Woman's Place and Work



This word of God, which comes echoing down to us from our long-lost Paradise, is the key-word to the whole enigma of woman's place aud work. It was uttered before temptation and sin had disordered human relations, before selfishness and transgression had blinded man to the natural rights of woman, before the curse had turned associations of joy into a source of bitterness and trial. It tells us what God intended woman to be, what he originally fitted her to be, what it is her true nature to be, what she would have been if the race had not fallen, what she will be in just the degree to which the race is restored. And if our highest glory in this earthly life is to be what God intended us to be, and to accomplish the work which he sent us into the world to do, it is certainly wise for woman to compare her own nature with tho divine descriptions of it, and strive to realize to the utmost the ideal of her character and work that exists in the mind of God.

What then was the Paradisaic state of woman? I answer: she was the "help meet of man," or as it is more accurately translated "a helper over against him,"—evidently signifying a helper suitable for him, corresponding to him, one like him in person, disposition, affection, united to him by the tenderest ties, always present before him to aid, sympathize, and comfort, and yet not the same but different, the counterpart, the complement, the converse of himself. And if you read onward a few verses, you find that, when God brings to man his new created companion and bestows her upon him in the bonds of the marriage covenant, Adam receives her, not as his slave, not as his fellow simply, but as a part of himself, giving her a name taken from his own name, and engaging to cleave unto her in a perpetual union of sympathy and affection. In these simple statements, we have the whole Scriptural doctrine of woman's proper and normal condition. And that doctrine may be summed up in three particulars: 1st, Equality with man in nature; 2ndly, Subordination to man in office; 3rdly, Union with man in life and work.

Let me make these throe particulars somewhat plainer. First, Woman is the equal of man in nature. She has the same humanity,— the same divine hand formed her. She is not the creature of man, but the creature of God, — and God set her over against man as his counterpart, his complement, his second self. The words "over against man," while they imply that she is not the same with man, but different from him, just as plainly imply that her nature is in no respect inferior to his. The equality between them is an

* A sermon preached in the First Baptist Church, Rochester, July 21, 1878, on the text, Genesis 2 :18 —" And the Lord God said: It is not good that tho man should be alone: I will make him an help meet for him."

equality of value, but not an equality of identity. Secondly, She is subordinate to man in office. She is to be helper, not principal. Therefore man has precedence in the order of creation,— woman is made of man, and to supply the felt need of man. The race, therefore, is called the race of man, not the race of woman. Man, superior not at all in his essential nature, has yet a superiority in office. His it is to subdue the world and govern it,—and woman's office is the subordinate one of being man's helper, man's furnisher, man's inspirer. But thirdly, This subordination of woman to man in office, works no degradation to her, but constitutes her truest glory. For, in her office of helper, she is no servant. She stands, not beneath, but side by side. Aye, she is one with him in life and work — her equal influence penetrating and pervading his — her soul possessing and appropriating all his joys and all his conquests. The two are one. They each give up personal preferences for the common weal. The personal liberty of the man is restrained as much as that of the woman,—neither can go where they like. The man serves the woman, as really as the woman serves the man,— there is no slavery, for when was it heard of that a master worked for the support of his slave, and not the slave for the support of his master? Man gives her his name and they are one in law thenceforth, not because of any trampling under foot of her rights, or annihilation of her personality, but because she is actually one with her husband, having her interests common with his. Woman was once in man as part of his very body,— and that original unity is shadowed forth in the oneness of their life and work.

There is a passage in the New Testament which throws great light upon the true character of this relation, and illustrates very perfectly every one of the three particulars we have been considering. It is found in the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians, where the apostle is speaking of the modesty and subordination proper to the female sex. What limitations must be put upon the literal interpretation of his command to the women of his day, I shall indicate presently. This passage is not affected by them. "Here I would have you know," he says, "that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." Observe how an analogy is drawn between the relation of man to woman, and the relation of God to Christ. Between God and Christ there is perfect equality in point of nature,— but, in his office of incarnate Redeemer and Savior, Christ was subordinate to the Father. Did this subordination of the Son destroy their union or the community of interest between them? Hear the Savior say: "I and my Father are one." So it is the lot of woman, that being equal to man in point of nature, she comes, after the example of the Son of God, to hold an office of subordination. Not to be ministered unto, but to minister, she comes,— in all manner of helpful service proving herself to be one with him, and in this humbling of herself finding herself most truly exalted.

