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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

And on their gossamer intellect sternly showers SCIENCE


Another truth, which seems to have been forgotten, and which needs to be newly revealed to this generation, is, that though manhood and womanhood are two distinct things, the humanity which underlies them is one and indivisible. We are told that God made man male and female, but we are first told that God made man in his own image. There is no distinction. Woman is made in God's image just as much as man; and it is just as wicked to deface that image in her as in him. It is defaced when her powers are crippled, and her organs enfeebled, whether it be by turning her toes under till they touch the heels, and then bandaging them so, or whether that process be enacted on her mind. If a boy should stand god-like erect, in native honor clad, so should a girl. She may not be as tall, but she may be as straight. The palm cannot turn into an oak, and has not the smallest desire to turn into an oak; but there is no reason why it should not be the best kind of a palm,--and in the deserts of this world a fruitful palm cheereth the heart of both God and man.

Read, in the light of these facts, a "sonnet" and its accompanying comments, which I chanced to find while looking over a twelve-year-old number of a magazine which stands among the first in America.

"The learned 'science-women' of the day, the 'deep, deep-blue stockings' of the time, are fairly hit off in the ensuing satirical sonnet:--

'I idolize the LADIES! They are fairies, That spiritualize this world of ours; From heavenly hot-beds most delightful flowers, Or choice cream-cheeses from celestial dairies, But learning, in its barbarous seminaries, Gives the dear creatures many wretched hours, And on their gossamer intellect sternly showers SCIENCE, with all its horrid accessaries. Now, seriously, the only things, I think, In which young ladies should instructed be, Are--stocking-mending, love, and cookery!-- Accomplishments that very soon will sink, Since Fluxions now, and Sanscrit conversation, Always form part of female education!'

"Something good in the way of inculcation may be educed from this rather biting sonnet. If woman so far forgets her 'mission,' as it is common to term it now-a-days, as to choose those accomplishments whose only recommendation is that they are 'the vogue,' in preference to acquisitions which will fit her to be a better wife and mother, she becomes a fair subject for the shafts of the satirical censor."

Leaving "gossamer intellects" to educe whatever of good in the way of inculcation may be found in this biting sonnet, and in the equally mordacious remarks of the mulierivorous commentator, let me refer to another paragraph in which popular opinion is crystallized. It is found in a book printed and published in London, and coming to me through several hands from the library of an English nobleman, but a book so atrocious in its sentiments, and so feeble in its expression, that I will not give the small impulse to its circulation which the mention of its name might impart: "In woman, weakness itself is the true charter of power; it is an absolute attraction, and by no means a defect; it is the mysterious tie between the sexes, a tie as irresistible as it is captivating, and begetting an influence peculiar to itself." This is the fancy sketch. One of our best writers has drawn the true portrait of such a woman: a woman "to be the idol of her school-boy son, to be remembered in his gray old age with a reverential tenderness as a glorified saint, but a woman also to drive that same son to desperation in actual life by her absorption in trifles, by her weak credulity,... by her inability to sympathize with his ambition, to enter into his difficulties, or to share in the faintest degree his aspirations."

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