Typos p. 65: Sacristry [= Sacristy]
The Matriarchal Myth Part I
Let us look at the facts first, leaving out of account those already considered in the two previous chapters.
The facts which are historical and beyond dispute are openly admitted by both sides.
Confronted by the evidence of history and the records of primitive as well as of highly civilized societies, everybody, feminist or anti feminist, is bound to acknowledge that, whatever the explanation may be, man has played a more leading, a vastly more distinguished, rôle than woman in the whole of that arduous and glorious struggle which has led humanity up from its more lowly ancestors to its present lofty station. And, in this matter, it is well to remember that the conclusion to be derived from the records of recent historical times among civilized people is in no way different from that which can be drawn from the picture of prehistoric times which we are able to reconstruct, more or less perfectly, by means of our study of primitive societies now existing, or only lately become extinct.
Thus, whether we choose to compare a catalogue of the outstanding male creators of European culture, from Hesiod or Thales to Kant, Darwin or Einstein, with a list of those females who, however grossly and sentimentally
To dwell on the recent historical period alone, let the reader, without any special study, just try to recall the names of those whom he associates with outstanding mastery, whether in political leadership, philosophy, science, architecture, music, the graphic arts, poetry, belles-lettres, or mechanical inventions during the last three thousand years in Europe alone. What will be the result? The result will necessarily be a long and closely packed list of men, beside which the small, insignificant contingent of women will appear almost pitiable. And this result will be obtained, not because the reader has displayed bias and deliberately omitted, or unintentionally forgotten, certain women's names, but because he will be quite unable to think of any substantial number of distinguished women even with very considerable effort.
Now, in order to form a picture of prehistoric cultures, and of the rôle of the male in societies of which we have no record, let him examine the life of those existing tribes or groups of savages which, from the accounts of travellers and field ethnographers, he may assume to present a fairly accurate picture of what we ourselves probably were, long before the dawn of the Egyptian, Babylonian or Hindu cultures. What will he find? Without exception, he will see man either as the leader, the director, the executive power, or (rarely) at least the adviser of the horde.
These facts cannot be disputed; but, as I have already said, they may be differently interpreted.
If we wish to support the Feminist view, we are faced by many difficulties which the Feminist can hardly be said to have met.
The greatest of these difficulties is this: if, among the most primitive human hordes it was a matter of indifference which sex was put to achieve a certain important object, or to perform a certain lofty function, how can we explain the preponderating influence and power of man in all societies, or almost all societies, that have ever existed?
Where the struggle for existence is keenest and hardest, this law will prevail over all others, and according to the usefulness of the superior man to his group in the hour of need, so that group will honour and if necessary humour him. That creature, therefore, man or women, who sees a way out of a difficulty, who can shoot straighter than the rest, who can track an enemy or make a weapon better than the rest, or who is able to read from obscure signs on the ground or elsewhere all kinds of useful information, is of the utmost value to the group among which he or she happens to be born. Nothing, no empty prejudice, can prevent that group from recognizing the signal ability he or she exhibits in any field, or from perceiving its utility.
Take, for instance, the power of tracking an enemy or a quarry, in which the Australian bushmen are said to display such marvellous talent that they can tell by looking at the entrance of a burrow whether the animal using it is at home or abroad. Referring to this power, to its importance to the tribe, and to the varying degrees in which it is exhibited by different men, Sir W. Baldwin Spencer and F. L. Gillen write as follows: "The difference is so marked that while an ordinary good tracker
Now here is obviously an example of the difference between mere talent or practical ability and genius. Can it be supposed that, where such genius manifests itself in a tribe, its utilitarian value could fail to be noticed or used, no matter in which sex it appeared?
Any quality that is of paramount importance to a primitive group or tribe, constitutes the creature who has it a coveted possession. And, in mankind's long and arduous struggle up from the beast to the philosophic type of recent history, all outstanding qualities of group value must necessarily have made their possessors important and directive spirits in the community. Here it is not even reasonable to plead artificial restraints. Men in a savage state know just as well as we do what suits their purpose best. And it is inconceivable that, if outstanding ability in all fields of human achievement had been habitually exhibited by the female, that the savage could have afforded to overlook it any more than modern society could afford to do so.
The theory that differences of rank and social distinction began with those slight or marked differences in ability which may be discerned between the members of any group in any clime is now generally accepted, and thus the office of chieftain is supposed to have evolved out of that early differentiation which superiority in any sphere establishes between an individual and his group, or between an individual and a group strange to him (the case of a chief or ruler who is an adventurer from a strange land). 2 Judging the matter merely from the
1 The Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 35.
2 This is usually the origin of the chiefs among the Khonds and among most of the Highland tribes of Central Asia, and it probably accounts for the traditions of Bochica among the Chilchos, Amulivaca among the Tamanacs, and Quetzalcoatl among the Mexicans.
