The Future of the Women's Movement

The Future of the Women's Movement
Title: The Future of the Women's Movement
Release Date: 2018-01-19
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Future of the Women's Movement, by HelenaM. (Helena Maria) Swanwick

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Title: The Future of the Women's Movement

Author: Helena M. (Helena Maria) Swanwick

Release Date: January 19, 2018 [eBook #56403]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8



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F. T. S.




Women in the movement often wish that theword humanist had not been appropriated,because it would far more properly connote thewomen’s movement than the word feminist.

It is significant of much that there is in the Englishlanguage no commonly used substantive correspondingto “homo.” There is need, of course, for the wordsman and woman, but there is also need for a worddenoting the species, irrespective of sex, and I havebeen driven to make use of a locution not commonin English, in writing “a human.” But the commonpronoun is non-existent and I have not used theneuter, lest it should alarm nervous persons. Perhapswhen we have got over the panic fear of unsexingourselves, we may find it safe to speak of ahuman, just as we do of a baby, as “it.”

There may seem to be a disappointing lack ofprophesy in a book avowedly dealing with thefuture; but since I believe the women’s movementto be a seeking for knowledge and good, to show[viii]what is reasonable and good in the movement is toshow what will persist and triumph. Through allour faults and mistakes, we women are aiming atbetter understanding and co-operation with men,and a better adaptation to one another of conditionsand persons. We are having to hammer outfor ourselves the right principles of government.We can take them ready-made from no man.Doubtless we shall flounder considerably, as menhave done—and do. But there is little fear that inthe long-run the best minds of men and women willnot have a common principle.

Meanwhile we have to resist the tendency to easyand cheap generalisations about woman, her sphere,her vocation, and her capacity, based upon a verysmall amount of very partial investigation and ahuge amount of inherited prejudice and nativeconceit. Men who ought to have some respect forscientific methods will, when some à priori theoryof woman’s proper sphere has closed their minds,make the most palpably faulty deductions fromimperfect data, and use their reputation in someother branch of science as cover for their bad reasoning.No statistics are more useful than vitalstatistics, and none have been more misused toprove some foregone conclusion. Everyone experiencedin investigation knows how helpful it is to[ix]have some general hypothesis in view, by which toco-ordinate all phenomena, but knows also hownecessary it is to be constantly watchful lest thehypothesis should obscure new and unexpectedphenomena. When the investigator is himselfpersonally involved, and when the hypothesis is onewhich the majority of men have thought self-evidentfor ages, and when the strongest of all impulses,next to hunger, confuses the mind of the investigator,we are justified in being very sceptical about thepositive nature of his conclusions, until he cansatisfy us that they have been reached by strictlylogical methods of agreement and difference.

If to some reasonable and civilised men it mayseem that I have given undue importance to thefoolishnesses and barbarisms of another kind ofmen, I would ask those men to remember that theseare among our masters and we may not ignore them.We might like to treat them “with the contemptthey deserve,” but we have at present to live underthe laws that they help to make. Doubtless, whenwe are free, we shall suffer fools more gladly thanwe do now, having less to fear from them.




Those who open this book expecting to findin it a romantic sketch, rather in the styleof Erewhon, of what the civilisation of the twentiethcentury is likely to be after women have won theirfreedom, will be doomed to disappointment. It doesnot deal with what a humorist in the CambridgeHistorical Society used to call “that departmentof history which treats of the future.” Thosewho look for a plentiful supply of prophecy willnot find it; but they will find a masterly sketchof the sources and aims of the women’s movement;and, in the author’s own words, a brief survey ofthe directions in which it appears to be travelling.They will find also wisdom, and knowledge, andunderstanding. Mrs. Swanwick avoids cheap andeasy generalisation. She writes from a wide anddeep knowledge, which has been gained from yearsof active work, especially in the women’s suffragemovement as it exists here and now; and shewrites with the temperance and restraint whichcome of the philosophic mind.


Her book will be read and digested by her fellow-workers.They are quite certain to make it theirown, for it is an armoury of facts and argumentsbearing on their work. It ought also to be studiedby every intelligent man and woman who perceivesthat the women’s movement is one of the biggestthings that has ever taken place in the historyof the world. Other movements towards freedomhave aimed at raising the status of a comparativelysmall group or class. But the women’s movementaims at nothing less than raising the status of anentire sex—half the human race—to lift it up tothe freedom and valour of womanhood. It affectsmore people than any former reform movement,for it spreads over the whole world. It is moredeep-seated, for it enters into the home and modifiesthe personal character. No greater praise can begiven to Mrs. Swanwick’s book than to say thatshe treats of this great subject in a manner worthyof it.

Her pages on militancy will be carefully studied.She is known to be deeply antagonistic to violencein all its forms, and she gives the reasons for thefaith that is in her. It is also well known thatshe is a leading member of the National Unionof Women’s Suffrage Societies, the chief of thenon-militant suffrage organisations. But thoughshe criticises severely the Women’s Social and[xiii]Political Union, she is not among those who cansee nothing but harm in their activities. Militantsuffragism is essentially revolutionary, and, likeother revolutionary agitations, has arisen from awant of harmony between economic and educationalstatus and political status. Educationally,socially, and industrially women have madeenormous advances during the last sixty years.But the laws controlling their political status havestood still. Similar conditions have invariablyled to revolutionary outbursts except where lawmakershave had the sense to recognise the situationin time and adjust the political status of thegroup concerned to the changes which had alreadytaken place in its general condition. It is bymaking these timely changes, and by grafting thebud of new ideas on the stem of old institutions,that our countrymen have shown their practicalpolitical instinct, and have, on the whole, savedthe nation from the ruinous waste of revolution.They have not yet shown this good sense aboutwomen. But the signs of the times are full ofhope that they may revert to type and be wisein time.

Dr. Arnold, writing from France within a generationof the Terror, said in reference to the destructionof the feudal power of the nobles over theFrench peasantry: “The work has been done …[xiv]and in my opinion the blessing is enough to compensatethe evils of the French Revolution; forthe good endures, while the effects of the massacresand devastation are fast passing away.” If thatcould be said of the Terror cannot it be even morepositively said of the comparatively innocuous“militancy” of recent years? The good endures,while the evil is temporary and passes away, is astrue to-day as it was a hundred years ago.




Homo—Human principles of government—Unscientific scientific men—Our masters vii
Introduction. By Mrs. Fawcett xi
Causes of the Women’s Movement
Woman becomes articulate—Why the movement has become political in England—Women’s handicap—The need for concentration—Two kinds of change: education, industrialisation—Adaptation essential—Solidarity of women 1
What is the Women’s Movement?
Is it chaotic?—Knowledge and scope—What the world is losing—The spirit of the time a scientific one; women must share it—Action will follow knowledge—Is it to be thwarted action? 14
The Subjection of Women
Importance of motherhood—Vocational training of women for motherhood a mistake—Whole[xvi] human beings—Full development under Men’s domination impossible—Sentimentalists and Brutalitarians—Subjection degrading—Are women mentally inferior to men?—An irrelevant question—Opportunity for development 20
Physical Force
Man’s undoubted superiority—The handicap of motherhood—Woman’s battle a spiritual one—Domination by force is bad business—Foreign policy and war—Equality of service and equality of sacrifice—War not the only business 31
Democracy and Representative Government
Mr. Frederic Harrison and Prof. Dicey—Difficulties of governing others—Civil rights depend upon political rights—Illiberal arguments against women’s suffrage—Safety a delusion—Progress due to control of physical force by mind—Law of diminishing returns on compulsion—Opinions and interests
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