a tissue of lies and calumnious
insinuations. But no proofs against me, having done nothing at
October thirteenth, 1909, Ferrer's heart, so brave, so staunch, so
loyal, was stilled. Poor fools! The last agonized throb of that
heart had barely died away when it began to beat a hundredfold in the
hearts of the civilized world, until it grew into terrific thunder,
hurling forth its malediction upon the instigators of the black
crime. Murderers of black garb and pious mien, to the bar of
Did Francisco Ferrer participate in the anti-military uprising?
According to the first indictment, which appeared in a Catholic paper
in Madrid, signed by the Bishop and all the prelates of Barcelona, he
was not even accused of participation. The indictment was to the
effect that Francisco Ferrer was guilty of having organized godless
schools, and having circulated godless literature. But in the
twentieth century men can not be burned merely for their godless
beliefs. Something else had to be devised; hence the charge of
instigating the uprising.
In no authentic source so far investigated could a single proof be
found to connect Ferrer with the uprising. But then, no proofs were
wanted, or accepted, by the authorities. There were seventy-two
witnesses, to be sure, but their testimony was taken on paper. They
never were confronted with Ferrer, or he with them.
Is it psychologically possible that Ferrer should have participated?
I do not believe it is, and here are my reasons. Francisco Ferrer
was not only a great teacher, but he was also undoubtedly a marvelous
organizer. In eight years, between 1901-1909, he had organized in
Spain one hundred and nine schools, besides inducing the liberal
element of his country to organize three hundred and eight other
schools. In connection with his own school work, Ferrer had equipped
a modern printing plant, organized a staff of translators, and spread
broadcast one hundred and fifty thousand copies of modern scientific
and sociologic works, not to forget the large quantity of rationalist
text books. Surely none but the most methodical and efficient
organizer could have accomplished such a feat.
On the other hand, it was absolutely proven that the anti-military
uprising was not at all organized; that it came as a surprise to the
people themselves, like a great many revolutionary waves on previous
occasions. The people of Barcelona, for instance, had the city in
their control for four days, and, according to the statement of
tourists, greater order and peace never prevailed. Of course, the
people were so little prepared that when the time came, they did not
know what to do. In this regard they were like the people of Paris
during the Commune of 1871. They, too, were unprepared. While they
were starving, they protected the warehouses, filled to the brim with
provisions. They placed sentinels to guard the Bank of France, where
the bourgeoisie kept the stolen money. The workers of Barcelona,
too, watched over the spoils of their masters.
How pathetic is the stupidity of the underdog; how terribly tragic!
But, then, have not his fetters been forged so deeply into his flesh,
that he would not, even if he could, break them? The awe of
authority, of law, of private property, hundredfold burned into his
soul,--how is he to throw it off unprepared, unexpectedly?
Can anyone assume for a moment that a man like Ferrer would affiliate
himself with such a spontaneous, unorganized effort? Would he not
have known that it would result in a defeat, a disastrous defeat for
the people? And is it not more likely that if he would have taken
part, he, the experienced ENTREPRENEUR, would have thoroughly
organized the attempt? If all other proofs were lacking, that one
factor would be sufficient to exonerate Francisco Ferrer. But there
are others equally convincing.
For the very date of the outbreak, July twenty-fifth, Ferrer had
called a conference of his teachers and members of the League of
Rational Education. It was to consider the autumn work, and
particularly the publication of Elisee Reclus' great book, L'HOMME ET
LA TERRE, and Peter Kropotkin's GREAT FRENCH REVOLUTION. Is it at
all likely, is it at all plausible that Ferrer, knowing of the
uprising, being a party to it, would in cold blood invite his friends
and colleagues to Barcelona for the day on which he realized their
lives would be endangered? Surely, only the criminal, vicious mind
of a Jesuit could credit such deliberate murder.
Francisco Ferrer had his life-work mapped out; he had everything to
lose and nothing to gain, except ruin and disaster, were he to lend
assistance to the outbreak. Not that he doubted the justice of the
people's wrath; but his work, his hope, his very nature was directed
toward another goal.
In vain are the frantic efforts of the Catholic Church, her lies,
falsehoods, calumnies. She stands condemned by the awakened human
conscience of having once more repeated the foul crimes of the past.
Francisco Ferrer is accused of teaching the children the most
blood-curdling ideas,--to hate God, for instance. Horrors!
Francisco Ferrer did not believe in the existence of a God. Why
teach the child to hate something which does not exist? Is it not
more likely that he took the children out into the open, that he
showed them the splendor of the sunset, the brilliancy of the starry
heavens, the awe-inspiring wonder of the mountains and seas; that he
explained to them in his simple, direct way the law of growth, of
development, of the interrelation of all life? In so doing he made
it forever impossible for the poisonous weeds of the Catholic Church
to take root in the child's mind.
It has been stated that Ferrer prepared the children to destroy the
rich. Ghost stories of old maids. Is it not more likely that he
prepared them to succor the poor? That he taught them the
humiliation, the degradation, the awfulness of poverty, which is a
vice and not a virtue; that he taught the dignity and importance of
all creative efforts, which alone sustain life and build character.
Is it not the best and most effective way of bringing into the proper
light the absolute uselessness and injury of parasitism?
Last, but not least, Ferrer is charged with undermining the army by
inculcating anti-military ideas. Indeed? He must have believed with
Tolstoy that war is legalized slaughter, that it perpetuates hatred
and arrogance, that it eats away the heart of nations, and turns them
into raving maniacs.
However, we have Ferrer's own word regarding his ideas of modern
"I would like to call the attention of my readers to this idea: All
the value of education rests in the respect for the physical,
intellectual, and moral will of the child. Just as in science no
demonstration is possible save by facts, just so there is no real
education save that which is exempt from all dogmatism, which leaves
to the child itself the direction of its effort, and confines itself
to the seconding of its effort. Now, there is nothing easier than to
alter this purpose, and nothing harder than to respect it.
Education is always imposing, violating, constraining; the real
educator is he who can best protect the child against his (the
teacher's) own ideas, his peculiar whims; he who can best appeal to
the child's own energies.
"We are convinced that the education of the future will be of an
entirely spontaneous nature; certainly we can not as yet realize it,
but the evolution of methods in the direction of a wider
comprehension of the phenomena of life, and the fact that all
advances toward perfection mean the overcoming of restraint,--all
this indicates that we are in the right when we hope for the
deliverance of the child through science.
"Let us not fear to say that we want men capable of evolving without
stopping, capable of destroying and renewing their environments
without cessation, of renewing themselves also; men, whose
intellectual independence will be their greatest force, who will
attach themselves to nothing, always ready to accept what is best,
happy in the triumph of new ideas, aspiring to live multiple lives in
one life. Society fears such men; we therefore must not hope that it
will ever want an education able to give them to us.
"We shall follow the labors of the scientists who study the child
with the greatest attention, and we shall eagerly seek for means of
applying their experience to the education which we want to build up,
in the direction of an ever fuller liberation of the individual.
But how can we attain our end? Shall it not be by putting ourselves
directly to the work favoring the foundation of new schools, which
shall be ruled as much as possible by this spirit of liberty, which
we forefeel will dominate the entire work of education in the future?
"A trial has been made, which, for the present, has already given
excellent results. We can destroy all which in the present school
answers to the organization of constraint, the artificial
surroundings by which children are separated from nature and life,
the intellectual and moral discipline made use of to impose
ready-made ideas upon them, beliefs which deprave and annihilate
natural bent. Without fear of deceiving ourselves, we can restore
the child to the environment which entices it, the environment of
nature in which he will be in contact with all that he loves, and in
which impressions of life will replace fastidious book-learning. If
we did no more than that, we should already have prepared in great
part the deliverance of the child.
"In such conditions we might already freely apply the data of science
and labor most fruitfully.
"I know very well we could not thus realize all our hopes, that we
should often be forced, for lack of knowledge, to employ undesirable
methods; but a certitude would sustain us in our efforts--namely,
that even without reaching our aim completely we should do more and
better in our still imperfect work than the present school
accomplishes. I like the free spontaneity of a child who knows
nothing, better than the world-knowledge and intellectual deformity
of a child who has been subjected to our present education."*
* MOTHER EARTH, December, 1909.
Had Ferrer actually organized the riots, had he fought on the
barricades, had he hurled a hundred bombs, he could not have been so
dangerous to the Catholic Church and to despotism, as with his
opposition to discipline and restraint. Discipline and
restraint--are they not back of all the evils in the world?
Slavery, submission, poverty, all misery, all social iniquities
result from discipline and restraint. Indeed, Ferrer was dangerous.
Therefore he had to die, October thirteenth, 1909, in the ditch of
Montjuich. Yet who dare say his death was in vain? In view of the
tempestuous rise of universal indignation: Italy naming streets in
memory of Francisco Ferrer, Belgium inaugurating a movement to erect
a memorial; France calling to the front her most illustrious men to
resume the heritage of the martyr; England being the first to issue a
biography:--all countries uniting in perpetuating the great work of
Francisco Ferrer; America, even, tardy always in progressive ideas,
giving birth to a Francisco Ferrer Association, its aim being to
publish a complete life of Ferrer and to organize Modern Schools all
over the country; in the face of this international revolutionary
wave, who is there to say Ferrer died in vain?