It is a mistake to suppose that mere physical strength is any more the sole criterion of superiority in primitive societies than it is in our own. 1 It is also a mistake to believe that in savage tribes mere physical strength is used more often than it is in modern society to suppress other kinds of superiority. The savage is perfectly well aware of how dependent he is upon superior gifts unconnected with brute strength, and it is probable that in the majority of human societies, from the moment man became a weapon-making and weapon-using animal, from the moment the rudiments of science began to be developed whether in the chase, in battle, in navigation, shelter construction, healing, or the making of seacraft the possessors of physical strength alone became the servants and protectors, rather than the oppressors, of men showing peculiar abilities, whether such men were or were not vigorously endowed on the physical side.
This being so and the records of ethnographers lead us to believe that it is so it is inaccurate to suppose that the preponderating power of the male sex, the universal possession by the male sex of the executive in primitive and civilized societies, can be ascribed to the abuse of their physical strength at the cost of latent
1 See Sir James Frazer, The Magical Origin of Kings, p. 86: "The idea that the first king was simply the strongest and bravest of his tribe is one of those facile theories which the arm-chair philosopher concocts with his feet on the fender without taking the trouble to consult the facts." Sir James then proceeds to say that strength as the origin of temporal power is the exception rather than the rule.
The fact that the Icings and royal lines of many primitive societies have sprung from the ranks of the sorcerers and medicine men, ought to put us on our guard against assuming too readily that the genesis of social power is to be sought in the mere assertion of physical superiority. 1 And seeing that, at this stage of evolution, keenness of intelligence and the ability to use hitherto unknown weapons, devices, or stratagems, are likely to baffle very much more than the familiar display of muscular efficiency 2 hence the belief in a large number of communities both savage and civilized in America, Africa and elsewhere, that the first European invaders with their firearms, etc., were gods it seems fairly certain that no relative weakness of body can bar the way to power, if other outstanding qualities are exhibited.
For it must be remembered that by sorcerers, magic-workers, and medicine men in primitive societies, we are not to understand simply unashamed tricksters, who exploit for their own advantage the credulity of their fellows. The whole of primitive society, its order, its joie de vivre, its trust in the future, its most cherished traditions, are the particular care of this body of men.
1 Sir James Frazer (Op. cit., p. 87) emphatically states that "the public profession of magic has been one of the roads by which the ablest men have passed to the supreme power."
2 Cf. Sir James Frazer (Op. cit., p. 83): "At this stage of evolution the supreme power tends to fall into the hands of men of the keenest intelligence and the most unscrupulous character."
As Captain Pitt-Rivers says: "Generally speaking, magic and sorcery are in primitive societies the coercive and inhibiting agencies that support the power of the chiefs, enforce observance of tribal taboos, and maintain social and family relationships in accordance with traditional usage. This does not mean that magic supplies a coercive element for forcing men unwillingly into ways abhorrent to them. On the contrary, it supplies the necessary stimulus which naturally indolent humanity needs to induce it to act with vigour, enthusiasm, and unanimity in the direction it thoroughly approves of." 2
All those facile explanations of male supremacy, therefore, which concentrate upon the brutal and bullying side of man's nature, hardly accord with the facts; for although it is an easy matter to collect, as Herbert Spencer has done, much evidence to support the view that man in the primitive state uses his superior strength to exploit woman very much as more advanced societies
1 Cf. Captain George Pitt-Rivers (Problems in Mental Anthropology: Presidential address to Section F (Anthropology) Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, pp. 5067): "The idea that magic and sorcery can possibly perform a necessary social function seldom seems to occur to the white man, who, equipped with a very imperfect and superficial knowledge of the origin, development, and evolution of European culture, and with a host of preconceived notions, sits down in the midst of a native community for the purpose of 'protecting' it, giving it 'good laws,' or of 'teaching it morality.' Magic and sorcery are inextricably related to chieftainship, the power of the latter depending in a great measure upon the former." See also Captain Sir Richard Burton, Op. cit., Vol. II, p. 99: "Fetish is throughout the dark continent the strongest engine of government a moral policeman whose sudden removal would break up society."
2 Op. cit., p. 507. Elsewhere (p. 504) Pitt-Rivers says: "Tribal law and tribal morality is unwritten, and needs no police force or established Church to enforce it; yet it is more efficient and infinitely less often transgressed than European morality and laws are by Europeans."
