Read the following documents which reveal different perspectives on the issue of women’s rights. What are the key arguments against women’s rights given by Dr. Todd? How does Gail Hamilton respond? In your essay you should indicate at least three major points of disagreement between their views. Do you think Hamilton effective refutes Dr. Todd’s arguments? Remember that you are analyzing the documents provided — you should support your assertions with brief quotes or specific examples taken from these documents.
Rev. John Todd, D.D., Women’s Rights (Lee & Shepard: Boston, 1867)
EQUALITY OF THE SEXES
Nobody pretends that the sexes are equal in weight, in height, or in bodily strength. The bodies of the two sexes seem to have been planned for different ends. As to the mind, I have no difficulty in admitting that the mind of woman is equal to ours, — nay, if you please, superior. It is quicker, more flexible, more elastic. I certainly have never seen boys learn languages or mathematics, up to a certain point, as fast or as easy as some girls. Woman’s intuitions also are far better than ours. She reads character quicker, comes to conclusions quicker, and if I must make a decision on the moment, I had much rather have the woman’s decision than man’s. She has intuitions given her for her own protection which we have not. She has a delicacy of taste to which we can lay no claim. ” Why, then,” my lady reader will say, ” why can we be independent of man?” for this is the gist of the whole subject. I reply, you can’t, for two reasons; first, God never designed you should, and secondly, your own deep instincts are in the way. God never designed that woman should occupy the same sphere as man, because he has given her a ‘physical organization so refined and delicate that it can never bear the strain which comes upon the rougher, coarser nature of man. He has hedged her in by laws which no desires or efforts can alter. We, sons of dust, move slower; we creep, where you bound to the head of the stairs at a single leap. And now bear with me, and keep good natured, while I show you, what you, dear ladies, cannot do, and God don’t ask you to do.
You cannot invent. There are all manner of inventions in our age, steam, railroads, telegraphing, machinery of all kinds, often five hundred and fifty weekly applications for patents at the Patent Office, but among them all no female applicants. You have sewing machines almost numberless, knitting machines, washing, ironing, and churning machines — but I never heard of one that was the emanation of the female mind. Did you? Why sew, or wash, or card off your fingers, rather than to invent, if this was your gift? The old spinning-wheel and the old carding apparatus have gone by, but not by woman’s invention. I suppose this power was denied you, lest it should take you out of your most important sphere — as I shall show.
You cannot compete with men in a long course of mental labor. Your delicate organization never has and never can bear the study by which you can become Newtons, La Places, or Bowditches in mathematics or astronomy. The world never has seen, and never expects to see, woman excelling in architecture. Neither in ancient or modern times has she one monument of this kind, showing mastership. You do not find them in ancient Corinth, old Athens, great Rome, or in any city of the old or new world….
But, you will perhaps say, ” we have never had a fair chance — a fair fight in the field. We have been held down by prejudice, and tyranny, and public opinion against us, and all that.” Suppose it be so, fair one, there is, one field you have had to yourself, and nobody has lifted against you one finger. I mean that, for the last half century, we, cruel men, have invented, manufactured, and bought, and brought home, the piano, and you have had it all to yourselves.
What is the result? It is, that the master performers, and teachers, and musicians, are men, — is it not? Nay, have you never seen the girl thumping and drumming her piano for years, tinder the best teachers, and yet her brother come along and take it up, and without any teaching, soon go in advance of the sister? I have seen it often. In none of these departments can woman compete with man. Not because her immortal mind is inferior, — far from it, — but because her bodily organization cannot endure the pressure of continued and long labor as we can. We may deny this, and declare it is not so ; but the history of our race, and the state of the world now, show that it is so. I don’t say that here and there a woman can’t endure much and long; but they are rare exceptions. Did you ever know a woman who could endure being a teacher till seventy-five, as men often do? The fact that in medical colleges, in medical books, in medical practice, woman is recognized as having a peculiar organization, requiring the most careful and gentle treatment…
She has a mission — no higher one could be given her — to be the mother, and the former of all the character of the human race. For the first, most important earthly period of life, the race is committed to her, for about twelve years, almost entirely. The human family is what she makes them. She is the queen of the home, its centre, its light and glory…
WHAT HER “RIGHTS” ARE
If woman steps out of her sphere, and demands to be and do what men do, to enter political life, to enter the professions, to wrestle with us for office and employments and gains, she must understand that she will have to take the low places as well as the high places of life. She will not be allowed to be a man and be treated with the tenderness due to women. If she goes to Congress, she must also go to the heavy drudgery of earth. I claim then for her, that it is her “right” to be treated with the utmost love, respect, honor, and consideration in her sphere…She has a “right” then to be exempted from certain things which men must endure. It is her privilege and her right. She ought to be exempt from the hard drudgery of the earth…
A great hue and cry is set up about the right of women to vote, and the cruelty of denying them this right. Plainly this is merely a civil and not a natural right. Minors, foreigners, and idiots are denied it. The property of the world, for the most part, is, and ever has been, and must be, earned by men. It is useful only to support and educate families — our own, or those of others. It would seem best, then, for those who, at any hazard or labor, earn the property, to select the rulers, and have this responsibility. The wealth of the age is expended by woman — earned by the man — for the most part. He wants rulers in reference to the industry and business of his age. Let him select them. Moreover, there is something so unseemly in having woman wading in the dirty waters of politics, draggling and wrangling around the ballot-boxes, e. g., mingling with the mobs and rowdies in New York city, that I wonder she ever thinks of it. But ” she is a widow, and has property, and pays taxes, — why not vote?” Being a widow, or fatherless, is a misfortune. But the husband or father earned the property, and voted as long as he lived. It may be a misfortune that the property does not now vote, but not so great a misfortune to the world as to have the sex go out of their sphere and enter into political life…..