That death at Montjuich,--how wonderful, how dramatic it was, how it
stirs the human soul. Proud and erect, the inner eye turned toward
the light, Francisco Ferrer needed no lying priests to give him
courage, nor did he upbraid a phantom for forsaking him. The
consciousness that his executioners represented a dying age, and that
his was the living truth, sustained him in the last heroic moments.
A dying age and a living truth,
The living burying the dead.
THE HYPOCRISY OF PURITANISM
Speaking of Puritanism in relation to American art, Mr. Gutzen
Burglum said: "Puritanism has made us self-centered and hypocritical
for so long, that sincerity and reverence for what is natural in our
impulses have been fairly bred out of us, with the result that there
can be neither truth nor individuality in our art."
Mr. Burglum might have added that Puritanism has made life itself
impossible. More than art, more than estheticism, life represents
beauty in a thousand variations; it is, indeed, a gigantic panorama
of eternal change. Puritanism, on the other hand, rests on a fixed
and immovable conception of life; it is based on the Calvinistic idea
that life is a curse, imposed upon man by the wrath of God. In order
to redeem himself man must do constant penance, must repudiate every
natural and healthy impulse, and turn his back on joy and beauty.
Puritanism celebrated its reign of terror in England during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, destroying and crushing every
manifestation of art and culture. It was the spirit of Puritanism
which robbed Shelley of his children, because he would not bow to the
dicta of religion. It was the same narrow spirit which alienated
Byron from his native land, because that great genius rebelled
against the monotony, dullness, and pettiness of his country. It was
Puritanism, too, that forced some of England's freest women into the
conventional lie of marriage: Mary Wollstonecraft and, later, George
Eliot. And recently Puritanism has demanded another toll--the life
of Oscar Wilde. In fact, Puritanism has never ceased to be the most
pernicious factor in the domain of John Bull, acting as censor of the
artistic expression of his people, and stamping its approval only on
the dullness of middle-class respectability.
It is therefore sheer British jingoism which points to America as the
country of Puritanic provincialism. It is quite true that our life
is stunted by Puritanism, and that the latter is killing what is
natural and healthy in our impulses. But it is equally true that it
is to England that we are indebted for transplanting this spirit on
American soil. It was bequeathed to us by the Pilgrim fathers.
Fleeing from persecution and oppression, the Pilgrims of Mayflower
fame established in the New World a reign of Puritanic tyranny and
crime. The history of New England, and especially of Massachusetts,
is full of the horrors that have turned life into gloom, joy into
despair, naturalness into disease, honesty and truth into hideous
lies and hypocrisies. The ducking-stool and whipping post, as well
as numerous other devices of torture, were the favorite English
methods for American purification.
Boston, the city of culture, has gone down in the annals of
Puritanism as the "Bloody Town." It rivaled Salem, even, in her
cruel persecution of unauthorized religious opinions. On the now
famous Common a half-naked woman, with a baby in her arms, was
publicly whipped for the crime of free speech; and on the same spot
Mary Dyer, another Quaker woman, was hanged in 1659. In fact, Boston
has been the scene of more than one wanton crime committed by
Puritanism. Salem, in the summer of 1692, killed eighteen people for
witchcraft. Nor was Massachusetts alone in driving out the devil by
fire and brimstone. As Canning justly said: "The Pilgrim fathers
infested the New World to redress the balance of the Old." The
horrors of that period have found their most supreme expression in
the American classic, THE SCARLET LETTER.
Puritanism no longer employs the thumbscrew and lash; but it still
has a most pernicious hold on the minds and feelings of the American
people. Naught else can explain the power of a Comstock. Like the
Torquemadas of ante-bellum days, Anthony Comstock is the autocrat of
American morals; he dictates the standards of good and evil, of
purity and vice. Like a thief in the night he sneaks into the
private lives of the people, into their most intimate relations.
The system of espionage established by this man Comstock puts to
shame the infamous Third Division of the Russian secret police. Why
does the public tolerate such an outrage on its liberties? Simply
because Comstock is but the loud expression of the Puritanism bred in
the Anglo-Saxon blood, and from whose thraldom even liberals have not
succeeded in fully emancipating themselves. The visionless and
leaden elements of the old Young Men's and Women's Christian
Temperance Unions, Purity Leagues, American Sabbath Unions, and the
Prohibition Party, with Anthony Comstock as their patron saint, are
the grave diggers of American art and culture.
Europe can at least boast of a bold art and literature which delve
deeply into the social and sexual problems of our time, exercising a
severe critique of all our shams. As with a surgeon's knife every
Puritanic carcass is dissected, and the way thus cleared for man's
liberation from the dead weights of the past. But with Puritanism as
the constant check upon American life, neither truth nor sincerity is
possible. Nothing but gloom and mediocrity to dictate human conduct,
curtail natural expression, and stifle our best impulses.
Puritanism in this the twentieth century is as much the enemy of
freedom and beauty as it was when it landed on Plymouth Rock. It
repudiates, as something vile and sinful, our deepest feelings; but
being absolutely ignorant as to the real functions of human emotions,
Puritanism is itself the creator of the most unspeakable vices.
The entire history of asceticism proves this to be only too true.
The Church, as well as Puritanism, has fought the flesh as something
evil; it had to be subdued and hidden at all cost. The result of
this vicious attitude is only now beginning to be recognized by
modern thinkers and educators. They realize that "nakedness has a
hygienic value as well as a spiritual significance, far beyond its
influences in allaying the natural inquisitiveness of the young or
acting as a preventative of morbid emotion. It is an inspiration to
adults who have long outgrown any youthful curiosities. The vision
of the essential and eternal human form, the nearest thing to us in
all the world, with its vigor and its beauty and its grace, is one of
the prime tonics of life."* But the spirit of purism has so perverted
the human mind that it has lost the power to appreciate the beauty of
nudity, forcing us to hide the natural form under the plea of
chastity. Yet chastity itself is but an artificial imposition upon
nature, expressive of a false shame of the human form. The modern
idea of chastity, especially in reference to woman, its greatest
victim, is but the sensuous exaggeration of our natural impulses.
"Chastity varies with the amount of clothing," and hence Christians
and purists forever hasten to cover the "heathen" with tatters, and
thus convert him to goodness and chastity.
* THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SEX. Havelock Ellis.
Puritanism, with its perversion of the significance and functions of
the human body, especially in regard to woman, has condemned her to
celibacy, or to the indiscriminate breeding of a diseased race, or to
prostitution. The enormity of this crime against humanity is
apparent when we consider the results. Absolute sexual continence is
imposed upon the unmarried woman, under pain of being considered
immoral or fallen, with the result of producing neurasthenia,
impotence, depression, and a great variety of nervous complaints
involving diminished power of work, limited enjoyment of life,
sleeplessness, and preoccupation with sexual desires and imaginings.
The arbitrary and pernicious dictum of total continence probably also
explains the mental inequality of the sexes. Thus Freud believes
that the intellectual inferiority of so many women is due to the
inhibition of thought imposed upon them for the purpose of sexual
repression. Having thus suppressed the natural sex desires of the
unmarried woman, Puritanism, on the other hand, blesses her married
sister for incontinent fruitfulness in wedlock. Indeed, not merely
blesses her, but forces the woman, oversexed by previous repression,
to bear children, irrespective of weakened physical condition or
economic inability to rear a large family. Prevention, even by
scientifically determined safe methods, is absolutely prohibited;
nay, the very mention of the subject is considered criminal.
Thanks to this Puritanic tyranny, the majority of women soon find
themselves at the ebb of their physical resources. Ill and worn,
they are utterly unable to give their children even elementary care.
That, added to economic pressure, forces many women to risk utmost
danger rather than continue to bring forth life. The custom of
procuring abortions has reached such vast proportions in America as
to be almost beyond belief. According to recent investigations along
this line, seventeen abortions are committed in every hundred
pregnancies. This fearful percentage represents only cases which
come to the knowledge of physicians. Considering the secrecy in
which this practice is necessarily shrouded, and the consequent
professional inefficiency and neglect, Puritanism continuously exacts
thousands of victims to its own stupidity and hypocrisy.
Prostitution, although hounded, imprisoned, and chained, is
nevertheless the greatest triumph of Puritanism. It is its most
cherished child, all hypocritical sanctimoniousness notwithstanding.
The prostitute is the fury of our century, sweeping across the
"civilized" countries like a hurricane, and leaving a trail of
disease and disaster. The only remedy Puritanism offers for this
ill-begotten child is greater repression and more merciless
persecution. The latest outrage is represented by the Page Law,
which imposes upon New York the terrible failure and crime of Europe;
namely, registration and segregation of the unfortunate victims of
Puritanism. In equally stupid manner purism seeks to check the
terrible scourge of its own creation--venereal diseases. Most
disheartening it is that this spirit of obtuse narrow-mindedness has
poisoned even our so-called liberals, and has blinded them into
joining the crusade against the very things born of the hypocrisy of
Puritanism--prostitution and its results. In wilful blindness
Puritanism refuses to see that the true method of prevention is the
one which makes it clear to all that "venereal diseases are not a
mysterious or terrible thing, the penalty of the sin of the flesh, a
sort of shameful evil branded by purist malediction, but an ordinary
disease which may be treated and cured." By its methods of
obscurity, disguise, and concealment, Puritanism has furnished
favorable conditions for the growth and spread of these diseases.