Thus, if we examine the government and social organization of those societies, past and present, which exhibit a primitive state of development, we find that the chief, headman, sorcerer, magic-worker or priest, or the individual in whom all these men's offices are combined, is a man of special knowledge, experience and ability. Even when he cannot command obedience he commands respect because of his ability to advise and to direct his less gifted or less knowledgeable fellows in the routine of their lives. His knowledge may be agricultural, or it may be warlike. He may be the best builder of a hut, of a canoe, or a weapon, or he may be the best judge of the weather, or of the soil. He may know the best time to go out fishing, and the best conditions under which a successful haul may be expected. Speaking of the sorcerers and magic-workers, who display these various forms of ability, Sir James Frazer says: "They were the direct predecessors, not merely of our physicians and surgeons, but of our navigators and discoverers in every branch of science." 1
And, since the profession of sorcerer or magic-maker, at least in the higher stages of savagery, relieved those who were engaged in it from the need of earning their livelihood by hard manual toil, and gave them other coveted privileges, it was "one of the roads by which the ablest men have passed to the supreme power." 2
We must conceive the public profession of magic, therefore, as a means whereby the ablest men of the
1 Op. cit., p. 92.
2 Frazer, Op. cit., p. 87.
Now let us briefly pass in review some of the most characteristic of the tribal headsmen or chiefs and examine their functions.
Among the Eskimo, where there is no chief in the strict sense of the term, there is a sort of head-man called a "pimain" who, although his authority is limited, is generally consulted on all matters. He decides the proper time to shift the huts, and he may ask some men to go sealing and others to go deer-hunting. His name "pimain" means simply that he is the man "who knows everything best." 2
Speaking of the Iroquois, L. H. Morgan says: 3 "The celebrated orators, wise men, and military leaders of the Ho-de'-no-sau-nee are all to be found in the class of chiefs. One reason for this may exist in the organic provision which confined the duties of the sachems exclusively to the affairs of peace; and another may be that the office of chief was bestowed in reward of public services, thus casting it by necessity upon the men highest in capacity among them. In the life of those chiefs
1 See Sir James Frazer (Op. cit., p. 89): "So far as the public profession of magic affected the constitution of savage society it tended to place the control of affairs in the hands of the ablest men."
2 See Keane, Man Past and Present (1900), p. 361.
3 League of the Ho-De'-No-Sau-Nee or Iroquois (1851), p. 101.
Among the Mafulu Mountain people of British New Guinea, the predominance of a clan is due to the fact that its chief displays "superior ability, or courage, or force of character," or perhaps an exceptional "capacity for palavering" and presumably he is elected chief on the score of these gifts. 1
Major A. G. Leonard, speaking of the Kimaians of the Lower Niger, says: "The bulk of the people have their thinking done for them by their priests, doctors and diviners, who are de facto the active thinkers and thought leaders of their communities." Speaking of the election of a chief among these people, Major Leonard says: "I believe that Gabia's chief distinction was that he was the most successful hunter of wild pigs in the neighbourhood." 2
Among the Masai, the chieftain (ol oiboni) ruled by virtue of his prophetic gifts and his supernatural capacity for magic. 3 It is said by one of the acutest observers of these people that Mbatyans, the great father of the present ruling chiefs, not only effected real cures among his subjects, but that he also discovered a vaccine by which he cured a plague among their cattle. 4
Among the Mekeo Tribe of the St. Joseph River district, Pitt Rivers tells us 5 that, in addition to the two chiefs, (the head chief, lopia fäa, and the war chief, io lopia, or chief of spears), there were a number of departmental magical experts who superintended the arts of hunting, agriculture, building or war.
The Iroquois warrior chiefs, on the other hand, must
1 Robert W. Williamson, The Mafulu Mutu People, p. 88.
2 The Lower Niger and its Tribes, pp. 59 and 111.
3 M. Merker, Die Masai, p. 18. See also A. C. Hollis, The Masai, Introduction by Sir Charles Eliot, p. xviii.
4 Merker, Op. cit., pp. 2021.
5 Op. cit., p. 508.
Among the Maoris of New Zealand the native priest or Tohunga "was ever an important personage in a village community, and his influence was a far reaching activity." 3 His authority might be exercised in every department of the community's life, according to his particular knowledge or skill, and the word Tohunga denotes simply an expert, a skilled person, and not necessarily an expert or minister of any religion in our sense. "Thus every expert, such as an artisan, might be termed a tohunga." 4
Occasionally a woman acted as a tohunga, but never in the higher branches of the profession. 5
Herbert Spencer, who collected many facts of a similar kind, may conveniently be quoted here. After referring to the various tribes where no proper chieftainship is found, he points out that even where there is no organized government by authority, age and capacity or some recognized superiority in an individual will usually constitute him a person having more than the common share in forming the resolutions finally acted upon. Thus, in the Central American tribes, where frequent reunions are held in the council-house at night, "the people listen respectfully to the observations and decisions
1 See A. A. Goldenweiser (who lived among them), Early Civilization, p. 79.
2 See Sir W. Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen, Op. cit. This is also true of a large number of other tribes of the Bushmen of Africa, the Fuegians, the Rock Veddahs, the Dyaks of North Borneo, and many others.