There is a great complaint made because justice is not done in compensating labor…But bear in mind that God has put the labor and the duty on men to support the families–wives and children….Is it then so very unjust that woman, who has no such responsibility, does not receive so high wages?
I lately took up a religious paper, in which no less than six “Female Colleges” were advertised and puffed. And we are getting our legislatures to charter new “Female Colleges,” and we are boasting how we are about to introduce all the studies and the curriculum of the colleges for men, and we are to put our daughters through them, and educate just as we do men. The thing can never be done. For forty years I have been connected with female seminaries, and have carefully watched their training and results. I say deliberately, that the female has mind enough, talent enough, to go through a complete college course, but her physical organization, as a general thing, will never admit of it. I think the great danger of our day is forcing the intellect of woman beyond what her physical organization will possibly bear. We want to put our daughters at school at six, and have their education completed at eighteen. A girl would feel mortified not to be through schooling by the time she reaches that age. In these years the poor thing has her brain crowded with history, grammar, arithmetic, geography, natural history, chemistry, physiology, botany, astronomy, rhetoric, natural and moral philosophy, metaphysics, French, often German, Latin, perhaps Greek, reading, spelling, committing poetry, writing compositions, drawing, painting, &c., ad infinitum. Then out of school hours, from three to six hours of severe toil at the piano. She must be on the strain all the school hours, study in the evening till her eyes ache, her brain whirls, her spine yields and gives way, and she comes through the process of education enervated, feeble, without courage or vigor, elasticity or strength. After a single summer’s exhausting study, let sickness strike such a school, and they sink and die most fearfully. Do those who are so strenuous to educate ladies as long and as severely as men must be educated for their sphere, know what mortality awaits so many after they are educated?…Give woman all the advantages and all the education which her organization, so tender and delicate, will bear; but don’t try to make the anemone into an oak, nor to turn the dove out to wrestle with storms and winds, under the idea that she may just as well be an eagle as a dove. We Americans belong to the Over-do family. We want to fish the brook dry if we fish at all. We mount hobbies easily because we are “spry;” and now that we have taken woman in hand, we are in danger of educating her into the grave; and taking her out of her own beautiful, honored sphere, and making her an hermaphrodite, instead of what God made her to be….
The root of the great error of our day is, that woman is to be made independent and self supporting — precisely what she never can be, because God never designed she should be. Her support, her dignity, her beauty, her honor, and happiness lie in her dependence as wife, mother, and daughter. Any other theory is rebellion against God’s law of the sexes, against marriage, which it assails in its fundamental principles, and against the family organization, the holiest thing that is left from Eden….
O Woman! Your worst enemy is he who scouts at marriage; who tries to flatter you with honeyed words about your rights…who would cruelly lift you out of your sphere, and try to reverse the very laws of God; who tries to make you believe that you will find independence, wealth, and renown in man’s sphere, when your only safety and happiness is in patiently, lovingly, and faithfully performing the duties and enacting the relations of your own sphere.
Women of my country! beloved and honored in your own sphere, can’t you see that man, rough, stern, cold, almost nerveless, was made to be the head of human society ; and woman, patient, quick, sensitive, loving, and gentle, is the heart of the world? where she may rule and move the world to an extent second to no human power, and where she becomes a blessing greater than we can ever acknowledge, because it is greater than we can measure !
