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vi.] FEMININE VIRTUE. 1F7
necessary for checking, in the public interest, the number of births. Probably the majority of strongminded ladies, and their sympathizers, would not commit themselves to this view. But certain it is that by them all, or well-nigh all, the old concep- ,V tion of matrimony, where the woman takes the v. v.. man "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, V''"" in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and obey, until death do part them," is regarded as servile and odious. Now, here the main question
is, Would it harm distinctive womanhood if chas
i"*" 'i tity were considered as of no more consequence in ^
woman than in man? How can we doubt that it v' would? From a purely ethical point of view the pravity of incontinence may bo equal in both sexes; but chastity is woman's special and distinc- 7tive virtue, just as courage is man's. To this truth, language itself bears significant testimony. If we say of a woman that she has lost her virtue, we mean that she has made shipwreck of that one excellence which is the keystone of her moral character, on which all her worth depends, and which, when once destroyed, can never be recovered; "loesa pudicitia est nulla reparabilis artc." It would be absurd to use the phrase of afjK*" , man who had indulged in illicit sexual intercourse. A like fault in him does not sap the citadel of his f moral being, and "ruining overthrow" his selfrespect, and his claim to the respect of others. The spiritual difference is enormous between the
consequences of unchastity in the two sexes. The physical difference is the counterpart of it. To enlarge upon what is so abundantly manifest is not necessary. Nor would it serve any useful purpose to point the moral taught by the distinctive characteristics of the female organism. Nothing is easier than to close the eyes of the understanding. Nothing is harder than to induce the voluntarily blind to come out of "their own private darkness." Argument is thrown away upon strongminded ladies who refuse to read the most obvious lessons of their own corporal constitution. It is precisely because "Nature's own sweet and cunning hand" has framed woman as it has, that marriage is a much graver matter to her than to man. A young girl sacrifices to her husband her maidenly modesty, her physical purity. Matrimony is the union of two distinct personalities, and is fraught with momentous consequences to both: but to the woman they are far more momentous. "Ello met dans l'association une mise disproportionec, enorme, en comparaison de celle de l'homme. Elle s'y met toute et sans retour. La plus simple comprend bien que tout changement est contre elle: qu'en changeant elle baisse tres vite: que du premier homme au second elle perd deja cent pour cent. Et qu'est ce done au troisieme? que sera-ce au dixieme? helas 1" * So Michelet, with equal * I1 Amour, p. 32.
beauty and truth. Hence it is, that an utterly indissoluble union, a "consortium omnis vitaB," is the only true guarantee of woman's wifely dignity, and the first of her rights. The most flagrant wrong inflicted upon her in England, during the present century, is the establishment of the Divorce Court.
It remains to speak of the co-education of the two sexes, so loudly demanded by the advocates of Woman's Rights, from Miss Wollstonecraft's days to our own. I say, then, that the best education for woman is that which best fits her intellectually and physically for her work in the world. Is such to be found in co-education with man? It appears to me on the contrary, that in woman's education, distinctive womanhood should ever be kept in view. There is a profound saying of Hegel that the difference between man and woman is something like that between an animal and a plant: "Woman is quietly unfolded." And I cannot doubt that this unfolding takes place best in the calm atmosphere . _ of the_home, or of a religious house. Lord Tenny- * son, in a line no less beautiful than hackneyed, speaks of woman's mission as being to
"set herself to man
Woman is the perpetual priestess of the ideal. And
those studies arc best for her girlhood that best fit her for this function; at once educing and disciplining the emotional, the poetic element which is the foundation of her sexual character. I do not know who has written on this theme with more I practical wisdom, or greater delicacy of feeling, [than Fenelon in his book, IS Education des Filles, that treasure of wisdom and knowledge, in every line of which is reflected the beautiful soul of the writer; the noblest treatise on the subject, as I judge, ever given to the world. I do not say that after the lapse of a century and a half it is wholly sufficient for actual guidance. But its main principle is as true now as it was then: that woman's work should be done in woman's way, and that her educational training should be womanly, not manly.
And there is another side to this subject, a physiological side, which we cannot neglect under penalties. If we are to speak of it to any purpose, we must speak plainty. And that I shall take leave to do. Now assuredly, not the least important of Woman's Rights is that her physical development should not be marred; that her qualification for maternity should, as far as possible, be assured. How does co-education affect this right? Hero we are not left to the guidance of speculation or conjecture. In the United States of America the experiment of co-education, which means in pracvi.] THE PROTEST OF PHYSIOLOGY. 181
tice, and cannot well keep from meaning, identical education, has been tried on a large scale; and there is a very strong consensus of medical testimony as to its disastrous results. There can be ^ no doubt that it is the fruitful source of a too well known class of uterine diseases, and of their inevitable concomitants, hysteria, anemia, neuralgia. From a great cloud of witnesses who might be adduced to this effect, I will select one, Dr. Clarke, of Boston, who in his striking work, Sex in Education, brands the American system as "a crime before God and humanity that physiology protests against, and that science weeps over." "The growth of the peculiar and marvellous apparatus," this very competent authority observes, "in the perfect development of which humanity has so large an interest, occurs during the first few years of a girl's educational life. No such extraordinary task, calling for such rapid expenditure of force, building up such delicate and extensive mechanism within the organism—a house within a house, an engine within an engine — is imposed upon the male physique at the same epoch The importance of having our methods of female education recognize this peculiar demand for growth, and of adjusting themselves to it .... cannot be overestimated There have been instances, and
I have seen such, of females in whom the special mechanism I am speaking of remained germinal,