3 Bulletin No. 10 of the Dominion Museum (New Zealand), Section I, p. 163.
5 Ibid. This agrees with Goldenweiser's conclusion (Op cit., p. 262) that "in religion woman is scarcely anywhere on a level with men."
Where chiefs exist, the most varied criteria of eligibility may be found, thus a Chinook chief depends for his position upon his ability to render service to his neighbours and the popularity which follows it. 2 The Ostyaks, on the other hand, expect their chief to be both wise and valiant. 3 With the Bedouins it is the fiercest, strongest and craftiest who obtains the mastery over his fellows, 4 while in some tribes, it is the bully who becomes chief. 5 The chief acknowledged by the Creeks is eminent only for his superior talents and political abilities, as is also the chief of the Comanches. 6
But there is no need to multiply examples. Enough has been said to dispose of the idea that no other qualities than physical strength can be the means of elevating either an individual or a group of men to administrative power in primitive societies, and when once this is acknowledged it is no longer possible to deny that if women had as often as, or more often than, men displayed gifts which elevated them above the rest of their group they could, despite their relative physical weakness, have occupied the position held by men in civilized or semi-civilized communities.
If this conclusion is wrong, then we have to suppose that, despite the obvious superiority of woman for the position of chieftain, ruler or head in all societies, or despite the equality of her endowments with those of men, the majority, or, as we shall show, the total number of known societies, civilized or uncivilized, have, in spite of the heavy pressure of the struggle for existence, deliberately sacrificed utility and expediency for some
1 Principles of Sociology, Ed. 1882, Vol. II, p. 313.
2 Ibid., p. 320. According to Mr. Mitchell-Hedges, whom I consulted personally on this point, this is also the criterion of eligibility among the Chucunaque.
3 Spencer, Op. cit., p. 320.
4 Ibid., p. 333.
5 Ibid., p. 334.
6 Ibid., p. 334.
Those who accept this fantastic conclusion are invited to examine it in the light of biology, anthropology, and sociology, and to decide how far they may be justified, in view of recent discoveries and the greater exactness and method of recent students of anthropology, in continuing to hold it.
Those who accept the evidence as it stands, however, will recognize that if it is possible for old men (the gerontocracy, experts in experience), magic-workers in all departments of human life (experts in agriculture, hunting, building, war, etc.), and born geniuses (experts in all problems demanding outstanding intellectual gifts) to rise to positions of power without the exercise of physical strength and old men certainly cannot be regarded as the strongest of a community and if it is true that the majority of chieftainships and kingships have developed out of the profession of magic, to which the best men of the tribe are drawn, 1 then the proof of the eligibility for administrative power must be the capacity of being useful to the community, the display of some efficiency or gift which commands respect and awe, and could not therefore have been associated with the male sex alone unless that sex had repeatedly given such proof. Those who arrive at this conclusion will therefore see that some factor other than physical strength, used for the repression of woman, has operated in man's favour, and that this other factor has been nothing else than the use and development of those advantages, physical 2 and spiritual which we found in
1 Cf. Frazer (Op. cit., p. 82): "The profession . . . draws into its ranks some of the ablest and most ambitious men of the tribe because it holds out to them a prospect of honour, wealth, power, such as hardly any other career could offer."
2 There is no contradiction here, because to use and develop a physical advantage does not necessarily mean that the object of such use and development is to achieve the repression or subjection of the weaker sex.
So far as primitive societies are concerned, therefore, it would be quite inaccurate to conclude that, because men are everywhere seen in the executive posts of tribal government, that therefore there has occurred a universal suppression or subjection of the weaker sex despite the latter's eminent qualifications for leadership and direction. And, since the conditions existing in primitive societies shed much useful light on our own past history, we are entitled to assume that no such suppression or subjection of women occurred among the remote ancestors of modern civilized peoples.
Regarding the historical period of civilized societies exactly the same may be said, and in my Woman: A Vindication (Chapter X) I have given the historical evidence which disposes of the view that there has been any such thing as a subjection of women, at least in England and France, from the very earliest times up to the present day. 1 I have no intention of repeating here what I have already said with sufficient elaboration elsewhere; but one or two further points, which have occurred to me since, may well be mentioned now, and considered as additional to the arguments and facts advanced in the tenth chapter of my Vindication.
The reply usually made by the Feminists, when confronted with the great disparity between the achievements of man and woman throughout the historical period, is that, owing to the subjection of women, the latter have never had the same opportunities as men.
