JANUARY 16, 1951
HYDE PARK, Monday—A reader in Washington, D.C., has sent me the following excerpt from The Economist, published in England, December 7, 1850. The title of the article is "A Woman's Place".
"It will be news to most Englishmen that there has for some years existed in America a convention or association for the assertion, extension and enforcement of the rights of womanhood, as those rights are understood by the members of that association...The American ladies claim for their sex equal eligibility to all professions and occupations, to medicine, the law, the church, and even to official business.
"Have they ever considered the incongruities which would result were they to share with men all these various departments?...Have these ladies ever asked themselves whether female nerves and female strength would be adequate to endure the severe application which the law, medicine, and the public service require for their votaries? Do they not know the intense labour demanded from the students of any of the learned professions—labour which often breaks down the constitution of the strongest men?
"How could they endure the horrors of the dissecting room, the intricacies of the statute book, the wearing toil of the official bureau? And what would become of their brothers, their parents, their children, while they were studying or practicing these absorbing and exhausting professions? Where would be the gentle amenities of home—the cheerfulness of the fireside circle—the well-regulated household—the orderly and happy family? Would the men have to perform their duties? No!
"Women have their sphere—a sacred—and indispensible—a noble one—a sphere in which they are unrivalled and cannot be replaced. It is not by leaving their own lines of eminence and elbowing men out of theirs, that they can hope either to amend their position or elevate their nature.
"They are first-rate mothers, wives, daughters, formers of their children's minds, soothers and counteractors of their husband's asperities, comforters for the wretched, Samaritans for the wounded and sick. And would they forfeit and exchange all this, to become incompetent surgeons—third-rate physicians—shallow lawyers—wordy, inconsiderate, and excitable Senators—hasty, impulsive, and discredited ministers of state?
"Those who would thus 'leave their sphere and rush into the skies' can have no adequate consciousness where their true strength and excellence reside."
How amusing this is to read so many years later when women have proved that they have the physical and nervous strength not only to study but to practice law and medicine and to take part in public service. Perhaps the home, with its gentle amenities, has suffered a little. But I have a feeling that there is a greater partnership between men and women than there was in those days a hundred years ago!