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Women and Economics A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution

Women and Economics
A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as
a Factor in Social Evolution
Title: Women and Economics A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution
Release Date: 2018-09-16
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Transcriber’s Note:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.

A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution

Charlotte Perkins Stetson
London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Boston: Small, Maynard & Company


In dark and early ages, through the primal forests faring,
Ere the soul came shining into prehistoric night,
Twofold man was equal; they were comrades dear and daring,
Living wild and free together in unreasoning delight.
Ere the soul was born and consciousness came slowly,
Ere the soul was born, to man and woman, too,
Ere he found the Tree of Knowledge, that awful tree and holy,
Ere he knew he felt, and knew he knew.
Then said he to Pain, “I am wise now, and I know you!
No more will I suffer while power and wisdom last!”
Then said he to Pleasure, “I am strong, and I will show you
That the will of man can seize you,—aye, and hold you fast!”
Food he ate for pleasure, and wine he drank for gladness.
And woman? Ah, the woman! the crown of all delight!
His now,—he knew it! He was strong to madness
In that early dawning after prehistoric night.
His,—his forever! That glory sweet and tender!
ivAh, but he would love her! And she should love but him!
He would work and struggle for her, he would shelter and defend her,—
She should never leave him, never, till their eyes in death were dim.
Close, close he bound her, that she should leave him never;
Weak still he kept her, lest she be strong to flee;
And the fainting flame of passion he kept alive forever
With all the arts and forces of earth and sky and sea.
And, ah, the long journey! The slow and awful ages
They have labored up together, blind and crippled, all astray!
Through what a mighty volume, with a million shameful pages,
From the freedom of the forests to the prisons of to-day!
Food he ate for pleasure, and it slew him with diseases!
Wine he drank for gladness, and it led the way to crime!
And woman? He will hold her,—he will have her when he pleases,—
And he never once hath seen her since the prehistoric time!
Gone the friend and comrade of the day when life was younger,
vShe who rests and comforts, she who helps and saves.
Still he seeks her vainly, with a never-dying hunger;
Alone beneath his tyrants, alone above his slaves!
Toiler, bent and weary with the load of thine own making!
Thou who art sad and lonely, though lonely all in vain!
Who hast sought to conquer Pleasure and have her for the taking,
And found that Pleasure only was another name for Pain
Nature hath reclaimed thee, forgiving dispossession!
God hath not forgotten, though man doth still forget!
The woman-soul is rising, in despite of thy transgression—
Loose her now, and trust her! She will love thee yet!
Love thee? She will love thee as only freedom knoweth!
Love thee? She will love thee while Love itself doth live!
Fear not the heart of woman! No bitterness it showeth!
The ages of her sorrow have but taught her to forgive!


This book is written to offer a simple andnatural explanation of one of the most commonand most perplexing problems of human life,—aproblem which presents itself to almost everyindividual for practical solution, and which demandsthe most serious attention of the moralist,the physician, and the sociologist

To show how some of the worst evils underwhich we suffer, evils long supposed to be inherentand ineradicable in our natures, are but theresult of certain arbitrary conditions of our ownadoption, and how, by removing those conditions,we may remove the evils resultant

To point out how far we have already gone inthe path of improvement, and how irresistiblythe social forces of to-day are compelling usfurther, even without our knowledge and againstour violent opposition,—an advance which maybe greatly quickened by our recognition andassistance

To reach in especial the thinking women ofto-day, and urge upon them a new sense, notonly of their social responsibility as individuals,but of their measureless racial importance asmakers of men.

It is hoped also that the theory advanced willprove sufficiently suggestive to give rise to suchfurther study and discussion as shall prove itserror or establish its truth.





Since we have learned to study the developmentof human life as we study the evolutionof species throughout the animal kingdom,some peculiar phenomena which have puzzledthe philosopher and moralist for so long, beginto show themselves in a new light. We beginto see that, so far from being inscrutable problems,requiring another life to explain, thesesorrows and perplexities of our lives are but thenatural results of natural causes, and that, assoon as we ascertain the causes, we can do muchto remove them.

In spite of the power of the individual willto struggle against conditions, to resist them fora while, and sometimes to overcome them, it remainstrue that the human creature is affectedby his environment, as is every other livingthing. The power of the individual will to resistnatural law is well proven by the life anddeath of the ascetic. In any one of thosesuicidal martyrs may be seen the will, misdirectedby the ill-informed intelligence, forcingthe body to defy every natural impulse,—evento the door of death, and through it.

But, while these exceptions show what thehuman will can do, the general course of lifeshows the inexorable effect of conditions upon2humanity. Of these conditions we share withother living things the environment of thematerial universe. We are affected by climateand locality, by physical, chemical, electricalforces, as are all animals and plants. With theanimals, we farther share the effect of our ownactivity, the reactionary force of exercise. Whatwe do, as well as what is done to us, makes uswhat we are. But, beyond these forces, we comeunder the effect of a third set of conditionspeculiar to our human status; namely, socialconditions. In the organic interchanges whichconstitute social life, we are affected by eachother to a degree beyond what is found evenamong the most gregarious of animals. Thisthird factor, the social environment, is of enormousforce as a modifier of human life.Throughout all these environing conditions,those which affect us through our economicnecessities are most marked in their influence.

Without touching yet upon the influence ofthe social factors, treating the human beingmerely as an individual animal, we see that heis modified most by his economic conditions, asis every other animal. Differ as they may incolor and size, in strength and speed, in minoradaptation to minor conditions, all animals thatlive on grass have distinctive traits in common,and all animals that eat flesh have distinctive3traits in common,—so distinctive and socommon that it is by teeth, by nutritive apparatusin general, that they are classified, ratherthan by means of defence or locomotion. Thefood supply of the animal is the largest passivefactor in his development; the processes bywhich he obtains his food supply, the largestactive factor in his development. It is theseactivities, the incessant repetition of the exertionsby which he is fed, which most modifyhis structure and develope his functions. Thesheep, the cow, the deer, differ in their adaptationto the weather, their locomotive ability,their means of defence; but they agree in maincharacteristics, because of their common methodof nutrition.

The human animal is no exception to this rule.Climate affects him, weather affects him, enemiesaffect him; but most of all he is affected,like every other living creature, by what he doesfor his living. Under all the influence of hislater and wider life, all the reactive effect ofsocial institutions, the individual is still inexorablymodified by his means of livelihood: “thehand of the dyer is subdued to what he worksin.” As one clear, world-known instance of theeffect of economic conditions upon the humancreature, note the marked race-modification ofthe Hebrew people under the enforced restrictions4of the last two thousand years. Here isa people rising to national prominence, first asa pastoral, and then as an agricultural nation;only partially commercial through race affinitywith the Phœnicians, the pioneer traders of theworld. Under the social power of a unitedChristendom—united at least in this most unchristiandeed—the

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