When once this alleged subjection of women was shown to be illusory, and merely the creation of John Stuart Mill's imagination, the reply became worthless as a defence of woman, and an explanation of her relative incapacity. And as, in my previous work, I showed that
1 See particularly pp. 280296.
This should have been conclusive enough. But there is another department of life, where not only have the opportunities been equal, but where the conditions have been identical, and here the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of man's greater capacity. It occurred to me, after writing Woman: a Vindication, that in that department of mediæval life concerned with the production of illuminated manuscripts, in which both men and women worked under conditions of perfect equality, evidence might be found of that disparity in achievement, which I consider has characterized the sexes from the very dawn of human life.
Now I discovered that from the female religious bodies
1 See my references to women doctors, women scholars, women rulers of monasteries, women voters, women writers, business women and women administrators, throughout the Middle Ages and the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Chapter X, Woman: A Vindication).
2 Where cooking is still chiefly in the hands of women, and has been for centuries in England, not only is it execrably bad, but there is also the most universal use of poor food substitutes, cheap and nasty ready-prepared sauces, soups and pastry mixtures, all of which pander to woman's natural indolence, her lack of initiative, and her complete absence of resource.
Mr. J. H. Middleton, in his Illuminated MS. in Classical and Mediæval Times, 4 mentions Cornelia, wife of Gerard David of Bruges, as an able and famous illuminatress; 5 but Bradley, while he acknowledges that three examples of her work which we possess are very fine, adds that the figures in them are probably from designs by her husband. 6
Mr. Henry Martin, in his Les Peintres de Manuscrits et la Miniature en France 7 also mentions Bourgot, who, with her father, Jean le Noir, entered the service of the French King in 1358 as an "enlumineuse," but in another volume, Les Miniaturistes Français, 8 when speaking of Jean le Noir and his daughter, he says: "Mais il nous est resté aucune uvre qui puisse leur être attribuée avec certitude." 9
There are, of course, many references to minor women
1 Bradley, Op. cit., p. 87.
2 Ibid., p. 87.
3 Ibid., p. 88.
4 Cambridge, 1892.
5 P. 218.
6 Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 277.
7 Paris, 1909.
8 Paris, 1906.
9 Op. cit., p. 72.
Neither can it be said that the enormous amount of freedom enjoyed by the women of Greece and Rome, when their civilizations were declining, produced any female work of outstanding merit. For we hear of nothing remarkable either from Athens or Sparta (even Sappho, who belonged to another culture, cannot be said to have exerted a great influence on the world), and as for Rome, although many Roman women devoted themselves to philosophy and literature, there is no proof
1 The same is true of the history of portrait miniatures. Although we know that women have studied and practised this art ever since the sixteenth century, when we attempt to form a list of the outstanding masters in this branch of painting, we are compelled to pass over the women in order to record the achievements of such performers as Hans Holbein, Nicholas and Lawrence Hilliard, Isaac and Peter Oliver, John Hoskins, Samuel Cooper, Nicholas Dixon, Cosway, Andrew and Nathanial Plimer, George Engleheart, John Smart, Ozias Humphrey, William Hood, etc. Lecky (History of European Morals, Vol. II, p. 358) also called attention to music, as being one of those departments of human activity in which women have failed to obtain the first position, "for the cultivation of which their circumstances would appear most propitious." A. Huth, in The Employment of Women (London 1882), also writes (p. 28): "More women are educated for music than are men, yet there is no instance of a grand composer amongst women, much less a precocious untaught child like Mozart."
Besides there is this to be remembered by those who are prone to argue that the disparity between the achievements of the sexes is due to the subjection and repression of the female, and that is, the circumstances in which most of the outstanding feats of genius have been performed in this world. A review of the lives of great men would, I think, demonstrate to the most stubborn Feminist that the frequency with which greatness has been achieved in defiance of the most adverse circumstances, makes it impossible any longer to explain non-achievement or failure to the power of unfavourable ambient conditions. The proportion of men who have achieved greatness in spite of almost crushing initial difficulties, so far outnumbers the men who, like Darwin, Goethe, and Gibbon, had only the problems of their art of science to contend with, that to explain inferiority in performance by directing attention to the crushing weight of adverse external circumstances even if we admit that they always existed is to appeal only to the ignorant.
On the other hand, what we may undoubtedly gather from the records of the historical period is that, whenever and wherever there has occurred the decline of a civilization, through the degeneration of its male population, not only have women always been in the ascendant, but there has also occurred pari-passu with the gradual deterioration of the males, a corresponding increasing assertion of female influence, and a tendency to regard the sexes as equal.