Its bigotry is again most strikingly demonstrated by the senseless
attitude in regard to the great discovery of Prof. Ehrlich, hypocrisy
veiling the important cure for syphilis with vague allusions to a
remedy for "a certain poison."
The almost limitless capacity of Puritanism for evil is due to its
intrenchment behind the State and the law. Pretending to safeguard
the people against "immorality," it has impregnated the machinery of
government and added to its usurpation of moral guardianship the
legal censorship of our views, feelings, and even of our conduct.
Art, literature, the drama, the privacy of the mails, in fact, our
most intimate tastes, are at the mercy of this inexorable tyrant.
Anthony Comstock, or some other equally ignorant policeman, has been
given power to desecrate genius, to soil and mutilate the sublimest
creation of nature--the human form. Books dealing with the most
vital issues of our lives, and seeking to shed light upon dangerously
obscured problems, are legally treated as criminal offenses, and their
helpless authors thrown into prison or driven to destruction and
Not even in the domain of the Tsar is personal liberty daily outraged
to the extent it is in America, the stronghold of the Puritanic
eunuchs. Here the only day of recreation left to the masses, Sunday,
has been made hideous and utterly impossible. All writers on
primitive customs and ancient civilization agree that the Sabbath was
a day of festivities, free from care and duties, a day of general
rejoicing and merry-making. In every European country this tradition
continues to bring some relief from the humdrum and stupidity of our
Christian era. Everywhere concert halls, theaters, museums, and
gardens are filled with men, women, and children, particularly
workers with their families, full of life and joy, forgetful of the
ordinary rules and conventions of their every-day existence. It is
on that day that the masses demonstrate what life might really mean
in a sane society, with work stripped of its profit-making,
Puritanism has robbed the people even of that one day. Naturally,
only the workers are affected: our millionaires have their luxurious
homes and elaborate clubs. The poor, however, are condemned to the
monotony and dullness of the American Sunday. The sociability and
fun of European outdoor life is here exchanged for the gloom of the
church, the stuffy, germ-saturated country parlor, or the brutalizing
atmosphere of the back-room saloon. In Prohibition States the people
lack even the latter, unless they can invest their meager earnings in
quantities of adulterated liquor. As to Prohibition, every one knows
what a farce it really is. Like all other achievements of Puritanism
it, too, has but driven the "devil" deeper into the human system.
Nowhere else does one meet so many drunkards as in our Prohibition
towns. But so long as one can use scented candy to abate the foul
breath of hypocrisy, Puritanism is triumphant. Ostensibly
Prohibition is opposed to liquor for reasons of health and economy,
but the very spirit of Prohibition being itself abnormal, it succeeds
but in creating an abnormal life.
Every stimulus which quickens the imagination and raises the spirits,
is as necessary to our life as air. It invigorates the body, and
deepens our vision of human fellowship. Without stimuli, in one form
or another, creative work is impossible, nor indeed the spirit of
kindliness and generosity. The fact that some great geniuses have
seen their reflection in the goblet too frequently, does not justify
Puritanism in attempting to fetter the whole gamut of human emotions.
A Byron and a Poe have stirred humanity deeper than all the Puritans
can ever hope to do. The former have given to life meaning and
color; the latter are turning red blood into water, beauty into
ugliness, variety into uniformity and decay. Puritanism, in whatever
expression, is a poisonous germ. On the surface everything may look
strong and vigorous; yet the poison works its way persistently, until
the entire fabric is doomed. With Hippolyte Taine, every truly free
spirit has come to realize that "Puritanism is the death of culture,
philosophy, humor, and good fellowship; its characteristics are
dullness, monotony, and gloom."
THE TRAFFIC IN WOMEN
Our reformers have suddenly made a great discovery--the white slave
traffic. The papers are full of these "unheard of conditions," and
lawmakers are already planning a new set of laws to check the horror.
It is significant that whenever the public mind is to be diverted
from a great social wrong, a crusade is inaugurated against
indecency, gambling, saloons, etc. And what is the result of such
crusades? Gambling is increasing, saloons are doing a lively
business through back entrances, prostitution is at its height, and
the system of pimps and cadets is but aggravated.
How is it that an institution, known almost to every child, should
have been discovered so suddenly? How is it that this evil, known to
all sociologists, should now be made such an important issue?
To assume that the recent investigation of the white slave traffic
(and, by the way, a very superficial investigation) has discovered
anything new, is, to say the least, very foolish. Prostitution has
been, and is, a widespread evil, yet mankind goes on its business,
perfectly indifferent to the sufferings and distress of the victims
of prostitution. As indifferent, indeed, as mankind has remained to
our industrial system, or to economic prostitution.
Only when human sorrows are turned into a toy with glaring colors
will baby people become interested--for a while at least. The people
are a very fickle baby that must have new toys every day. The
"righteous" cry against the white slave traffic is such a toy. It
serves to amuse the people for a little while, and it will help to
create a few more fat political jobs--parasites who stalk about the
world as inspectors, investigators, detectives, and so forth.
What is really the cause of the trade in women? Not merely white
women, but yellow and black women as well. Exploitation, of course;
the merciless Moloch of capitalism that fattens on underpaid labor,
thus driving thousands of women and girls into prostitution. With
Mrs. Warren these girls feel, "Why waste your life working for a few
shillings a week in a scullery, eighteen hours a day?"
Naturally our reformers say nothing about this cause. They know it
well enough, but it doesn't pay to say anything about it. It is much
more profitable to play the Pharisee, to pretend an outraged
morality, than to go to the bottom of things.
However, there is one commendable exception among the young writers:
Reginald Wright Kauffman, whose work, THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE, is the
first earnest attempt to treat the social evil, not from a
sentimental Philistine viewpoint. A journalist of wide experience,
Mr. Kauffman proves that our industrial system leaves most women no
alternative except prostitution. The women portrayed in THE HOUSE OF
BONDAGE belong to the working class. Had the author portrayed the
life of women in other spheres, he would have been confronted with
the same state of affairs.
Nowhere is woman treated according to the merit of her work, but
rather as a sex. It is therefore almost inevitable that she should
pay for her right to exist, to keep a position in whatever line, with
sex favors. Thus it is merely a question of degree whether she sells
herself to one man, in or out of marriage, or to many men. Whether
our reformers admit it or not, the economic and social inferiority of
woman is responsible for prostitution.
Just at present our good people are shocked by the disclosures that
in New York City alone, one out of every ten women works in a
factory, that the average wage received by women is six dollars per
week for forty-eight to sixty hours of work, and that the majority of
female wage workers face many months of idleness which leaves the
average wage about $280 a year. In view of these economic horrors,
is it to be wondered at that prostitution and the white slave trade
have become such dominant factors?
Lest the preceding figures be considered an exaggeration, it is well
to examine what some authorities on prostitution have to say:
"A prolific cause of female depravity can be found in the several
tables, showing the description of the employment pursued, and the
wages received, by the women previous to their fall, and it will be a
question for the political economist to decide how far mere business
consideration should be an apology on the part of employers for a
reduction in their rates of remuneration, and whether the savings of
a small percentage on wages is not more than counter-balanced by the
enormous amount of taxation enforced on the public at large to defray
the expenses incurred on account of a system of vice, WHICH IS THE
DIRECT RESULT, IN MANY CASES, OF INSUFFICIENT COMPENSATION OF HONEST
* Dr. Sanger, THE HISTORY OF PROSTITUTION.
Our present-day reformers would do well to look into Dr. Sanger's
book. There they will find that out of 2,000 cases under his
observation, but few came from the middle classes, from well-ordered
conditions, or pleasant homes. By far the largest majority were
working girls and working women; some driven into prostitution
through sheer want, others because of a cruel, wretched life at home,
others again because of thwarted and crippled physical natures (of
which I shall speak later on). Also it will do the maintainers of
purity and morality good to learn that out of two thousand cases, 490
were married women, women who lived with their husbands. Evidently
there was not much of a guaranty for their "safety and purity" in the
sanctity of marriage.*
* It is a significant fact that Dr. Sanger's book has been excluded
from the U. S. mails. Evidently the authorities are not anxious that
the public be informed as to the true cause of prostitution.
Dr. Alfred Blaschko, in PROSTITUTION IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, is
even more emphatic in characterizing economic conditions as one of
the most vital factors of prostitution.
"Although prostitution has existed in all ages, it was left to the
nineteenth century to develop it into a gigantic social institution.
The development of industry with vast masses of people in the
competitive market, the growth and congestion of large cities, the
insecurity and uncertainty of employment, has given prostitution an
impetus never dreamed of at any period in human history."
And again Havelock Ellis, while not so absolute in dealing with the
economic cause, is nevertheless compelled to admit that it is
indirectly and directly the main cause. Thus he finds that a large
percentage of prostitutes is recruited from the servant class,
although the latter have less care and greater security. On the
other hand, Mr. Ellis does not deny that the daily routine, the
drudgery, the monotony of the servant girl's lot, and especially the
fact that she may never partake of the companionship and joy of a
home, is no mean factor in forcing her to seek recreation and
forgetfulness in the gaiety and glimmer of prostitution. In other
words, the servant girl, being treated as a drudge, never having the
right to herself, and worn out by the caprices of her mistress, can
find an outlet, like the factory or shopgirl, only in prostitution.