You have seen that I have taken God's words with regard to woman before the fall, as the standard of appeal in our discussion of her true position. I do not consider that the curse pronounced upon woman has anything to do with determining her rightful place and work. Even if that curse were an arbitrary decree of God, as some so unjustly interpret it, it would be no business of ours to execute it. If the slave-holder's ancient but baseless notion that "Cursed be Canaan " referred to the negro race, what right did it give him to kidnap and enslave them? But none of God's curses are arbitrary decrees,— they are only prophecies of what will be, and must be, the natural results of sin. And when God uttered those words of doom to woman: "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be unto thy husband, and he shall rule over thee," this so-called curse was but the pitiful forewarning of a long course of tyranny and oppression, in which alienation from God should bring forth its natural fruits, and the female sex should find their pleading love and their longings for sympathy and their aspirations for better things met too often by imperious contempt and sensual degradations. In how many a land and age these predictions of the consequences of transgression have been verified! How often women have been bought and sold like cattle ; how often their very sex has been turned into a reproach and stigma; how often it has been even denied that they had souls! But this is not the sentence of Christianity or the Bible. These recognize often the existence of the customs of the day, and dissuade men from hasty attempts to break them up, lest the evil be greater than the good. So Paul exhorted the Romans to obey Nero instead of rising in insurrection, and commanded the Corinthian women not to violate the general sense of propriety in the community around them,— but these exhortations ceased to be binding when the circumstances which called them forth had changed. Both Christianity and the Bible bring in their train the enfranchisement of woman and the lifting of the curse. As the curse is only a prediction of the natural consequences of sin, wherever the gospel puts un end to men's supreme selfishness and love of power there woman escapes from her s1ate of slavish subjection, and is recognized as the equal and companion of man. The Hindu woman never dares to sit at the same bible with her lord, nor to walk by his side. Her husband and her sons must eat before her while she serves, and she must walk like a slave behind them. Even the Jewish Rabbins said, "No man ever salutes a woman," aud "He that teaches his daughter in the law is as one who plays the fool." Let the women of our day thank God for the Bible, and for what it has wrought. Who can doubt that it is to accomplish much more, not only in heathen, but in Christian lands, until woman reaches the height for which God made her, aud becomes in the noblest sense the equal and helper of man V The gospel of Christ is to abolish the curse at last, and we are to do our l>art in hastening its abolition.

With this view, it is our duty to recognize and put away all those relics of ancient injustice in our laws and manners which deprive woman of her jn tt consideration and of the just rewards of her labor. In all power there is a natural tendency to abuse, and there can be little doubt that man's power over woman has been often very shamefully aud injuriously exercised. It is often the case that the laws of a country are palpably unjust, simply because they reflect the manners and opinions of an age gone by. There are certain provisions in the laws of many of our states which unfairly deprive the wife or widow of the control of her property or her children. The public sentiment of the day, when once called to act upon these incongruities in our legislation, almost invariably rectifies them. There are other disabilities which women labor under with regard to education,— the highest facilities of culture have not been offered to them as freely as to men. There are occupations closed to them now, which might well be opened to them. Steam-working machinery has taken much work out of their hands, and nothing has yet been put in its place. The result is that the labor of women is confined too much to a narrow range, with all the disadvantages of immense competition within it. Now, in all these things, our human as well as our Christian feeling carries us with the advocates of reform. We thank them for bringing these things to our notice,— we bid them God-speed in their work,— we assure them of our sympathy and aid in every effort to secure to woman the possession of her own property and earnings, the development of her powers by the highest education, the opening to her of every field of labor or trust which she is fitted to occupy, whether it be literature or art, brokerage or medicine, teaching or book-keeping, and the right to the same wages which men receive for the same work. There can be little doubt that many women have peculiar gifts for work that hitherto has been interdicted to them. There are some, unbound by family ties, who may do the world more good by their public teaching, than they could do by confining themselves to the common work of women. Exceptional as these cases are, and repugnant to our tastes as their course,may sometimes be, we have no right to pass harsh judgment upon them, so long as they do not manifestly violate the rules of modesty and subordination laid down in the word of God. We may not yet know all that is in woman to do. Let us be willing to tolerate many a failure, and to look very kindly upon the experiments she makes, for only thus can many learn where their real strength lies and what is their true vocation. Let us be willing to accord to woman the fullest possible development of her powers, and the widest scope for their exercise, consistently with the nature and place that God has given her.