Gail Hamilton, Women’s Wrongs (Ticknor & Fields, Boston: 1868)
In late issues of an able, if not the leading, religious newspaper of New England, appeared a series of articles from the pen of Dr. Todd, entitled “Women’s Rights.” The newspaper thus recommends them: “The principles advanced and urged with the author’s customary felicity of thought and expression are such, we think, as will meet the views of our readers.” The same articles have just been published in book or pamphlet form–I have not seen the republication–by a Boston house; and an able, if not the leading, secular newspaper of New England declares the book to be “full of good strong common-sense, which will commend it to the great majority of American women.” I have diligently examined the critical notices of the press, and have found this opinion echoed, East and West, with scarcely a dissenting voice. It is this essay to which I beg to call attention. The authority given it by its indorsers is my only apology for detaining the reader over assertions that are either baseless or purposeless, and arguments that have been a thousand times refuted….
“You have sewing-machines almost numberless, knitting-machines, washing, ironing, and churning machines; but I never heard of one that was the emanation of the female mind. Did you? I suppose this power was denied you, lest it should take you out of your most important sphere, as I shall show.”
“I suppose.” So, then, Dr. Todd’s revelation was fragmentary as well as that of St. Paul, who also was obliged to interpolate, “to the rest speak I, not the Lord.”
It might be said, if the question were of invention, that possibly one reason why women have never been inventors is, that they have never been artisans; but the matter is utterly irrelevant. Granted that women cannot invent; granted that the sparrow killed cock-robin;–what of it? What connection is there between power of invention and woman’s rights? Woman’s rights means, perhaps chiefly, the right of suffrage. Does Dr. Todd maintain that inventive power is necessary to the possession or the exercise of that right? Does he mean to say that no man shall vote for town-officers till he has invented a sewing-machine? Of all the inventions of our age,–steam and telegraphing and female non-applicants,–I never heard of one that was the emanation of Dr. Todd’s mind. Did you? Shall Dr. Todd therefore be disfranchised?
But, says Dr. Todd, with equal pertinence: “You cannot compete with men in a long course of mental labor. Your delicate organization never has and never can bear” (another happy grammatical touch) “the study by which you can become Newtons,” and so forth. No woman has ever stood by the side of Phidias or Homer, and the girl’s best training gives her less skill on the piano than her brother attains with no training at all.
Again, what of it? When Dr. Todd says so neatly, “And even in cooking and in millinery, as is well known, men must and do stand at the head of these occupations,” we may infer from their superior fitness that millinery and cooking ought to be given up to men,–a proposition in which I should heartily concur; when he asks, “Did you ever know a woman who could endure being a teacher till seventy-five, as men often do?” we may say under the rose, “and might in some cases till seventy-five thousand, for all the fatigue their teaching need cause them”; but how does it all stand connected with “women’s rights”? Do Newtons and Raphaels alone choose rulers and discern principles and pass judgment upon laws? How many Miltons and Canovas does Dr. Todd reckon in his congregation, and how cheerfully do the other members yield to them a political monopoly? If Dr. Todd should ever come to the conclusion that he cannot equal Shakespeare, will he at once propose to give up one third of his salary and his whole right of franchise?
“Delicate organization” is the alleged cause of this mental inability in woman,–”because her bodily organization cannot endure the pressure of continued and long labor as we can.” She has “a peculiar organization, requiring the most careful and gentle treatment.” How wide-spread is the evil which Dr. Todd deprecates? How many women in America are suffering from a mad endeavor to become Newtons and Raphaels, compared with the number who are straining every nerve, who are laboring to exhaustion, disease, and death, in the effort to earn their bread, to support helpless relatives, or, where there is not poverty, to do the every-day work of exacting households? How many female brains are exhausting themselves with a long course of severe mental labor, compared with the number that are destroying themselves by inaction? Dr. Todd is eager to snatch women from the gulf into which their strenuous intellectual work threatens to plunge them. He is painfully alive to the dangers that menace from Newton’s Principia and Paradise Lost. He prescribes the most careful and gentle treatment to save women from the fatal effect of music and metaphysics; but of any hurtful demand upon female strength from other sources he seems to be entirely unaware. He recognizes no peculiarity or delicacy in the female organization, which incapacitates a woman for sewing all day, or standing behind a counter all day, or spending all day for weeks and years in doing, not household work merely, but household drudgery, with no holiday or holi-hour, but such as neutralizes itself by bringing increased toil in its train. Yet it seems impossible he should not know that, for one woman diseased by excessive brain-work, there are one hundred diseased by excessive nerve and muscle work or mental idleness. He has “no difficulty in admitting that the mind of woman is equal to ours, nay, if you please, superior.” (This must be only one of Dr. Todd’s “nice and pretty things.” He cannot for a moment seriously harbor the suggestion that any female mind can really equal–ours!) It is her physical organization that stands in the way. His position then virtually is: The female mind is strong; the female body is weak: therefore the female mind must be spared, but the female body may be worked indefinitely……
“Woman’s chief end is to complete man.” True, just as much as God’s design in creating man was to make a clay model for woman. “She has a mission, …. to be the mother and the former of all the character of the human race. For the first most important earthly period of life the race is committed to her,–for about twelve years almost entirely. The human family is what she makes them.” Assertion may be met by assertion. The human race is committed to the father just as much as to the mother. The strongest force stamps character, whether it be that of father or mother. Often the good teachings of the mother are nullified by the bad example of the father. The child’s mind and heart are the offspring of his father as well as of his mother. A mother cannot make the family happy or prosperous without the help, or in spite of the hindrance, of the father, any more than the father can without her or in spite of her. There is no such dividing line between father and mother. Their duty is inextricably interwoven….