The most amusing side of the question now before the public is the
indignation of our "good, respectable people," especially the various
Christian gentlemen, who are always to be found in the front ranks of
every crusade. Is it that they are absolutely ignorant of the
history of religion, and especially of the Christian religion? Or is
it that they hope to blind the present generation to the part played
in the past by the Church in relation to prostitution? Whatever
their reason, they should be the last to cry out against the
unfortunate victims of today, since it is known to every intelligent
student that prostitution is of religious origin, maintained and
fostered for many centuries, not as a shame but as a virtue, hailed
as such by the Gods themselves.
"It would seem that the origin of prostitution is to be found
primarily in a religious custom, religion, the great conserver of
social tradition, preserving in a transformed shape a primitive
freedom that was passing out of the general social life. The typical
example is that recorded by Herodotus, in the fifth century before
Christ, at the Temple of Mylitta, the Babylonian Venus, where every
woman, once in her life, had to come and give herself to the first
stranger, who threw a coin in her lap, to worship the goddess. Very
similar customs existed in other parts of Western Asia, in North
Africa, in Cyprus, and other islands of the Eastern Mediterranean,
and also in Greece, where the temple of Aphrodite on the fort at
Corinth possessed over a thousand hierodules, dedicated to the
service of the goddess.
"The theory that religious prostitution developed, as a general rule,
out of the belief that the generative activity of human beings
possessed a mysterious and sacred influence in promoting the
fertility of Nature, is maintained by all authoritative writers on
the subject. Gradually, however, and when prostitution became an
organized institution under priestly influence, religious
prostitution developed utilitarian sides, thus helping to increase
"The rise of Christianity to political power produced little change
in policy. The leading fathers of the Church tolerated prostitution.
Brothels under municipal protection are found in the thirteenth
century. They constituted a sort of public service, the directors of
them being considered almost as public servants."*
* Havelock Ellis, SEX AND SOCIETY.
To this must be added the following from Dr. Sanger's work:
"Pope Clement II. issued a bull that prostitutes would be tolerated
if they pay a certain amount of their earnings to the Church.
"Pope Sixtus IV. was more practical; from one single brothel, which
he himself had built, he received an income of 20,000 ducats."
In modern times the Church is a little more careful in that
direction. At least she does not openly demand tribute from
prostitutes. She finds it much more profitable to go in for real
estate, like Trinity Church, for instance, to rent out death traps at
an exorbitant price to those who live off and by prostitution.
Much as I should like to, my space will not admit speaking of
prostitution in Egypt, Greece, Rome, and during the Middle Ages. The
conditions in the latter period are particularly interesting,
inasmuch as prostitution was organized into guilds, presided over by
a brothel Queen. These guilds employed strikes as a medium of
improving their condition and keeping a standard price. Certainly
that is more practical a method than the one used by the modern wage
slave in society.
It would be one-sided and extremely superficial to maintain that the
economic factor is the only cause of prostitution. There are others
no less important and vital. That, too, our reformers know, but dare
discuss even less than the institution that saps the very life out of
both men and women. I refer to the sex question, the very mention of
which causes most people moral spasms.
It is a conceded fact that woman is being reared as a sex commodity,
and yet she is kept in absolute ignorance of the meaning and
importance of sex. Everything dealing with the subject is
suppressed, and persons who attempt to bring light into this terrible
darkness are persecuted and thrown into prison. Yet it is
nevertheless true that so long as a girl is not to know how to take
care of herself, not to know the function of the most important part
of her life, we need not be surprised if she becomes an easy prey to
prostitution, or to any other form of a relationship which degrades
her to the position of an object for mere sex gratification.
It is due to this ignorance that the entire life and nature of the
girl is thwarted and crippled. We have long ago taken it as a
self-evident fact that the boy may follow the call of the wild; that
is to say, that the boy may, as soon has his sex nature asserts
itself, satisfy that nature; but our moralists are scandalized at the
very thought that the nature of a girl should assert itself. To the
moralist prostitution does not consist so much in the fact that the
woman sells her body, but rather that she sells it out of wedlock.
That this is no mere statement is proved by the fact that marriage
for monetary considerations is perfectly legitimate, sanctified by
law and public opinion, while any other union is condemned and
repudiated. Yet a prostitute, if properly defined, means nothing
else than "any person for whom sexual relationships are subordinated
* Guyot, LA PROSTITUTION.
"Those women are prostitutes who sell their bodies for the exercise
of the sexual act and make of this a profession."*
* Banger, CRIMINALITE ET CONDITION ECONOMIQUE.
In fact, Banger goes further; he maintains that the act of
prostitution is "intrinsically equal to that of a man or woman who
contracts a marriage for economic reasons."
Of course, marriage is the goal of every girl, but as thousands of
girls cannot marry, our stupid social customs condemn them either to
a life of celibacy or prostitution. Human nature asserts itself
regardless of all laws, nor is there any plausible reason why nature
should adapt itself to a perverted conception of morality.
Society considers the sex experiences of a man as attributes of his
general development, while similar experiences in the life of a woman
are looked upon as a terrible calamity, a loss of honor and of all
that is good and noble in a human being. This double standard of
morality has played no little part in the creation and perpetuation
of prostitution. It involves the keeping of the young in absolute
ignorance on sex matters, which alleged "innocence," together with an
overwrought and stifled sex nature, helps to bring about a state of
affairs that our Puritans are so anxious to avoid or prevent.
Not that the gratification of sex must needs lead to prostitution; it
is the cruel, heartless, criminal persecution of those who dare
divert from the beaten paths, which is responsible for it.
Girls, mere children, work in crowded, over-heated rooms ten to
twelve hours daily at a machine, which tends to keep them in a
constant over-excited sex state. Many of these girls have no home or
comforts of any kind; therefore the street or some place of cheap
amusement is the only means of forgetting their daily routine. This
naturally brings them into close proximity with the other sex. It is
hard to say which of the two factors brings the girl's over-sexed
condition to a climax, but it is certainly the most natural thing
that a climax should result. That is the first step toward
prostitution. Nor is the girl to be held responsible for it. On the
contrary, it is altogether the fault of society, the fault of our
lack of understanding, of our lack of appreciation of life in the
making; especially is it the criminal fault of our moralists, who
condemn a girl for all eternity, because she has gone from the "path
of virtue"; that is, because her first sex experience has taken place
without the sanction of the Church.
The girl feels herself a complete outcast, with the doors of home and
society closed in her face. Her entire training and tradition is
such that the girl herself feels depraved and fallen, and therefore
has no ground to stand upon, or any hold that will lift her up,
instead of dragging her down. Thus society creates the victims that
it afterwards vainly attempts to get rid of. The meanest, most
depraved and decrepit man still considers himself too good to take as
his wife the woman whose grace he was quite willing to buy, even
though he might thereby save her from a life of horror. Nor can she
turn to her own sister for help. In her stupidity the latter deems
herself too pure and chaste, not realizing that her own position is
in many respects even more deplorable than her sister's of the
"The wife who married for money, compared with the prostitute," says
Havelock Ellis, "is the true scab. She is paid less, gives much more
in return in labor and care, and is absolutely bound to her master.
The prostitute never signs away the right over her own person, she
retains her freedom and personal rights, nor is she always compelled
to submit to a man's embrace."
Nor does the better-than-thou woman realize the apologist claim of
Lecky that "though she may be the supreme type of vice, she is also
the most efficient guardian of virtue. But for her, happy homes
would be polluted, unnatural and harmful practice would abound."
Moralists are ever ready to sacrifice one-half of the human race for
the sake of some miserable institution which they can not outgrow.
As a matter of fact, prostitution is no more a safeguard for the
purity of the home than rigid laws are a safeguard against
prostitution. Fully fifty per cent. of married men are patrons of
brothels. It is through this virtuous element that the married
women--nay, even the children--are infected with venereal diseases.
Yet society has not a word of condemnation for the man, while no law
is too monstrous to be set in motion against the helpless victim.
She is not only preyed upon by those who use her. but she is also
absolutely at the mercy of every policeman and miserable detective on
the beat, the officials at the station house, the authorities in
In a recent book by a woman who was for twelve years the mistress of
a "house," are to be found the following figures: "The authorities
compelled me to pay every month fines between $14.70 to $29.70, the
girls would pay from $5.70 to $9.70 to the police." Considering that
the writer did her business in a small city, that the amounts she
gives do not include extra bribes and fines, one can readily see the
tremendous revenue the police department derives from the blood money
of its victims, whom it will not even protect. Woe to those who
refuse to pay their toll; they would be rounded up like cattle, "if
only to make a favorable impression upon the good citizens of the
city, or if the powers needed extra money on the side. For the
warped mind who believes that a fallen woman is incapable of human
emotion it would be impossible to realize the grief, the disgrace,
the tears, the wounded pride that was ours every time we were pulled
Strange, isn't it, that a woman who has a kept a "house" should be
able to feel that way? But stranger still that a good Christian
world should bleed and fleece such women, and give them nothing in
return except obloquy and persecution. Oh, for the charity of a
Much stress is laid on white slaves being imported into America. How
would America ever retain her virtue if Europe did not help her out?
I will not deny that this may be the case in some instances, any more
than I will deny that there are emissaries of Germany and other
countries luring economic slaves into America; but I absolutely deny
that prostitution is recruited to any appreciable extent from Europe.
It may be true that the majority of prostitutes in New York City are
foreigners, but that is because the majority of the population is
foreign. The moment we go to any other American city, to Chicago or
the Middle West, we shall find that the number of foreign
prostitutes is by far a minority.