But while we acknowledge that the womanly nature is broader than has been supposed, and that it deserves the noblest opportunities for cultivation and use, are there no limits to its range? Has womankind the same place and work as man? May she rightly aspire, for example, to the same public and political life with man? Here we part company from the modern agitators of so-called woman's rights, and declare that nature, as well as the Bible, has proclaimed not only woman's equality of nature but her subordination in office. I say nature as well as the Bible has proclaimed this,—-and how? By the simple fact of sex — a fact seldom alluded to in addresses upon the platform, and difficult to treat in the pulpit, but a fact completely decisive of the whole question. It is too commonly assumed that woman ia but a sort of undeveloped and suppressed man. Sidney Smith once said that if boys and girls were educated alike, they would soon be indistinguishable from each other,— a sentiment which shows that wise and witty men can sometimes utter things not wise nor witty either. And John Stuart Mill, whose book on the Subjection of Women has been the great arsenal from which most of the late arguments for woman's suffrage have been drawn, treats the whole subject almost as if the distinction of sex did not exist, and had no influence of its own on character. Hence he ascribes the general condition of subordination, which has prevailed almost without exception from the beginning until now, simply to the law of the strongest, by which the earliest men, seeing the value of women as bond-maids, made them by force their slaves. So man, being the stronger, has put woman under his heel, and has kept her there ever since. Now we might urge that such an explanation of a universal fact from mere superiority of brute force, without taking into account the affinities that undoubtedly exist between the sexes, is far more incredible and unphilosophical than the Biblical explanation, according to which God made the woman by nature a helper, and brought her, in accordance with that nature, to the man,— who on his part longed for a companion. It forgets the fact that this subordination, with all its perversions and abuses on the part of man, has yet been no involuntary servitude, but a willing subjection, and the source of many of the purest joys of life to scores of generations. And for this office of subordination, whether they assent to it or not, women are fitted by their very constitution. Woman, in the first place, is of less stature and strength. If measured with man according to his own standard, she must be deemed inferior, for unless in intelligence and power of will she far excel him, this inferiority in physical strength makes her the second, not the first. Then, secondly, there is the natural and inborn attraction of the sexes — an attraction whose essence consists partly in the love of weakness for courage and strength, and the delight of manhood in the protection and upholding of that which clings to it for shelter and rest. If you could snap the cords of written law all over the globe,— if you could say to every woman; "Your hour of freedom has come — assert your right to absolute equality,"— you would find that, no long time after, society would return to its old ways; the man with his strength, going out to earn bread for the family, would, on his return, be saluted gladly as its head; and the wife would delight to serve him. It is the man who represents the principle of authority, and it is woman's nature to recognize and delight in it. The most high-spirited girl, however she may be educated to believe in exaggerated estimates of the rights of woman, no sooner falls in love and is married, than all her theories of absolute equality go to the winds, and in practice she finds herself, in her enthusiastic affection, putting herself of her own accord into subjection to her husband, "even as Sarah of old obeyed Abraham, calling him lord." And this will be so all the more, if the husband refrain from all acts of authority, and, instead of assuming the place of superiority, takes only what true affection gives him. As oil and water find their places, when mixed together, so it will be with every ingenuous wedded pair.