It is as if the swan song of great civilizations were always intoned by soprano voices, and the gradual crescendo of these voices in our midst should, like the shriek of the locomotive entering a tunnel, warn us that there is probably a long and gloomy period of darkness
At the dawn of ancient Greek civilization, the inferiority of women was strongly asserted, and the existence of concubinage on a large scale shows the small amount of influence that even the best of the Homeric women could have had. Penelope, for instance, takes no exception to the fact that her husband Odysseus is the accepted lover of Calypso and Circe; illicit unions with women were not held to be dishonouring to either party. Women captives, even when they were of the royal line, were, moreover, treated with scanty consideration. 1 A woman was purchased from her father by her lover, and in Hesiod, who probably gives a truer picture of the position of women in the earliest days of Greece, a woman is counted with a horse or an ox. 2
Later on, in the historical period, better class virtuous women lived a life of perfect seclusion and accepted the common inferiority of womankind as part of the law of life. There was no social intercourse with men, and the women lived in a separate part of the house; but wives sat at their husband's boards and met their husband's friends. The class of women, however, that became more and more emancipated as time went on, were the hetairæ or courtesans, who, as their name implies, were much more the companions of men than were the respectable matrons. Some of these women lived in great splendour, and towards the end of Greek greatness, were the friends and equals of the philosophers. Socrates associated on equal terms with the courtesan Diotima, and Epicurus, over a hundred years later, had the courtesan Leontium among his most ardent disciples.
It was, therefore, in this class, that Greek Feminism took its root, and although we may gather from the marked difference between Xenophon's and Plutarch's description of the Greek wife, how much freer even the
1 See, for instance, the treatment extended to Cassandra or Andromache.
2 See Works and Days, 3735, 405, and 695705.
It is quite evident that, by the time Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusæ and Ecclesiazusæ were written, a woman question must already have arisen in ancient Greece, and that it was exercising the minds of the people. And seeing that, according to our most reliable information concerning the hetairæ, they bear the closest resemblance to the women who, in Euripides and Aristophanes, are represented as the leaders of the woman movement, we are led to believe that emancipation started with them.
The fact that they were the more educated class among the women is shown by Socrates' hint to Aristobulos that Aspasia will explain to him how to educate his young wife, 1 while in the Menexenus, Socrates again refers to the hetairæ as educators.
Ivo Bruns, who has produced an interesting treatise on the woman movement in Athens, 2 is of opinion that, while the hetairæ appear to have started and led the feministic agitation in Athens, it could hardly have progressed as triumphantly as it did, had not the men of the period co-operated with the courtesans in its promotion, and he reminds us of how eager the Athenians of the latter half of the fifth century were for any new theory or innovation. According to his view, the extremes to which the movement led are to be accounted for in this way. In the Ecclesiazusæ the family is dissolved and free love is instituted; and the fact that Plato, with his principle of the equality of the sexes, and his abolition of the family among his guardians, ultimately gave these ideas a philosophic form, shows that the philosophers were in this more the followers of their age than its leaders. 3
1 See Xenophon, Oikonomikos, III, 14.
2 See his Frauenemancipation in Athen, pp. 2021.
3 Ivo Bruns (Op. cit., p. 22) says that the date of Lysistrata (411 B.C.) makes it impossible for Plato to have been first, and Dr. J. Donaldson
For the fact that at the time when the power of the hetairæ was at its zenith, Hellenic civilization was proceeding headlong towards ruin is a matter of history. Quite apart from the evidence of this decline which we can find in the literature of the period, we can discern it in every feature of Athenian public life from the Peloponnesian War to the rule of the demagogues.
There is, in any case, a curious line in Aristophanes' Lysistrata, where Lysistrata, addressing the Athenian, says: "I'm of myself not badly off for brains, and often listening to my father's words and old men's talk, I've not been badly schooled," 1 which seems to show that the younger men of Lysistrata's generation (circa 411 B.C.) were at least sufficiently degenerate no longer to be capable of guiding or instructing their womenfolk. And when we behold the state of Athens of that day, with the demagogue Cleon only recently dead, with its State doles, its war profiteers, its rabid democracy, and its disastrous expedition to Sicily just fresh in the minds of all, we require no further proof of the degeneracy of the male population, and are not surprised to find that a woman movement was in full swing, and that the doctrine of the equality of the sexes was beginning to be taught as a principle of almost obvious validity.
The rest is well known. A brief period of anarchy preceded the ultimate fall of Athens in 404 B.C.; Sparta,
in his Woman, Her Position and Influence in Ancient Greece and Rome and Among the Early Christians, says that "it is probable that the Ecclesiazusæ, or Parliament of Women, was exhibited before Plato's Republic was written." Plato changed his mind in later years about the community of wives, but he still insisted on women being soldiers.