Equally exaggerated is the belief that the majority of street girls
in this city were engaged in this business before they came to
America. Most of the girls speak excellent English, are Americanized
in habits and appearance,--a thing absolutely impossible unless they
had lived in this country many years. That is, they were driven into
prostitution by American conditions, by the thoroughly American
custom for excessive display of finery and clothes, which, of course,
necessitates money,--money that cannot be earned in shops or
In other words, there is no reason to believe that any set of men
would go to the risk and expense of getting foreign products, when
American conditions are overflooding the market with thousands of
girls. On the other hand, there is sufficient evidence to prove that
the export of American girls for the purpose of prostitution is by no
means a small factor.
Thus Clifford G. Roe, ex-Assistant State Attorney of Cook County,
Ill., makes the open charge that New England girls are shipped to
Panama for the express use of men in the employ of Uncle Sam. Mr.
Roe adds that "there seems to be an underground railroad between
Boston and Washington which many girls travel." Is it not
significant that the railroad should lead to the very seat of Federal
authority? That Mr. Roe said more than was desired in certain
quarters is proved by the fact that he lost his position. It is not
practical for men in office to tell tales from school.
The excuse given for the conditions in Panama is that there are no
brothels in the Canal Zone. That is the usual avenue of escape for a
hypocritical world that dares not face the truth. Not in the Canal
Zone, not in the city limits,--therefore prostitution does not exist.
Next to Mr. Roe, there is James Bronson Reynolds, who has made a
thorough study of the white slave traffic in Asia. As a staunch
American citizen and friend of the future Napoleon of America,
Theodore Roosevelt, he is surely the last to discredit the virtue of
his country. Yet we are informed by him that in Hong Kong, Shanghai,
and Yokohama, the Augean stables of American vice are located. There
American prostitutes have made themselves so conspicuous that in the
Orient "American girl" is synonymous with prostitute. Mr. Reynolds
reminds his countrymen that while Americans in China are under the
protection of our consular representatives, the Chinese in America
have no protection at all. Every one who knows the brutal and
barbarous persecution Chinese and Japanese endure on the Pacific
Coast, will agree with Mr. Reynolds.
In view of the above facts it is rather absurd to point to Europe as
the swamp whence come all the social diseases of America. Just as
absurd is it to proclaim the myth that the Jews furnish the largest
contingent of willing prey. I am sure that no one will accuse me of
nationalistic tendencies. I am glad to say that I have developed out
of them, as out of many other prejudices. If, therefore, I resent
the statement that Jewish prostitutes are imported, it is not because
of any Judaistic sympathies, but because of the facts inherent in the
lives of these people. No one but the most superficial will claim
that Jewish girls migrate to strange lands, unless they have some tie
or relation that brings them there. The Jewish girl is not
adventurous. Until recent years she had never left home, not even so
far as the next village or town, except it were to visit some
relative. Is it then credible that Jewish girls would leave their
parents or families, travel thousands of miles to strange lands,
through the influence and promises of strange forces? Go to any of
the large incoming steamers and see for yourself if these girls do
not come either with their parents, brothers, aunts, or other
kinsfolk. There may be exceptions, of course, but to state that
large numbers of Jewish girls are imported for prostitution, or any
other purpose, is simply not to know Jewish psychology.
Those who sit in a glass house do wrong to throw stones about them;
besides, the American glass house is rather thin, it will break
easily, and the interior is anything but a gainly sight.
To ascribe the increase in prostitution to alleged importation, to
the growth of the cadet system, or similar causes, is highly
superficial. I have already referred to the former. As to the cadet
system, abhorrent as it is, we must not ignore the fact that it is
essentially a phase of modern prostitution,--a phase accentuated by
suppression and graft, resulting from sporadic crusades against the
The procurer is no doubt a poor specimen of the human family, but in
what manner is he more despicable than the policeman who takes the
last cent from the street walker, and then locks her up in the
station house? Why is the cadet more criminal, or a greater menace
to society, than the owners of department stores and factories, who
grow fat on the sweat of their victims, only to drive them to the
streets? I make no plea for the cadet, but I fail to see why he
should be mercilessly hounded, while the real perpetrators of all
social iniquity enjoy immunity and respect. Then, too, it is well to
remember that it is not the cadet who makes the prostitute. It is
our sham and hypocrisy that create both the prostitute and the cadet.
Until 1894 very little was known in America of the procurer. Then we
were attacked by an epidemic of virtue. Vice was to be abolished,
the country purified at all cost. The social cancer was therefore
driven out of sight, but deeper into the body. Keepers of brothels,
as well as their unfortunate victims, were turned over to the tender
mercies of the police. The inevitable consequence of exorbitant
bribes, and the penitentiary, followed.
While comparatively protected in the brothels, where they represented
a certain monetary value, the girls now found themselves on the
street, absolutely at the mercy of the graft-greedy police.
Desperate, needing protection and longing for affection, these girls
naturally proved an easy prey for cadets, themselves the result of
the spirit of our commercial age. Thus the cadet system was the
direct outgrowth of police persecution, graft, and attempted
suppression of prostitution. It were sheer folly to confound this
modern phase of the social evil with the causes of the latter.
Mere suppression and barbaric enactments can serve but to embitter,
and further degrade, the unfortunate victims of ignorance and
stupidity. The latter has reached its highest expression in the
proposed law to make humane treatment of prostitutes a crime,
punishing any one sheltering a prostitute with five years'
imprisonment and $10,000 fine. Such an attitude merely exposes the
terrible lack of understanding of the true causes of prostitution, as
a social factor, as well as manifesting the Puritanic spirit of the
Scarlet Letter days.
There is not a single modern writer on the subject who does not refer
to the utter futility of legislative methods in coping with the
issue. Thus Dr. Blaschko finds that governmental suppression and
moral crusades accomplish nothing save driving the evil into secret
channels, multiplying its dangers to society. Havelock Ellis, the
most thorough and humane student of prostitution, proves by a wealth
of data that the more stringent the methods of persecution the worse
the condition becomes. Among other data we learn that in France, "in
1560, Charles IX. abolished brothels through an edict, but the
numbers of prostitutes were only increased, while many new brothels
appeared in unsuspected shapes, and were more dangerous. In spite of
all such legislation, OR BECAUSE OF IT, there has been no country in
which prostitution has played a more conspicuous part."*
* SEX AND SOCIETY.
An educated public opinion, freed from the legal and moral hounding
of the prostitute, can alone help to ameliorate present conditions.
Wilful shutting of eyes and ignoring of the evil as a social factor
of modern life, can but aggravate matters. We must rise above our
foolish notions of "better than thou," and learn to recognize in the
prostitute a product of social conditions. Such a realization will
sweep away the attitude of hypocrisy, and insure a greater
understanding and more humane treatment. As to a thorough
eradication of prostitution, nothing can accomplish that save a
complete transvaluation of all accepted values--especially the moral
ones--coupled with the abolition of industrial slavery.
We boast of the age of advancement, of science, and progress. Is it
not strange, then, that we still believe in fetich worship? True,
our fetiches have different form and substance, yet in their power
over the human mind they are still as disastrous as were those of
Our modern fetich is universal suffrage. Those who have not yet
achieved that goal fight bloody revolutions to obtain it, and those
who have enjoyed its reign bring heavy sacrifice to the altar of this
omnipotent deity. Woe to the heretic who dare question that
Woman, even more than man, is a fetich worshipper, and though her
idols may change, she is ever on her knees, ever holding up her
hands, ever blind to the fact that her god has feet of clay. Thus
woman has been the greatest supporter of all deities from time
immemorial. Thus, too, she has had to pay the price that only gods
can exact,--her freedom, her heart's blood, her very life.
Nietzsche's memorable maxim, "When you go to woman, take the whip
along," is considered very brutal, yet Nietzsche expressed in one
sentence the attitude of woman towards her gods.
Religion, especially the Christian religion, has condemned woman to
the life of an inferior, a slave. It has thwarted her nature and
fettered her soul, yet the Christian religion has no greater
supporter, none more devout, than woman. Indeed, it is safe to say
that religion would have long ceased to be a factor in the lives of
the people, if it were not for the support it receives from woman.
The most ardent churchworkers, the most tireless missionaries the
world over, are women, always sacrificing on the altar of the gods
that have chained her spirit and enslaved her body.
The insatiable monster, war, robs woman of all that is dear and
precious to her. It exacts her brothers, lovers, sons, and in return
gives her a life of loneliness and despair. Yet the greatest
supporter and worshiper of war is woman. She it is who instills the
love of conquest and power into her children; she it is who whispers
the glories of war into the ears of her little ones, and who rocks
her baby to sleep with the tunes of trumpets and the noise of guns.
It is woman, too, who crowns the victor on his return from the
battlefield. Yes, it is woman who pays the highest price to that
insatiable monster, war.
Then there is the home. What a terrible fetich it is! How it saps
the very life-energy of woman,--this modern prison with golden bars.
Its shining aspect blinds woman to the price she would have to pay as
wife, mother, and housekeeper. Yet woman clings tenaciously to the
home, to the power that holds her in bondage.