The conclusions of science, so far as they go, disprove the oft-repeated assertion that "the soul has no gender." These differences of sex are most essential and radical. They must, and in point of fact they do, wonderfully influence character, giving to man the place of force and authority — to the woman that of help and submission. But beyond all this, there are peculiar liabilities of woman, in her normal state, which necessarily prevent unremitting labor or public duties of any kind. As the greatest advocate of woman's equality with man himself confesses, "Out-door occupations would in any event be practically interdicted to the great majority of women." The great fault of his discussion, however, is, that woman's nature and woman's special work are studiously kept out of sight. The advocates of woman's rights .are too often silent with regard to that great function of women which constatutes their chief and most important care. A function with which the sex at large cannot dispense without being false to the end of their being and their mission in the world. There are times when, if they are true women, and live the normal and appointed life of women, they must give up outward labor,— must give up their preaching, if they are preachers; the practice or study of the professions, if they are engaged in these; the work of public offices, if they are employed there. Children must be born into the world, if the world is to go on,— and the best of women must be mothers, if the best of men are to fill our places of trust and power. There must be times of seclusion, even if they are allowed to enter upon public duties,— and then, whether they will or no, they must be dependent upon others. Man's life goes on in uninterrupted strength and activity. Theirs has its seasons of passivity and weakness. With this necessity upon them, they cannot compete with men in the more active callings of life,— or, if they sacrifice their motherhood and their womanhood to pursue them, they only lose the greater to gain the less. With this greatest and grandest of all human works, the bringing-forth and nurturing of men to bless the world, no other work of woman can be compared. Let her only point to a family of bright and happy and well-trained children, saying with the Roman matron, "These are my jewels,"— and she need envy no coronets of gems that glitter upon the heads of queens. Every theory which ignores the necessity and dignity of this work, or aims to put upon it the stamp of inferiority, not only proclaims itself, by that very act, futile and irrational, but tends to unsettle all right ideas of human relations and to disorganize and destroy society. They who would secure freedom from this work that God has laid upon them, with the idea that a public career is more noble, secure it only by denying their sex and putting contempt upon true womanhood. And the great accusation which we bring against the Woman's Rights movement is that, whether consciously or not, it proceeds upon the assumption that there is a higher life for woman than that of the family and the home, that there is no difference of obligation arising from sex, no subordination of woman's office and calling to that of men, in fine, no real womanhood as distinguished from manhood.

It has been the fancy of some that, as civilization lifted up the female sex, the differences of character and of occupation between woman and man might wholly disappear. Aside from the objection, which ought to count much with such persons, that if this were so there are a thousand rough and menial occupations which would fall to woman's share, and so her fancied advance be only a degradation, it may be said also that all experience shows a growing difference between the sexes, instead of a growing likeness, as civilization advances. The lower down you get in the scale of civilization, the smaller are the differences between the outward work of woman and man, and between his mind and hers. In Switzerland and Germany you may see any day hundreds of women digging and wheeling earth for railroad embankments. And, while the woman digs and plows in the fields, the man not unfrequently knits or cooks at home. The one is as rough and masculine as the other; they have nearly the same dress; you cannot tell one voice from the other, and they exchange works with little or no sense of impropriety. So it is in all rude and early stages of society. But, in an advanced civilizaI

tion, the differences of sex become more marked. Woman's voice becomes softer, her face and hands more delicate, her dress more elaborate, and with this outward change there is an inward change corresponding. There is the old progress of the married pair from homogeneity to heterogeneity, from likeness to difference. The idea that woman is to be more like man in the progress of civilization is all a delusion, since it is only in civilization that the more subtle characteristics of the sexes are made manifest. And the more woman is civilized, tho less she desires to be like man,— the less possible it is for her to be like man. Civilization and Christianity bring her up gradually, from her slavish subjection and oppression, to a place where her natural equality is recognized and respected,—but they will only make her more truly woman, not more nearly man. Her subordination of office will be more and more perfectly seen in the Christian humility and gentleness and endurance of her character, and in her indisposition to assume the place or do the work of man. In the very creation of mankind in the garden of beauty, undenled by the slimy track of the serpent as it was, God ordained the subordination of women and the differences of nature that make that subordination inevitable ; and it is the greatest heresy of modern radicalism to denounce as barbarism this divinely appointed relation of the sexes. Dr. Bushnell tells us that the Buddhist women of China, who believe that they existed as dogs and cats before they came into this world, and call their present despised condition as women by the name of the "bitterness," earnestly pray their god Buddha to grant them his favor, that in the next transmigratory state they may enter upon life in the position of men, and of men in good circumstances. Have we actually fallen upon a time when women so little value the dignity and privileges of womanhood, as to seek even in this life to be no longer women, but men? Napoleon said that the great need of France was good mothers. Is it possible that women can conceive that it lies nearer their true powers and duties to be good politicians?