1 Translation by Benjamin Bickley Rogers (Loeb Classical Library), 11251127.
In Sparta, which was organized entirely on military lines and for military purposes, women were from the first regarded as essential contributors to the national stamina and martial spirit, and were therefore subjected to much the same discipline as the men. The girls, in common with the boys, underwent an arduous gymnastic training, and as the sexes practised gymnastics together, and the young women were allowed to appear almost nude, there naturally arose a freedom between the sexes which was in marked contrast to the seclusion of the Athenian women. And yet Spartan women were said to have had a high repute for chastity, and it would be a mistake to conclude, because Sparta was a large camp, in which the women co-operated with the men in realizing the national ideal, that therefore they were, at least in the heyday of Spartan prosperity, as emancipated as many have supposed. Although, as a nation of warriors, the men were necessarily bound to leave much of their home concerns in the hands of their women, there does not appear to have been a woman's movement in Sparta until complete degeneracy had set in, that is to say, in the third century B.C., and in Plutarch's life of Agis much light is thrown upon this latest development of Spartan life. It is true that, like all purely military States, Sparta probably suffered as much as we are suffering from a too narrowly limited ideal of manliness, and there can also be no doubt that Aristotle was right when he declared that the heavy losses in men and the consequent necessity of leaving property to women (because they were so often the sole heirs 1) ultimately led to a good deal of power being transferred to the female population. In the fourth century B.C., for instance, nearly half the land in Laconia was already owned by women. But the executive remained until the end in male hands. That
1 Politics, 1270a.
Far be it from me to suggest that the influence of women necessarily had any connection with the ultimate downfall of Greece. All I am intent upon showing is that the woman's movement, the increase of female power, and the rise of the doctrine of sex equality, coincided with the downfall of Athens and Sparta. This is enough for my purpose, as I am not nearly so certain about the lethal effect of female dominance as I am about the inevitable concurrence of such dominance with male degeneracy.
In Rome the history of women followed very much the same course as in Greece, except that in the Roman civilization the courtesan class did not play the same rôle as it did in the woman movement of Athens. From being wholly subjected to the authority of the head of the family, Roman women, whether they were wives or daughters, gradually acquired an independence, the growth of which followed closely upon the general decline in public discipline and virtue, till the repeated modification of the laws concerning their status and rights ended in their complete emancipation.
At first the daughter of the house was reckoned as no
1 See my Defence of Aristocracy, p. 323. See also J. Donaldson (Op. cit., pp. 34, 35).
2 An interesting story is told by Dr. J. Donaldson which entirely discredits the idea that Spartan women were always emancipated. "A person," writes the learned doctor, "was sent to try to persuade a Lacedæmonian woman to aid in some civil practice. 'When I was a girl,' she said, 'I was taught to obey my father, and I obeyed him, and when I became a wife, I obeyed my husband; if, therefore, you have anything just to urge, make it known to me first.'" (Op. cit., p. 32.)
At the time when Roman women were subject to this protection and custody, manners and morals were severe in the State. But it must not be supposed on that account that the women ever led the life of absolute seclusion which was the lot of Athenian wives. They appear, on the contrary, to have been very much more the companions of their husbands in public, and, in spite of this, for a very long period, to have maintained their reputation for virtue.
During the era of the Punic Wars and after, however (circa 264 to 146 B.C.), a marked change took place in the morals and manners of the Roman people. The old rigidity was relaxed, domestic ties were loosened, the old authority of the head of the family was undermined both by legislative and popular influence; and, by the time the Empire was established, Roman society was almost completely degraded. Pari passu with these changes, the former tutelage and dependence of the women had gradually vanished, and with the advent of the first Emperors, female emancipation had become an accepted fact. 1
1 See Edouard Laboulaye, Recherches sur la Condition Civile et Politique des Femmes, p. 68: "Dès le règne d'Auguste, les femmes et les fils en puissance furent-ils favourisés par la legislation, et ces grandes lois Julia et Papia,
It will be remembered that, at the height of the Second Punic War (215 B.C.), a law had been passed to restrict the extravagance of women and to limit their jewellery and wardrobes. And in 195 B.C., just before Cato set sail for his appointed province in Spain, it was proposed that this measure, known as the Oppian Law, should be abolished. Cato stoutly resisted the proposal and appears to have made an ungallant speech in defence of the law. 1 Now, during the negotiations which took place to decide this important issue, an extraordinary scene occurred in ancient Rome. The Roman matrons sallied forth en masse into the streets of the city, deliberately caused obstructions in every avenue leading to the Forum, and fiercely importuned their husbands, as they
qui fondèrent la monarchie dans les murs, furent en même temps celles qui agrandirent la capacité civile des enfants et des femmes aux dépens de l'antique constitution de la famille."
