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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

It is the supremacy of mere position


It

only needs to trust nature! Learn that women crave to pay homage as strongly as men crave to receive it. The higher women rise the more eagerly will they turn to somewhat higher. It cannot be sweeter for a man to be looked up to than it is for a woman to look up to him. Never can you raise women to such an altitude that they will find their pride and pleasure in looking down. Women want men to be masters quite as much as men themselves wish it; but they want them first to be worthy of it. Women never rebel against the authority of goodness, of superiority, but against the tyranny of obstinacy, ignorance, heartlessness. The supremacy which a husband holds by virtue of his character is a wife's boon and blessing, and she suns herself in it and is filled with an unspeakable content. It is the supremacy of mere position, the supremacy of inferiority, that galls and irritates; that breaks out in conventions and resolutions and remonstrances, in suicide and insanity and crime. "The women now-a-days are playing the devil all round," I heard a man say not long ago, in speaking of a woman hitherto respectable, who had left husband and children and eloped with some unknown adventurer. And I said in my heart, "I am glad of it. Men have been playing the devil single-handed long enough, I am glad women are taking it up. _Similia similibus curantur_." Things must, to be sure, be in a very dreadful condition to require such "heroic treatment," but things are in a very dreadful condition, and
if men will not amend them out of love of justice and right and purity, I do not see any other way than that they must be forced to do it out of a selfish regard to their own household comfort. Let my people go, that they may serve me, was the word of the Lord to Pharaoh, but Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go. Not until there was no longer in Egypt a house in which there was not one dead did the required emancipation come. Then with a great cry of horror and dread were the children of Israel sent out as the Lord their God commanded. Let my people go, that they may serve me, seems the Lord to have been saying these many years to the taskmasters of America; but who is the Lord, the taskmasters have cried, that we should obey his voice to let Israel go? We know not the Lord, neither will we let Israel go. Now on summer fields red with blood, through the terrible voice of the cannonade bearing its summons of death, we are learning in anguish and tears who is the Lord; and if men choose not to do justly and love mercy and walk softly with women, it is according to analogy that women shall become to them the scourge of God. The very charities, the tendernesses, the blessing and beneficent qualities against which they have sinned shall become thongs to lash and scorpions to sting,--and all the people shall say amen!

I am so far from being surprised when women occasionally run away from their husbands, that I rather marvel that there is not a hegira of women; that our streets and lanes are not choked up with fugitives. I do not believe in women's leaving their husbands to live with other men; it is infamy and it is folly: but I do believe most profoundly in women's leaving their husbands. It may be their right and their duty. I think there is not the smallest danger in the state's putting all possible power of this nature into the hands of women; because a woman's nature is such that she will never exercise this power till she has borne to the utmost, cruelty, malignity, or indifference; and, in point of morality, indifference is just as good ground for separation as cruelty. Love is the sole morality of marriage, and a marriage to which love has never come, or from which it has departed, is immorality, and a woman cannot continue in it without continually incurring stain. I do not think she has a right to marry again; not even a legal divorce justifies a second marriage; but she has a right to withdraw from the man who imbrutes her. If the law does not justify such action, she is right in taking the matter into her own hands. There is no power on earth that can make a woman live with a man, if she chooses not to live with him, and has a will strong enough to bear out her choice; and when she finds that she ministers only to his selfishness, when she discovers that her marriage is no marriage at all, but an alliance offensive to all delicacy and opposed to all improvement, she is not only justified in discontinuing it, but she is not justified in continuing it. The position which a woman occupies in such a connection is fairer in the eyes of the law, but morally it is no less objectionable than if the marriage ceremony had never taken place. A prayer and a promise cannot turn pollution into purity.


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