It may be said that because woman recognizes the awful toll she is
made to pay to the Church, State, and the home, she wants suffrage to
set herself free. That may be true of the few; the majority of
suffragists repudiate utterly such blasphemy. On the contrary, they
insist always that it is woman suffrage which will make her a better
Christian and homekeeper, a staunch citizen of the State. Thus
suffrage is only a means of strengthening the omnipotence of the very
Gods that woman has served from time immemorial.
What wonder, then, that she should be just as devout, just as
zealous, just as prostrate before the new idol, woman suffrage. As
of old, she endures persecution, imprisonment, torture, and all forms
of condemnation, with a smile on her face. As of old, the most
enlightened, even, hope for a miracle from the twentieth century
deity,--suffrage. Life, happiness, joy, freedom, independence,--all
that, and more, is to spring from suffrage. In her blind devotion
woman does not see what people of intellect perceived fifty years
ago: that suffrage is an evil, that it has only helped to enslave
people, that it has but closed their eyes that they may not see how
craftily they were made to submit.
Woman's demand for equal suffrage is based largely on the contention
that woman must have the equal right in all affairs of society. No
one could, possibly, refute that, if suffrage were a right. Alas,
for the ignorance of the human mind, which can see a right in an
imposition. Or is it not the most brutal imposition for one set of
people to make laws that another set is coerced by force to obey?
Yet woman clamors for that "golden opportunity" that has wrought so
much misery in the world, and robbed man of his integrity and
self-reliance; an imposition which has thoroughly corrupted the
people, and made them absolute prey in the hands of unscrupulous
The poor, stupid, free American citizen! Free to starve, free to
tramp the highways of this great country, he enjoys universal
suffrage, and, by that right, he has forged chains about his limbs.
The reward that he receives is stringent labor laws prohibiting the
right of boycott, of picketing, in fact, of everything, except the
right to be robbed of the fruits of his labor. Yet all these
disastrous results of the twentieth century fetich have taught woman
nothing. But, then, woman will purify politics, we are assured.
Needless to say, I am not opposed to woman suffrage on the
conventional ground that she is not equal to it. I see neither
physical, psychological, nor mental reasons why woman should not have
the equal right to vote with man. But that can not possibly blind me
to the absurd notion that woman will accomplish that wherein man has
failed. If she would not make things worse, she certainly could not
make them better. To assume, therefore, that she would succeed in
purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to
credit her with supernatural powers. Since woman's greatest
misfortune has been that she was looked upon as either angel or
devil, her true salvation lies in being placed on earth; namely, in
being considered human, and therefore subject to all human follies
and mistakes. Are we, then, to believe that two errors will make a
right? Are we to assume that the poison already inherent in politics
will be decreased, if women were to enter the political arena? The
most ardent suffragists would hardly maintain such a folly.
As a matter of fact, the most advanced students of universal suffrage
have come to realize that all existing systems of political power are
absurd, and are completely inadequate to meet the pressing issues of
life. This view is also borne out by a statement of one who is
herself an ardent believer in woman suffrage, Dr. Helen L. Sumner.
In her able work on EQUAL SUFFRAGE, she says: "In Colorado, we find
that equal suffrage serves to show in the most striking way the
essential rottenness and degrading character of the existing system."
Of course, Dr. Sumner has in mind a particular system of voting, but
the same applies with equal force to the entire machinery of the
representative system. With such a basis, it is difficult to
understand how woman, as a political factor, would benefit either
herself or the rest of mankind.
But, say our suffrage devotees, look at the countries and States
where female suffrage exists. See what woman has accomplished--in
Australia, New Zealand, Finland, the Scandinavian countries, and in
our own four States, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. Distance
lends enchantment--or, to quote a Polish formula--"it is well where
we are not." Thus one would assume that those countries and States
are unlike other countries or States, that they have greater
freedom, greater social and economic equality, a finer appreciation
of human life, deeper understanding of the great social struggle,
with all the vital questions it involves for the human race.
The women of Australia and New Zealand can vote, and help make the
laws. Are the labor conditions better there than they are in
England, where the suffragettes are making such a heroic struggle?
Does there exist a greater motherhood, happier and freer children
than in England? Is woman there no longer considered a mere sex
commodity? Has she emancipated herself from the Puritanical double
standard of morality for men and women? Certainly none but the
ordinary female stump politician will dare answer these questions in
the affirmative. If that be so, it seems ridiculous to point to
Australia and New Zealand as the Mecca of equal suffrage
On the other hand, it is a fact to those who know the real political
conditions in Australia, that politics have gagged labor by enacting
the most stringent labor laws, making strikes without the sanction of
an arbitration committee a crime equal to treason.
Not for a moment do I mean to imply that woman suffrage is
responsible for this state of affairs. I do mean, however, that
there is no reason to point to Australia as a wonder-worker of
woman's accomplishment, since her influence has been unable to free
labor from the thralldom of political bossism.
Finland has given woman equal suffrage; nay, even the right to sit in
Parliament. Has that helped to develop a greater heroism, an
intenser zeal than that of the women of Russia? Finland, like
Russia, smarts under the terrible whip of the bloody Tsar. Where are
the Finnish Perovskaias, Spiridonovas, Figners, Breshkovskaias?
Where are the countless numbers of Finnish young girls who cheerfully
go to Siberia for their cause? Finland is sadly in need of heroic
liberators. Why has the ballot not created them? The only Finnish
avenger of his people was a man, not a woman, and he used a more
effective weapon than the ballot.
As to our own States where women vote, and which are constantly being
pointed out as examples of marvels, what has been accomplished there
through the ballot that women do not to a large extent enjoy in other
States; or that they could not achieve through energetic efforts
without the ballot?
True, in the suffrage States women are guaranteed equal rights to
property; but of what avail is that right to the mass of women
without property, the thousands of wage workers, who live from hand
to mouth? That equal suffrage did not, and cannot, affect their
condition is admitted even by Dr. Sumner, who certainly is in a
position to know. As an ardent suffragist, and having been sent to
Colorado by the Collegiate Equal Suffrage League of New York State to
collect material in favor of suffrage, she would be the last to say
anything derogatory; yet we are informed that "equal suffrage has but
slightly affected the economic conditions of women. That women do
not receive equal pay for equal work, and that, though woman in
Colorado has enjoyed school suffrage since 1876, women teachers are
paid less than in California." On the other hand, Miss Sumner fails
to account for the fact that although women have had school suffrage
for thirty-four years, and equal suffrage since 1894, the census in
Denver alone a few months ago disclosed the fact of fifteen thousand
defective school children. And that, too, with mostly women in the
educational department, and also notwithstanding that women in
Colorado have passed the "most stringent laws for child and animal
protection." The women of Colorado "have taken great interest in the
State institutions for the care of dependent, defective, and
delinquent children." What a horrible indictment against woman's
care and interest, if one city has fifteen thousand defective
children. What about the glory of woman suffrage, since it has
failed utterly in the most important social issue, the child? And
where is the superior sense of justice that woman was to bring into
the political field? Where was it in 1903, when the mine owners
waged a guerilla war against the Western Miners' Union; when General
Bell established a reign of terror, pulling men out of beds at night,
kidnapping them across the border line, throwing them into bull pens,
declaring "to hell with the Constitution, the club is the
Constitution"? Where were the women politicians then, and why did
they not exercise the power of their vote? But they did. They
helped to defeat the most fair-minded and liberal man, Governor
Waite. The latter had to make way for the tool of the mine kings,
Governor Peabody, the enemy of labor, the Tsar of Colorado.
"Certainly male suffrage could have done nothing worse." Granted.
Wherein, then, are the advantages to woman and society from woman
suffrage? The oft-repeated assertion that woman will purify politics
is also but a myth. It is not borne out by the people who know the
political conditions of Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.
Woman, essentially a purist, is naturally bigotted and relentless in
her effort to make others as good as she thinks they ought to be.
Thus, in Idaho, she has disfranchised her sister of the street, and
declared all women of "lewd character" unfit to vote. "Lewd" not
being interpreted, of course, as prostitution IN marriage. It goes
without saying that illegal prostitution and gambling have been
prohibited. In this regard the law must needs be of feminine nature:
it always prohibits. Therein all laws are wonderful. They go no
further, but their very tendencies open all the floodgates of hell.
Prostitution and gambling have never done a more flourishing business
than since the law has been set against them.
In Colorado, the Puritanism of woman has expressed itself in a more
drastic form. "Men of notoriously unclean lives, and men connected
with saloons, have been dropped from politics since women have the
vote."* Could brother Comstock do more? Could all the Puritan
fathers have done more? I wonder how many women realize the gravity
of this would-be feat. I wonder if they understand that it is the
very thing which, instead of elevating woman, has made her a
political spy, a contemptible pry into the private affairs of people,
not so much for the good of the cause, but because, as a Colorado
woman said, "they like to get into houses they have never been in,
and find out all they can, politically and otherwise."** Yes, and
into the human soul and its minutest nooks and corners. For nothing
satisfies the craving of most women so much as scandal. And when did
she ever enjoy such opportunities as are hers, the politician's?
* EQUAL SUFFRAGE. Dr. Helen Sumner.
** EQUAL SUFFRAGE.
"Notoriously unclean lives, and men connected with the saloons."
Certainly, the lady vote gatherers can not be accused of much sense
of proportion. Granting even that these busybodies can decide whose
lives are clean enough for that eminently clean atmosphere, politics,
must it follow that saloon-keepers belong to the same category?