He labors under a chronic conviction that what women want is to be men. When they express a desire to be like men in respect to getting fair wages for work, he finds it a desire to wear–I borrow his own eloquence–pants. That is as near as he can get to the trouble of the time. He prepares and elaborate and formidable list of occupations,–trying up whales, cutting out tumors, stirring tan vats, bleeding calves, sticking swine, and many others equally æsthetic, –and felicitously adds, “Now she must go in for all this, if she leaves her sphere and tries to be a man.” “Take off the robes, and put on pants, and show the limbs, and grace and mystery is” (a minor grammatical felicity) “all gone. And yet, to be like a man, you must doff your own dress and put on ours.” “Dear sisters, you can’t be good wives, mothers, and crowns of your families, and go into these things,–can you?”
Why not? Wives and mothers in their recognized “sphere” are called on to perform many services no more agreeable to woman’s “refined,” and far more exhaustive to her “delicate organization,” than blacking boots….Through stress of need, men sometimes pursue uncongenial occupations, but women do it already. By becoming men they would lose nothing in that direction…
On the subject of voting, Dr. Todd comes out in force. “A great hue and cry is set up about the right of women to vote, and the cruelty of denying them this gift. Plainly this is merely a civil, and not a natural right. Minors, foreigners, and idiots are denied it.” A mere bagatelle. What are the women fretting about? They are no worse off than idiots. Can any reasonable being be discontented who is allowed to exercise all the rights of infants in arms? “It would seem best …. for those who, at any hazard or labor, earn the property, to select the rulers.” But there are thousands of women who earn property; therefore they shall not select rulers, according to Dr. Todd’s logic. Man “wants rulers in reference to the industry and business of his age. Let him select them.” Woman also wants rulers in reference to the business and industry of her age. Let her not select them. Dr. Todd says: “The wealth of the age is expended by woman,–earned by the man,–for the most part.” As I write, I see load after load of salt hay going by from the marshes. The men who made that hay rose at one o’clock in the morning, rode two, or three, or four miles to the marsh, and worked till night in cutting and curing it. But the women who stayed at home rose at the same hour, prepared the men’s breakfast, packed their dinner and lunch, and, in cooking, cleaning, making, and mending, worked just as long and just as hard as the men. The money for that hay will not be paid into their hands, but they earned it just as much as the men. Dr. Todd avows that men are indebted to their wives for their influence and character. But it is influence and character that determine income. “Being a widow or fatherless, is a misfortune.” (Not always.) “But the husband or father earned the property, and voted as long as he lived. It may be a misfortune that the property does not now vote, but not so great a misfortune to the world as to have the sex go out of their sphere and enter into political life.” The disputed point is, whether voting is woman’s sphere. You shall not vote, says Dr. Todd, because it is going out of your sphere! And this is the good, strong common-sense which is to commend itself to the great majority of American women!….
In his apocalyptic vision he sees women as queens, walking gracefully in waving robes, hearing only the most endearing words, receiving only such careful and gentle treatment as their refined organization requires, yet fired with an unaccountable desire to leave it all and rush to the slaughter-house to knock down oxen on their own account, and receive as much money for it, to spend on rings, as men receive to buy bread and butter for the whole family. He does not recognize—he at least makes no provision for—the thousands of women who have their own bread to earn, and often that of relatives. “The wolf is at the door,” cry these women. “We are starving in the house. Untie our hands that we may have a fairer chance at the foe!” “The house, the house,” cries Dr. Todd, “is the place for women. Wolf-fighting belongs to men. Woman’s delicate organization cannot endure so long as his,”—and goes back into his study.