I fear, too, the effect of these fundamental heresies upon the marriage bond. When yon look upon woman as only a second edition of man, you lose the true idea of marriage as the unity of two different personalities. Marriage is a very different thing from the union of two friends, or the partnership of two merchants. It is the bringing together of two halves, and the making of them one, of halves that greatly differ from each other. Man and woman are complements to each other, and the entire rounded being is only made up by the united life of the two. Therefore it is a union for life; and tho violation of faith on either side cuts at the very root of all morality. It is a union constituted by God, and dissoluble only by his haud in death. Now the moment you make woman to be man, forgetting that she is not identical with man but different, that moment you turn marriage into a partnership, which, like some other partnerships, has no binding obligations to it, any longer than both parties are satisfied with its continuance. It is no longer a union, but a confederation, as the rebels said of our national government, and so may be dissolved at will. Wrong views of the nature and position of women lead directly and logically to this result. And in practice, it is not so far away. We have a leading woman apostle of this movement declaring that "true marriage dwells in the sanctuary of the soul, beyond the cognizance or sanction of state or church," and intimating that unhappiness in the relation is a proper reason for seeking happiness elsewhere. I am pained to hear even John Stuart Mill saying that it is a pity not to give a woman who is the body-slave of a despot, the opportunity of trying her fortune twice. I am solicitous about the effect of the Woman's Rights agitation, not so much on account of the direct objects it seeks, as on acount of the false underlying principles which are assumed in it. We live in a time of such general migration, that the restraints of home and the care for established reputation are far too little thought of. Desertions of husbands by wives and wives by husbands, and divorces for trifling causes, have been destroying in the public mind the idea of the sanctity of marriage. And we must guard against the spread of any principles which will strengthen these evil tendencies of our day,— for the moment marriage becomes a mere partnership, womanhood is dead, and a death-blow is struck at public virtue.

And what shall we say to the claim to the suffrage which is made for woman? I am aware that many good men advocate the admission of women to the privilege of the ballot. But, while I desire to give to women the largest liberty and the widest influence which the best of the sex desire, I have most serious doubts whether both of these, as well as the interests of society, will not be compromised by conferring upon them the franchise. And that for the same reason that underlies all my former arguments, namely, that the putting of political power into the hands of women is not only contrary to any right theory of true womanhood, but contrary also to any right theory of the family. The power of rule seems to me to have been vested in the head of the family, that he may act for them, or rather that they may act through him. There is a shrinking from the publicity and collisions of politics, which seems a part of the nature of woman, aud to lie down deeper than the effects of education or circumstances. The law, that seems to some so faulty, has caught a glimpse of the fact that man and wife are one, and that the individual is not the true unit of civil society, but the family. If I am not mistaken, the whole argument for the suffrage rests upon the unconscious assumption that a woman is a man, instead of constituting in her normal relations a part of a higher unity — a unity in which she is a part and man is a part, but of which he, by virtue of his office, as man aud as head, is the proper representative. But even allowing that she is the same as man, does it follow that the possession of humanity gives a natural right to the ballot? Not so, for if this were true, all might vote,— the fact that one was a human being would determine the right to the franchise. But children do not vote; the sick and the absent do not vote; the criminal and the insane do not vote. Others vote as their representatives,— or rather, their interests are represented by those whom the state allows to vote. A whole half of the male population do not vote at all. Voting then is not a natural right, for government is representation, and only those vote to whom society thinks it for its best interests to grant the franchise. Women then have no right to the suffrage, simply on the ground that they are a part of humanity. If they have the privilege of voting, it must be because society thinks it for the interest of women themselves and for the interest of the State that they should vote, and so has actually conferred the privilege upon them.