Unless it be American hypocrisy and bigotry, so manifest in the
principle of Prohibition, which sanctions the spread of drunkenness
among men and women of the rich class, yet keeps vigilant watch on
the only place left to the poor man. If no other reason, woman's
narrow and purist attitude toward life makes her a greater danger to
liberty wherever she has political power. Man has long overcome the
superstitions that still engulf woman. In the economic competitive
field, man has been compelled to exercise efficiency, judgment,
ability, competency. He therefore had neither time nor inclination
to measure everyone's morality with a Puritanic yardstick. In his
political activities, too, he has not gone about blindfolded. He
knows that quantity and not quality is the material for the political
grinding mill, and, unless he is a sentimental reformer or an old
fossil, he knows that politics can never be anything but a swamp.
Women who are at all conversant with the process of politics, know
the nature of the beast, but in their self-sufficiency and egotism
they make themselves believe that they have but to pet the beast, and
he will become as gentle as a lamb, sweet and pure. As if women have
not sold their votes, as if women politicians can not be bought! If
her body can be bought in return for material consideration, why not
her vote? That it is being done in Colorado and in other States, is
not denied even by those in favor of woman suffrage.
As I have said before, woman's narrow view of human affairs is not
the only argument against her as a politician superior to man. There
are others. Her life-long economic parasitism has utterly blurred
her conception of the meaning of equality. She clamors for equal
rights with men, yet we learn that "few women care to canvas in
undesirable districts."* How little equality means to them compared
with the Russian women, who face hell itself for their ideal!
* Dr. Helen A. Sumner.
Woman demands the same rights as man, yet she is indignant that her
presence does not strike him dead: he smokes, keeps his hat on, and
does not jump from his seat like a flunkey. These may be trivial
things, but they are nevertheless the key to the nature of American
suffragists. To be sure, their English sisters have outgrown these
silly notions. They have shown themselves equal to the greatest
demands on their character and power of endurance. All honor to the
heroism and sturdiness of the English suffragettes. Thanks to their
energetic, aggressive methods, they have proved an inspiration to some
of our own lifeless and spineless ladies. But after all, the
suffragettes, too, are still lacking in appreciation of real
equality. Else how is one to account for the tremendous, truly
gigantic effort set in motion by those valiant fighters for a
wretched little bill which will benefit a handful of propertied
ladies, with absolutely no provision for the vast mass of
workingwomen? True, as politicians they must be opportunists, must
take half measures if they can not get all. But as intelligent and
liberal women they ought to realize that if the ballot is a weapon,
the disinherited need it more than the economically superior class,
and that the latter already enjoy too much power by virtue of their
The brilliant leader of the English suffragettes, Mrs. Emmeline
Pankhurst, herself admitted, when on her American lecture tour, that
there can be no equality between political superiors and inferiors.
If so, how will the workingwoman of England, already inferior
economically to the ladies who are benefited by the Shackleton bill,*
be able to work with their political superiors, should the bill pass?
Is it not probable that the class of Annie Keeney, so full of zeal,
devotion, and martyrdom, will be compelled to carry on their backs
their female political bosses, even as they are carrying their
economic masters. They would still have to do it, were universal
suffrage for men and women established in England. No matter what
the workers do, they are made to pay, always. Still, those who
believe in the power of the vote show little sense of justice when
they concern themselves not at all with those whom, as they claim, it
might serve most.
* Mr. Shackleton was a labor leader. It is therefore self-evident
that he should introduce a bill excluding his own constituents. The
English Parliament is full of such Judases.
The American suffrage movement has been, until very recently,
altogether a parlor affair, absolutely detached from the economic
needs of the people. Thus Susan B. Anthony, no doubt an exceptional
type of woman, was not only indifferent but antagonistic to labor;
nor did she hesitate to manifest her antagonism when, in 1869, she
advised women to take the places of striking printers in New York.*
I do not know whether her attitude had changed before her death.
* EQUAL SUFFRAGE. Dr. Helen A. Sumner.
There are, of course, some suffragists who are affiliated with
workingwomen--the Women's Trade Union League, for instance; but they
are a small minority, and their activities are essentially economic.
The rest look upon toil as a just provision of Providence. What
would become of the rich, if not for the poor? What would become of
these idle, parasitic ladies, who squander more in a week than their
victims earn in a year, if not for the eighty million wage workers?
Equality, who ever heard of such a thing?
Few countries have produced such arrogance and snobbishness as
America. Particularly this is true of the American woman of the
middle class. She not only considers herself the equal of man, but
his superior, especially in her purity, goodness, and morality.
Small wonder that the American suffragist claims for her vote the
most miraculous powers. In her exalted conceit she does not see how
truly enslaved she is, not so much by man, as by her own silly
notions and traditions. Suffrage can not ameliorate that sad fact;
it can only accentuate it, as indeed it does.
One of the great American women leaders claims that woman is entitled
not only to equal pay, but that she ought to be legally entitled even
to the pay of her husband. Failing to support her, he should be put
in convict stripes, and his earnings in prison be collected by his
equal wife. Does not another brilliant exponent of the cause claim
for woman that her vote will abolish the social evil, which has been
fought in vain by the collective efforts of the most illustrious
minds the world over? It is indeed to be regretted that the alleged
creator of the universe has already presented us with his wonderful
scheme of things, else woman suffrage would surely enable woman to
outdo him completely.
Nothing is so dangerous as the dissection of a fetich. If we have
outlived the time when such heresy was punishable at the stake, we
have not outlived the narrow spirit of condemnation of those who dare
differ with accepted notions. Therefore I shall probably be put down
as an opponent of woman. But that can not deter me from looking the
question squarely in the face. I repeat what I have said in the
beginning: I do not believe that woman will make politics worse; nor
can I believe that she could make it better. If, then, she cannot
improve on man's mistakes, why perpetuate the latter?
History may be a compilation of lies; nevertheless, it contains a few
truths, and they are the only guide we have for the future. The
history of the political activities of men proves that they have
given him absolutely nothing that he could not have achieved in a
more direct, less costly, and more lasting manner. As a matter of
fact, every inch of ground he has gained has been through a constant
fight, a ceaseless struggle for self-assertion, and not through
suffrage. There is no reason whatever to assume that woman, in her
climb to emancipation, has been, or will be, helped by the ballot.
In the darkest of all countries, Russia, with her absolute despotism,
woman has become man's equal, not through the ballot, but by her will
to be and to do. Not only has she conquered for herself every avenue
of learning and vocation, but she has won man's esteem, his respect,
his comradeship; aye, even more than that: she has gained the
admiration, the respect of the whole world. That, too, not through
suffrage, but by her wonderful heroism, her fortitude, her ability,
will power, and her endurance in the struggle for liberty. Where are
the women in any suffrage country or State that can lay claim to such
a victory? When we consider the accomplishments of woman in America,
we find also that something deeper and more powerful than suffrage
has helped her in the march to emancipation.
It is just sixty-two years ago since a handful of women at the Seneca
Falls Convention set forth a few demands for their right to equal
education with men, and access to the various professions, trades,
etc. What wonderful accomplishment, what wonderful triumphs! Who
but the most ignorant dare speak of woman as a mere domestic drudge?
Who dare suggest that this or that profession should not be open to
her? For over sixty years she has molded a new atmosphere and a new
life for herself. She has become a world power in every domain of
human thought and activity. And all that without suffrage, without
the right to make laws, without the "privilege" of becoming a judge,
a jailer, or an executioner.
Yes, I may be considered an enemy of woman; but if I can help her see
the light, I shall not complain.
The misfortune of woman is not that she is unable to do the work of
man, but that she is wasting her life force to outdo him, with a
tradition of centuries which has left her physically incapable of
keeping pace with him. Oh, I know some have succeeded, but at what
cost, at what terrific cost! The import is not the kind of work
woman does, but rather the quality of the work she furnishes. She
can give suffrage or the ballot no new quality, nor can she receive
anything from it that will enhance her own quality. Her development,
her freedom, her independence, must come from and through herself.
First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex
commodity. Second, by refusing the right to anyone over her body; by
refusing to bear children, unless she wants them; by refusing to be a
servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc.; by
making her life simpler, but deeper and richer. That is, by trying
to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities,
by freeing herself from the fear of public opinion and public
condemnation. Only that, and not the ballot, will set woman free,
will make her a force hitherto unknown in the world, a force for real
love, for peace, for harmony; a force of divine fire, of life giving;
a creator of free men and women.
THE TRAGEDY OF WOMAN'S EMANCIPATION
I begin with an admission: Regardless of all political and economic
theories, treating of the fundamental differences between various
groups within the human race, regardless of class and race
distinctions, regardless of all artificial boundary lines between
woman's rights and man's rights, I hold that there is a point where
these differentiations may meet and grow into one perfect whole.
With this I do not mean to propose a peace treaty. The general
social antagonism which has taken hold of our entire public life
today, brought about through the force of opposing and contradictory
interests, will crumble to pieces when the reorganization of our
social life, based upon the principles of economic justice, shall
have become a reality.
