Rights of Married Women

If the thing we call marriage had not become so palpable a matter of trade or vanity, so wholly reduced from its Divine light to the base level of the senses, we should never have heard of the “Rights of Married women,” which hints of that untold tale of the Wrongs of Married women.

Woman has lost her individuality, in the marriage relation, she is no longer a living soul self-centred, and responsible in a straight line to her God, but at best is Mr. Blank's wife, under whose protection she has only a secondary and limited personality, where the very kindness which is offered her by the public, is an insult. The cares of government, the managing of business, the mysteries of societies for several large, but alas unknown objects, are very tenderly withheld from her, and indeed she can well spare them, were it not that there is a covert degradation in the rejection of her.

A self-complacent arrogating of all practical wisdom to the stouter sex, is neither good sense or justice. We have felt a slight curl of the derisive lip in spite of ourself, to hear a maudling lump of conceit, whose imbecility was only equalled by his vanity, prate about the inferiority of the feminine intellect in the abstruser walks of business and thought; and our mind turned proudly to those noble women whose great souls have soared out before us, strong without grossness, doing heroic works, and women still.

Masculine and feminine are not simply temporal distinctions, belonging to the body alone, they are elementary and spiritual, running through all organic nature, and to the very soul itself. Each without the other is fragment, which can never make full harmony till blended. Man was not man till woman was created, nor the woman Woman till he was made. Their creation is simultaneous in time, their souls co-existent in eternity.—But here as everywhere, there must be wholeness of parts before a harmonious whole can be expected. Man and woman are two in form that the twain might grow the more perfectly in the electric pulses of each other.

Somewhere in their destiny, the fact of Marriage exists and must be overtaken, but it is not to be sought or resisted. The same laws which govern the stars in their orbits, and draw drop to drop in the dewey hearts of flowers, will rule in obedient hearts, and draw them into one. But we deal now with the fact as it is found, not with the methods of union.

Man , the husband of woman, is not therefore lord of woman, has no more authority over her, than woman, the wife of man, has therefore over him. The relation is equal and reciprocal. If Paul says the man is the head of the woman as Christ is the head of the Church, and believes that Christ is absolute lawgiver, higher than all appeal, and hence that man bears the same relation to woman, Paul must answer that to the whole rebel heart of Humanity, for all deny it is fact; and if he didn't mean so, let him step out of the controversy till it is known precisely what he did mean.

God made woman, a living soul, and in no block-lettered records of antique ages wrote the charter of her rights, but here and there, wherever she may be, inscribed it in the nature which she bears. The rights of soul are infinite expansion for all, and a free field for each particular individuality. One mould is not made for all. When a kind is perfect, Nature makes no more of that sort but suffers it to die out. Of all her innumerable productions it will be found she has never quite repeated herself. Indeed the very end of organism is to produce diversity, so that no person's destiny is fulfilled in moulding it by another's, or by any outward law.

When God made man he gave him a new and particular nature, which never could be fulfilled by shaping him to the law of any existing being. When he made varieties in men, he made them for the same end, to develop a new nature,—to modify the old, not to copy it. When he made woman, he gave her yet unimagined peculiarities of being, and they demand unchecked freedom to develop them. To shape her by man's law, or by any other than the internal law of her own nature, is to do violence to her being, and subvert the prime intention of nature.

We have no right to measure her duties or rights, by those of any created intelligence—she is her own measure, and just that which she can do, (restricted by the same requirement of not interfering with the natural rights of others which all are) she has a right to do. It is fool's work to say, because she is not man she may not do as man does. So far as their powers and inclinations are in the same line she is man, and their rights and duties are identical, and in everything they are at least analogous. So far as she can create a new field of endeavor and hope, she has new rights, and if at last she can do a work that no man can do, it shall offset anything of his that surpasses her. Their rights are equal, yet not of course identical, for the only measure of any one's rights is his capacity, and is summed up in one word, the right to be whole.

How vain to deny a woman's right to govern—if man has one— while we see that she can rule with all the dexterity and firmness which man shows. How idle to deny her right to use speech in assemblies, when it is found that her eloquence is deep and refined, and not a womanly trait of her most fine nature is compromised by it. Doubtless she would prove as much better moral teacher than man , as she is more successful in the early culture of youth, for her instincts are far surer than his, and while he is tangled in wordy details of metaphysical science, her surer heart leaps to the fact with an instinctive foresight—and if she may not tell you of the path, the truth arrived at may be trusted with a faith that we would scarce give to produce of wisest logic.

Man forgets his essential identity with woman, when he attempts to lower her nature into submission. He is blindly plucking the stars from his own crown, and degrading the wide soul of Humanity. Can men be free and woman slaves? nay verily. As well might the right eye be plucked out and sight be unimpaired. Man and woman are one, and the elevation of their twain parts is necessary to the elevation of the whole, and the depression of one is the loss of both. When this great fact, of their unity in diversity, is remembered in all life, the minutia of their rights will arrange them- selves. Spendthrift husbands will not be suffered to waste the possessions of a woman, nor a woman be compelled to bend to the passions of a legal spoiler. Law will find no place in adjusting the marriage bond,—which can be only love and affinity,—nor shall the terror of the world's scorn bind the outraged wife to the wretch who wrongs her.

If men and women cannot walk the world as equal friends let them sever as avowed foes, or each for his own or herself live a life of heroic isolation in calm self-reliance. It were better than submission . Even downright resistance, gross and false as it is, is more noble than weak succumbing to another's will.—Away with the base admission of the old lie of inferiority; away with submitting and servility, and instead let every soul study its nature and its wants, and calmly demand right food for them, throwing off all obstructions in the right of its acquisition.

No relation is true that makes one soul subservient to another, none is true which does not rather tend to the elevation and equalization of both parties. The same lie which reveals itself in slavery, is at bottom of our marriage institution,—the governing of one nature to its loss by the will of another, and they must both pass under the renovating hand, now that they have been bared to the marching eye of this Age.

An Iindignant Factory Girl

Lynn Pioneer, reprinted in Voice of Industry, August 14, 1847


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