When it comes to the question of expediency and advantage, also, the preponderance of argument is against it. Add to the pernicious effect upon the family of making the married pair two instead of one, the other dangers of destroying all the dignity and delicacy of womanhood in primary meetings and party caucuses,—add female corruption and intrigue, such as we have seen recent specimens of at Washington, to the already serious evils of our political situation,— intensify political bitterness and strife by that feeling of partizanship which belongs more to women than to men, — and I think we can see only evil in the measure. * It is said that the presence of women will refine and adorn our elections and public councils. But women are naturally not so much better than men,— the same publicity of life and mingling with the rude and boisterous crowd would after a time take the edge off from their manners and neutralize their influence. A great part of women's refining influence hitherto has been due to the fact that they have not been accustomed to a public life. Whether their purifying power could long withstand the corruptions of modern politics is more than doubtful. Besides all this, it seems to me that neither they nor the State at large need their votes. They do not need these votes to protect their own rights. Their husbands and brothers are ready to give these to them. They are not without representation. Those they love best are their representatives. To admit them to the franchise is to declare that men and women are two different classes upon the same level, whereas the truth is, these two classes are, both in theory and in practice, one. In the vote of the husband, the wife bears her part of silent and powerful influence,— in the votes of men, the whole class of women is represented also. When one of our late reformers said she did not care to vote, if she only might talk, she unconsciously and by accident gave the true solution of the whole matter. Woman's place is not that of direct political power, but of indirect influence through those who wield the power.

It has been common to scout the Bible, as antiquated and worn out, and to deny it any place in deciding upon the claims of modern philosophies aud reforms. But there is a constant surprise and gratitude to the Christian as he sees how the principles of Scripture, enunciated so many thousand years ago, are still applicable to these days in which we live, throwing the most vivid light upon human relations and setting before us most clearly the way of personal duty. I have aimed to make my treatment of this subject a simple application, to one of the most perplexing questions of our time, of the old truth of God. I may have failed to convince you, but I trust we have seen that while woman can claim equality with man in nature, she misses her true place aud work when she forgets that she is differeut from him, and in office subordinate to him. She gains most herself, aud does most for others, when she recognizes this divine order and accepts the place of man's helper, without aspiring to fill that of man himself.

The Woman's Rights Convention, which held its sessions in this city during the past week, adopted a series of resolutions among which I find the following: "Resolved, that as the duty of every individual is self-development, the lessons of self-sacrifice and obedience taught woman by the Christian church have been fatal, not only to her own highest interests, but through her have also dwarfed and degraded the race." And then come two others in which, if I do not misunderstand them, woman is urged to take reason instead of revelation for her guide, make the present life instead of the future the object of her care, and Bo escape from the subjugating influences of priestcraft and superstition. And yet all that woman has she owes to Christianity, and all that she has won has been won by the increasing power of this very gospel of self-sacrifice, which she is now called upon to reject. So fatuous and ruinous are counsels of those who prefer the light of an unsanctifled reason to that which streams from the word of God. I am glad that Frederick Douglass had the judgment to point out that selfdevelopment and self-sacrifice are not inconsistent with each other. The Convention passed these resolutions, but they do not express the sentiments of the true friends of woman, they do not express the sentiments of true women themselves. Self-development through self-sacrifice, this is not only the law of woman's being,— it is the law of all being — even that of the Son of God,— and, when woman forgets it, she casts away her crown. Her true place and work is that of man's helper. This she may be in the married state, and doubtless here her highest work and most lasting influence reside. But, whether she be married or not, she still may in a most true sense be man's helper. With many holy ministries of counsel, of admonition, of invitation, of example, she may elevate, refine, purify, society; she may relieve distress, and stimulate to noble achievement; she may point the young and the old alike to Jesus her Savior. And here, in this spiritual help, the glory of every true woman lies. She can speak, when others words would not be heard. She can reach depths of the soul by the tones of her voice, and the modesty of her demeanor, and the clearness of her faith, which men cannot reach. Oh, let these powers be used for Christ, in the family, in the Sabbath school, in the social circle, and many of you, my sisters, may have the joy of welcoming sinners to the kingdom of God. "With works such as these"—I quote from Adolph Monod's sermon on the Life of Woman—"with works such as these to do, are you jealous of still greater works reserved for others? Let me wake in you a holy jealousy,— let me lead you to appreciate the position in which God has placed you. Conform yourselves to his views, without a word of complaint or regret; and, putting away all ambitious views of change, cherish a joyful fidelity to your peculiar mission, and a heart which envies nothing but a more active charity and a more profound humility. Woman, in fine, whoever thou art and wherever thou art, take to thy heart this word: 'I will make for him an helpmeet,' and determine, without more delay, to justify the definition which God has given of thee!"