A Protest

by Mrs. T. P. Holman

(GOSPEL ADVOCATE, 17 November 1892)

I have just read the article on “Woman and her Work” in Gospel Advocate of October 13, and confess that I am moved to enter a most emphatic protest against some of the assertions contained therein.

They are something after this style: that men have ceased to attend church, the growing infidelity in the country, loose marriage, easy divorce laws, the indisposition of women to bear children, with all the attendant social impurity, the threatened extinction of a great race, the spread of Roman Catholicism, all these evils are brought about, or owe their existence to the fact that women sometimes preach or speak in public, or take pat in the public affairs of the country!

Poor woman! It would seem that she would have her hands full to bear the burden of and render an account for her own sins. But, if in addition, she has to render an account for all the sins men commit, she would as well give up the fight at once, for then is there no hope for her here or in the world to come.

I am not at this place discussing the right of women to speak in public, or take part in the public affairs of the country whenever, or wherever she is :“the best man that can be found for the place.” Advocate readers know where I stand on that subject, for I have not changed. But what I do protest against is, that when men fail to attend to their church duties, or sin in other respects, they should hide behind a womans skirt and say you are to blame because I have not done right.

The statistics given, in the article referred to on another page, of so large a number of families who do not attend church, and the much larger proportion of women than of men who do attend in some counties in Maine, could, I am sure, be duplicated in some counties in more than one Southern state. A gentleman who has canvassed our state selling Bibles, says, that he never saw a town in which so many heads of families were out of the church, as in our town of Fayettville. And in all the churches I ever attended in my life, more women than men belong to the church, and more women than men attended the church. But how the women who belong to the church, or attend the church, or any other women, are to blame because men do not belong to the church, or do not attend church, is something that passes my comprehension. Admitting that it is wrong for women to speak in public, and because they do this, men fail in their duties, men and not women would still be accountable for all mans sins of omission and commission. The Bible teaches that man is the head of the woman. And as such he should do what he could to help her, keep her in right paths. But should she stray, in spite of his best endeavors, he is under none the less obligation to keep his own walk and conversation under divine guidance. And when he fails to do so, he cannot get rid of the responsibility by saying, you did wrong first and therefore you are to blame because I did wrong.

One would conclude from reading the article that in the Northern and Western states, most, if not all the churches are headed by women, and that women take the lead in that section in public affairs in general, leaving men in the background. Whereas, I do not suppose there are one hundred churches out of the fifty or hundred thousand in the United States, who have women pastors, and the proportion of women to men, who take part in public affairs, is very small, even in the North and West.

The assumption that men will never attend associations of any kind manned by women, is wholly gratuitous. And our national W.C.T.U. conventions managed wholly by women and visitors outside of the women delegates there are quite as large audiences of men as women, who attend the mass-meetings of the conventions. The same is true of our state conventions, as I can safely testify, having attended them in many parts of the state. And the audiences are always as largely composed of men as of women.

He says, New England is becoming infidel because of this publicity of women. What of Infidel France. A hundred years ago when such a thing as “womans rights” was unheard of? The taking part in the public affairs of the country has as little to do with the infidelity of New England today as it had with the infidelity of France a hundred years ago. Easy divorce laws is another crime he lays at womans doors. Yet statistics show a hundred cases, I think I could safely say a thousand, of divorces sought because of drunkenness, adultery, and general bad treatment, where one is brought about by the desire of women to lead in public affairs.

Another evil brought about by this desire of women to take part in the public affairs of the country, he says, is the indisposition of women to bear children. Now I know personally of twenty women who do not believe in “womans rights,” who will not bear children or are indisposed to bear children because of their love of fashionable life, and their love of selfish ease and pleasure, where I know of one who believes in “womans rights,” in any shape, and refuses to bear children. And I am willing to leave it to any unprejudiced person in the land to say if this proportion does not hold good from Maine to California, and from the lakes to the gulf.

But all the sin of refusing to bear children does not rest on womans shoulders by any means. I know of one woman who sought a divorce from her husband because he had stood over her with a pistol, threatening to shoot her if she did not take drugs to bring about a miscarriage.

One of our county papers with a big circulation came out some years ago with an announcement that the girls who married the young men of a certain club in town would have no children. The papers are full of coarse jokes and caricatures about the young benedict walking the floor at midnight in scant raiment, trying to hush to sleep a squalling brat, and other like discouragements to his assuming the duties of paternity. The fashionable man of the day is quite as much opposed to having the care and expense of a family as is his fashionable wife. And the desire of women to lead in public has nothing to do with either.

But when I come to the assertion that the desire of women to lead in public has anything whatever to do with the prevalent social impurity of the day, I am dumb. The statement is so utterly unfounded and preposterous that I can find no words with which to refute it.

It is said that marriage is becoming less common than formerly. Perhaps because women are learning to be self-supporting and do not so often now as formerly, marry “for a living.” Perhaps because more men refuse to be burdened with the care and expense of a family. But how the taking part in public affairs by women has anything to do with this, or with any consequent social impurity would be hard to say.

I have always repudiated the idea that women possessed all the goodness in the world. But I am equally indisposed to have them shoulder the responsibility for all the bad.

He assumes that all these evil things are more prevalent in the Northern and Western states than in the Southern states. That in these same states more women take part in public affairs than in Southern states. Therefore these evils exist because women take part in public affairs. But where is his proof? Because both occur in the same locality? Let us see. There is much more infidelity and failure of men to attend church and loose marriages and easy divorce laws, and indisposition of women to bear children in the Northern and Western states, than in the Southern. In these states the proportion of well educated people is much larger than in the South. Therefore all these evils exist because people have been well educated. I submit to any logician that my logic is as good as his.

It would be more charitable and much nearer the truth I should think to say that women everywhere have seen the Lords work not done because there are not enough laborers in the field and in their desire for the advancement of his kingdom, have gone out to labor with their own hands, than to say that the work is not done because women have undertaken to do a part of it.

(e-text: JoAnne Toews)

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