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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

Than the highest female attainments could do


There seems to lurk in the masculine breast an unmanly fear lest the development of the female mind should be fatal to the superiority of the male mind. But a superiority which must prolong its existence by the enforcement of ignorance is of a very ignoble sort. If, to preserve his relative position, man must, by persuasion or by law, forbid to women opportunities for education and a field for action, together with moral support in obtaining the one and contesting in the other, he pays to the female mind a greater compliment, and heaps upon his own character a greater reproach, than the highest female attainments could do. He shows that he dares not risk a fair trial. If she cannot rival him, the sooner she makes the attempt, and incurs the failure, the sooner will she revert to her old position, and the sooner will peace be restored. The very discouragement by which man surrounds her shows that he does not believe in the original and inherent necessity of her present position. If this counsel be of women merely, it will come to naught of itself. You need not bring up so much rhetoric against it. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

There is another fear, equally honest, but more honorable, or rather less dishonorable. There is a belief, apparently, that the womanly character somehow needs the restraints of existing customs. It is feared that a sudden rush of science to the female brain would produce asphyxia in the female heart. It is feared that the study of philosophy, the higher mathematics, and the ancient languages would unsex women,--would destroy the gentleness, the tenderness, the softness, the yieldingness, the sweet and endearing qualities which traditionally belong to them. They would lose all the graces of their sex, and become, say men, as one of us.

From such a fate, good Lord! deliver us. I agree most heartily with men in the opinion, that no calamity could be more fatal to woman than a growing likeness to men; but no cloud so big as the smallest baby's smallest finger-nail portends it. Healthy development never can produce unhealthy results. Nature is never at war with herself. The good and wise and all-powerful Creator never created a faculty to be destroyed, a faculty whose utmost cultivation, if harmonious and not discordant, should be injurious. He made all things beautiful and beneficial in their proper places. It is only arbitrary contraction and expansion that produce mischief. It is the neglect of one thing and the undue prominence given to another that destroys symmetry and causes disaster.

There has been so little experiment made in female education, that we must reason somewhat abstractly; yet we are not left, even in this early stage, without witnesses.

On the 26th of May, 1863, died Mrs. O. W. Hitchcock, wife of one of the Presidents of Amherst College. A writer, who professes to have known her well, gives the following account of her:--


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