He laments that, between the ages of six and eighteen, the poor thing has her brain crowded with history, grammar, and the rest. I affirm that if, between the ages of six and eighteen, a girl cannot get all those things into her brain without crowding it, she is a poor thing. A girl can go to school, pursue all the studies which Dr. Todd enumerates, except ad infinitum, know them,–not as well as a chemist knows chemistry, or a botanist botany, but as well as they are known by boys of her age and training, as well indeed as they are known by many college-taught men, enough at least to be a solace and resource to her,–then graduate before she is eighteen, and come out of school as healthy, as fresh, as eager as she went in, and never through her subsequent life know a week’s, scarcely a day’s illness. I know this, for I have seen it. Nature harmonizes body and mind in woman as well as in man. Aching eyes and whirling brain and yielding spine need no more attend intellectual activity in girls than in boys. Let a girl have a strong constitution, a vigorous body, and a sound mind, to begin with,–let her be taught to work, to play, to study, and not to dawdle,–let her have plenty of fresh air, wholesome food, early sleep, active out-door exercise, and healthful dress, all of which are compatible with a long intellectual course,–and she need fear nothing that seminaries or colleges have to offer. The reason why girls in school and out of school are puny, enervated, and exhausted is not that they are girls, but that they have inherited feeble constitutions, or they have been injured by improper food, improper dress, late hours, unnatural and unwholesome excitement, or they have been committed to unskillful and incompetent teachers; and among incompetent teachers I should certainly reckon those of Dr. Todd’s acquaintance…
Or is it that women are, by nature, education, or both, unfit to exercise the right of suffrage? This, if true, is pertinent and conclusive. I am not prepared to say that it is not true. Undoubtedly a very large number of women are by their education unfit to vote; but does the same standard of fitness apply to men? Are American women, as a class, more unfit to vote than Irishmen? Are they less capable of understanding issues involved, and of passing judgment upon measures proposed, than negroes who have been slaves for generations? And if their minds are so narrow that they cannot comprehend, and so feeble that they cannot entertain, national questions,–if they are so unable to control their impulses and conquer their prejudices that they cannot act wisely in national contingencies,–are they fit to be the wives and mothers, the companions and teachers, of those on whom thought and action devolve?
But whatever may be true of the masses of women, it will not be denied that there are individual women, and a good many of them, who are more fit to vote than the majority of voters. It will not be denied that the Mrs. Stowes, the Miss Mitchells, the Mary Lyons, the Mrs. Mills, the Madame de Staöls, are as able to form an intelligent opinion, even upon questions of finance and internal improvements, as the laborers who are digging in the canals, and the shoemakers pegging on their benches. If fitness is the standard, why is fitness excluded from, and unfitness admitted to, the polls?…
When it is argued that women should not vote because they are already sufficiently represented by their husbands, brothers, and sons, it may justly be replied that self-appointed representation is no representation at all. If women, with perfect freedom of choice, choose that these men shall vote for them, they may properly be said to be represented; but for man to usurp their vote, and then call himself their representative, is simply falsehood and tyranny….Female suffrage is opposed on the ground that it would disturb the harmony of families. That is, women must not be allowed to speak, because they will oppose men. This is tyranny pure and simple. It shows that the light parts on our maps are a delusion, and that we are still in barbarism….
“Her support, her dignity, her beauty, her honor and happiness, lie in her dependence as wife, mother, and daughter. …. The woman who, at this day, feels that to be the mother of living children is the first, highest…. lot, is worthy of all admiration and praise.” What gospel is this? Honor and dignity and happiness consist not in truth, integrity, self-sacrifice, self-command, benevolence, communion with God, and likeness to Christ, but in marriage and motherhood and housekeeping! Where is the warrant for such affirmation? Not surely in the words of the Master. Christ propounded no such doctrines. He had many and devoted friends among women. He spoke to women and of women in public and private. He gave them instruction, advice, and consolation. His tenderness towards them was so manly, so divine, that even now, dimly seen through lengthening years, imperfectly told in a strange tongue, it falls upon the heart like dew; but never a word he spake that the most perverse ingenuity could wrest to the support of this unregenerate theory. He never so branded woman with the mark of the beast. So far as his words have any bearing upon it, they bear against it. He looked upon woman, he treated woman, as a human being. Nothing that he ever said could be construed into a concession of her inferiority to man.