1 According to Livy's account of Cato's speech, on this occasion, the latter is supposed to have uttered among other sentiments, the following significant words: "If, Romans, every individual among us had made it a rule to maintain the prerogative and authority of a husband with respect to his own wife, we should have less trouble with the whole sex. But now our privileges, overpowered at home by female contumacy, are, even here in the Forum, spurned and trodden underfoot; and because we are unable to withstand each separately, we now dread their collective body. . . . Our ancestors thought it not proper that women should perform any, even private business, without a director; but that they should ever be under the control of parents, brothers, or husbands. We, it seems, suffer them now to interfere in the management of State affairs, and to introduce themselves into the Forum, into general assemblies, and into assemblies of electors." (Book XXXIV, 2. Translation by Cyrus Edmunds. Bohn.) Even if this argument be one which would have been used only in Livy's day (59 B.C. to A.D. 17) it is interesting as a comment on the relation of the sexes in the Rome of that period.
This picture of Roman life, about two hundred and fifty years before the advent of the first Emperor, is interesting as showing the immense power and independence enjoyed by Roman women before the final downfall of the Republic, and it should not surprise us, therefore, to hear that, by the time the Empire was established, their freedom was practically won.
At the time of Gaius, in the second century A.D., the tutelage of women was only an empty form, 2 and though vestiges of it are found under Diocletian towards the end of the third century, after that all trace of it entirely disappears.
True, female emancipation never advanced to the stage of giving women civic or political powers. This is also true of Greece. Short of that, however, woman certainly acquired absolute legal independence, and a
1 A similar demonstration occurred later, under the triumvirate of Octavianus, Anthony and Lepidus (circ. 40 B.C.), when the triumvirs passed a decree that 1,400 of the richest women in Rome should make an exact return of their means, so that a portion thereof might be used to defray the expenses of the war then going on. But the women, after energetic and persevering efforts in back-stair intrigue, finally approached the tribunal of the triumvirs, and succeeded in being let off with a comparatively small sum.
2 Laboulaye, Op. cit., p. 69.
Turning now to France, we find the century which brought an end to the monarchy and culminated in the horrors of the Revolution was a century not only of feminine emancipation, but also of feminine rule. As early as 1723 Madame Palatine, writing to her son Philippe d'Orleans, said: "I have resolved not to interfere. Between ourselves France has, to her detriment, been too long governed by women [Madame de Maintenon was meant]. I wish my example to be useful to my son, that he may let no woman lead him."
But the century continued as it had begun. As de Goncourt said, "in the eighteenth-century woman is the principle that governs, the reason that directs, the voice that commands," 2 and the power fell into the hands of one woman after another. First it was the Marquise de Prie, then it was Madame de Vintemille, followed by the Duchesse de Châteauroux, Madame de Pompadour, Madame du Barry, and finally Marie Antoinette. By the end of the century nemesis came, and when the confusion was at its highest, it was again the women who did most to accentuate its horrors. Even Mirabeau, who believed in sex equality, was revolted by
1 For the political influence of Roman women just before the Empire and after, see J. Donaldson (Op. cit., pp. 1224). Also Mommsen, History of Rome, English Translation, Vol. III, p. 122, and Vol. V, pp. 3923.
2 La Femme au XVIII Siècle, p. 372.
As Ostrogorski says, 2 "having flung themselves into the Revolution with an ardour and an enthusiasm not devoid of grandeur at the outset, they [the women] soon lost all balance, intellectual and moral. The Feminists themselves were disgusted in the end, if not by their excesses, at least by the habit into which they fell, of exciting the people, of remonstrating with the men in office, and of promoting disorder in the streets."
At last the Convention decreed (1793) the suppression of all female clubs and societies; subsequently it prohibited any public assembly of women; the female politician completely disappeared, and with the advent of Napoleon a fresh manly era was inaugurated.
The important conclusions to be drawn from the above facts are first, that there appears to be a close relation between the emancipation of, or the increase of power among, women, and the decline of a civilization; and, secondly, that the rise of female power does nothing and can do nothing to check or cure the vices in a civilization which are contributing to its downfall. Least of all can the rise of female power lead to the production of anything great by women, or bring about the only condition which can restore health to a people's institutions, namely, a regeneration of its manhood. Greece and Rome never recovered, and France had the good fortune to be saved by a genius, who was a stranger in the nation, and whose virile lead alone restored the vigour of her male population.
1 See his Lettres d'un Bourgeois de New Haven à un Citoyen de Virginie. (uvres. Paris, 1804, Vol. XII, Letter II, p. 20.) "N'est-ce pas en qualité d'êtres capables de raison, ayant des idées morales, que les hommes ont des droits? Les femmes doivent done avoir absolument les mêmes, et cependant jamais, dans aucune constitution appelée libre, les femmes n'ont exercé le droit de citoyens." He then proceeds to plead what the suffragettes pleaded so earnestly, that there should be no payment of taxes without the right of voting.
2 The Rights of Women, p. 29.