Peace or harmony between the sexes and individuals does not
necessarily depend on a superficial equalization of human beings; nor
does it call for the elimination of individual traits and
peculiarities. The problem that confronts us today, and which the
nearest future is to solve, is how to be one's self and yet in
oneness with others, to feel deeply with all human beings and still
retain one's own characteristic qualities. This seems to me to be
the basis upon which the mass and the individual, the true democrat
and the true individuality, man and woman, can meet without
antagonism and opposition. The motto should not be: Forgive one
another; rather, Understand one another. The oft-quoted sentence of
Madame de Stael: "To understand everything means to forgive
everything," has never particularly appealed to me; it has the odor
of the confessional; to forgive one's fellow-being conveys the idea
of pharisaical superiority. To understand one's fellow-being
suffices. The admission partly represents the fundamental aspect of
my views on the emancipation of woman and its effect upon the entire
Emancipation should make it possible for woman to be human in the
truest sense. Everything within her that craves assertion and
activity should reach its fullest expression; all artificial barriers
should be broken, and the road towards greater freedom cleared of
every trace of centuries of submission and slavery.
This was the original aim of the movement for woman's emancipation.
But the results so far achieved have isolated woman and have robbed
her of the fountain springs of that happiness which is so essential
to her. Merely external emancipation has made of the modern woman an
artificial being, who reminds one of the products of French
arboriculture with its arabesque trees and shrubs, pyramids, wheels,
and wreaths; anything, except the forms which would be reached by the
expression of her own inner qualities. Such artificially grown
plants of the female sex are to be found in large numbers, especially
in the so-called intellectual sphere of our life.
Liberty and equality for woman! What hopes and aspirations these
words awakened when they were first uttered by some of the noblest
and bravest souls of those days. The sun in all his light and glory
was to rise upon a new world; in this world woman was to be free to
direct her own destiny--an aim certainly worthy of the great
enthusiasm, courage, perseverance, and ceaseless effort of the
tremendous host of pioneer men and women, who staked everything
against a world of prejudice and ignorance.
My hopes also move towards that goal, but I hold that the
emancipation of woman, as interpreted and practically applied today,
has failed to reach that great end. Now, woman is confronted with
the necessity of emancipating herself from emancipation, if she
really desires to be free. This may sound paradoxical, but is,
nevertheless, only too true.
What has she achieved through her emancipation? Equal suffrage in a
few States. Has that purified our political life, as many
well-meaning advocates predicted? Certainly not. Incidentally, it
is really time that persons with plain, sound judgment should cease
to talk about corruption in politics in a boarding-school tone.
Corruption of politics has nothing to do with the morals, or the
laxity of morals, of various political personalities. Its cause is
altogether a material one. Politics is the reflex of the business
and industrial world, the mottos of which are: "To take is more
blessed than to give"; "buy cheap and sell dear"; "one soiled hand
washes the other." There is no hope even that woman, with her right
to vote, will ever purify politics.
Emancipation has brought woman economic equality with man; that is,
she can choose her own profession and trade; but as her past and
present physical training has not equipped her with the necessary
strength to compete with man, she is often compelled to exhaust all
her energy, use up her vitality, and strain every nerve in order to
reach the market value. Very few ever succeed, for it is a fact that
women teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, and engineers are
neither met with the same confidence as their male colleagues, nor
receive equal remuneration. And those that do reach that enticing
equality, generally do so at the expense of their physical and
psychical well-being. As to the great mass of working girls and
women, how much independence is gained if the narrowness and lack of
freedom of the home is exchanged for the narrowness and lack of
freedom of the factory, sweat-shop, department store, or office? In
addition is the burden which is laid on many women of looking after a
"home, sweet home"--cold, dreary, disorderly, uninviting--after a
day's hard work. Glorious independence! No wonder that hundreds of
girls are willing to accept the first offer of marriage, sick and
tired of their "independence" behind the counter, at the sewing or
typewriting machine. They are just as ready to marry as girls of the
middle class, who long to throw off the yoke of parental supremacy.
A so-called independence which leads only to earning the merest
subsistence is not so enticing, not so ideal, that one could expect
woman to sacrifice everything for it. Our highly praised
independence is, after all, but a slow process of dulling and
stifling woman's nature, her love instinct, and her mother instinct.
Nevertheless, the position of the working girl is far more natural
and human than that of her seemingly more fortunate sister in the
more cultured professional walks of life--teachers, physicians,
lawyers, engineers, etc., who have to make a dignified, proper
appearance, while the inner life is growing empty and dead.
The narrowness of the existing conception of woman's independence and
emancipation; the dread of love for a man who is not her social
equal; the fear that love will rob her of her freedom and
independence; the horror that love or the joy of motherhood will only
hinder her in the full exercise of her profession--all these together
make of the emancipated modern woman a compulsory vestal, before whom
life, with its great clarifying sorrows and its deep, entrancing
joys, rolls on without touching or gripping her soul.
Emancipation, as understood by the majority of its adherents and
exponents, is of too narrow a scope to permit the boundless love and
ecstasy contained in the deep emotion of the true woman, sweetheart,
mother, in freedom.
The tragedy of the self-supporting or economically free woman does
not lie in too many but in too few experiences. True, she surpasses
her sister of past generations in knowledge of the world and human
nature; it is just because of this that she feels deeply the lack of
life's essence, which alone can enrich the human soul, and without
which the majority of women have become mere professional automatons.
That such a state of affairs was bound to come was foreseen by those
who realized that, in the domain of ethics, there still remained many
decaying ruins of the time of the undisputed superiority of man;
ruins that are still considered useful. And, what is more important,
a goodly number of the emancipated are unable to get along without
them. Every movement that aims at the destruction of existing
institutions and the replacement thereof with something more
advanced, more perfect, has followers who in theory stand for the
most radical ideas, but who, nevertheless, in their every-day
practice, are like the average Philistine, feigning respectability
and clamoring for the good opinion of their opponents. There are,
for example, Socialists, and even Anarchists, who stand for the idea
that property is robbery, yet who will grow indignant if anyone owe
them the value of a half-dozen pins.
The same Philistine can be found in the movement for woman's
emancipation. Yellow journalists and milk-and-water litterateurs
have painted pictures of the emancipated woman that make the hair of
the good citizen and his dull companion stand up on end. Every
member of the woman's rights movement was pictured as a George Sand
in her absolute disregard of morality. Nothing was sacred to her.
She had no respect for the ideal relation between man and woman. In
short, emancipation stood only for a reckless life of lust and sin;
regardless of society, religion, and morality. The exponents of
woman's rights were highly indignant at such representation, and,
lacking humor, they exerted all their energy to prove that they were
not at all as bad as they were painted, but the very reverse. Of
course, as long as woman was the slave of man, she could not be good
and pure, but now that she was free and independent she would prove
how good she could be and that her influence would have a purifying
effect on all institutions in society. True, the movement for
woman's rights has broken many old fetters, but it has also forged
new ones. The great movement of TRUE emancipation has not met with a
great race of women who could look liberty in the face. Their
narrow, Puritanical vision banished man, as a disturber and doubtful
character, out of their emotional life. Man was not to be tolerated
at any price, except perhaps as the father of a child, since a child
could not very well come to life without a father. Fortunately, the
most rigid Puritans never will be strong enough to kill the innate
craving for motherhood. But woman's freedom is closely allied with
man's freedom, and many of my so-called emancipated sisters seem to
overlook the fact that a child born in freedom needs the love and
devotion of each human being about him, man as well as woman.
Unfortunately, it is this narrow conception of human relations that
has brought about a great tragedy in the lives of the modern man and
About fifteen years ago appeared a work from the pen of the brilliant
Norwegian, Laura Marholm, called WOMAN, A CHARACTER STUDY. She was
one of the first to call attention to the emptiness and narrowness of
the existing conception of woman's emancipation, and its tragic
effect upon the inner life of woman. In her work Laura Marholm
speaks of the fate of several gifted women of international fame: the
genius, Eleonora Duse; the great mathematician and writer, Sonya
Kovalevskaia; the artist and poet-nature, Marie Bashkirtzeff, who
died so young. Through each description of the lives of these women
of such extraordinary mentality runs a marked trail of unsatisfied
craving for a full, rounded, complete, and beautiful life, and the
unrest and loneliness resulting from the lack of it. Through these
masterly psychological sketches, one cannot help but see that the
higher the mental development of woman, the less possible it is for
her to meet a congenial mate who will see in her, not only sex, but
also the human being, the friend, the comrade and strong
individuality, who cannot and ought not lose a single trait of her
The average man with his self-sufficiency, his ridiculously superior
airs of patronage towards the female sex, is an impossibility for
woman as depicted in the CHARACTER STUDY by Laura Marholm. Equally
impossible for her is the man who can see in her nothing more than
her mentality and her genius, and who fails to awaken her woman
A rich intellect and a fine soul are usually considered necessary
attributes of a deep and beautiful personality. In the case of the
modern woman, these attributes serve as a hindrance to the complete
assertion of her being. For over a hundred years the old form of
marriage, based on the Bible, "till death doth part," has been
denounced as an institution that stands for the sovereignty of the
man over the woman, of her complete submission to his whims and
commands, and absolute dependence on his name and support. Time and
again it has been conclusively proved that the old matrimonial
relation restricted woman to the function of a man's servant and the
bearer of his children. And yet we find many emancipated women who
prefer marriage, with all its deficiencies, to the narrowness of an
unmarried life; narrow and unendurable because of the chains of moral
and social prejudice that cramp and bind her nature.
The explanation of such inconsistency on the part of many advanced
women is to be found in the fact that they never truly understood the
meaning of emancipation. They thought that all that was needed was
independence from external tyrannies; the internal tyrants, far more
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