« 上一頁繼續 »
reasons I have already stated is more interested than man in the progress of the arts. The labors of the field remain much the same from age to age, but the two processes of grinding meal by machinery, and spinning and weaving by the power of steam and water, have liberated millions of female hands from the dullest drudgery, and from the slavery of perpetual toil. And that conquest of law and justice, which marks the last tage in the progress of human rights, which gives man but one wife and thus makes her his equal, and his companion, does more for her elevation than any political change which any civil revolution has ever accomplished for man. To make the American woman happy in her lot, no matter what that lot may be, she has only to read the history of past ages, and make herself acquainted with the present condition of the world. Let her cast her eyes upon the map of the globe and survey Asia, the cradle of the human race. History will tell her that that vast continent was filled with inhabitants and poured out her armed millions upon
the West before the forests of Europe had been 'penetrated by the foot of civilization. While
the countries which now constitute Spain, France, England, Germany, and Russia, were an unbroken wilderness, and America was utterly unknown, the banks of the Euphrates, the Indus, and the Ganges were thronged with a crowded population, and China herself numbered nearly as many
inhabitants as the rest of Asia. From that day to this there has been no falling off in numbers, and we may safely say, that in Asia have lived two-thirds of the human race; and not one of all the millions of the female sex who have existed there, has enjoyed what are now considered the natural and unalienable rights of woman. Europe was little better till the introduction of Christianity. Tacitus, it is true, speaks of the higher estimation in which the ancient Germans held their women,
and there was undoubtedly a greater respect paid her by the rude barbarians of the North than bad ever been exhibited in Asia or Southern Europe. What woman is at the present day as the friend and equal of man, she owes entirely to Christianity and the doctrine of immortality which accompanies it. It is only the respect for her, generated by the belief of her possessing an immortal
and responsible soul like man, that can vindicate for her that social equality with man which physically she does not possess. The elevation of woman is a struggle between power and right. The right will prevail just as fast, and just as far, as the moral and religious sentiments are made to predominate in man over the sensual and the selfish. No form of Paganism has ever yet had the
power so far to cultivate the moral and religious sentiments, as to compel man to emancipate woman from that bondage in which his superior strength enables him to hold her.
The working of the new principle of respect for the female sex, though early introduced into the Christian church, first became visible in the sentiments of society in the middle ages. It was the new sentiment of respect for woman, introduced by Christianity, which gave rise to chivalry, that splendid enthusiasm of the human heart, which passing from one extreme to the other, elevated woman from a slave to a deity. It may seem unaccountable to the student of history, how so great a change could have been effected in the sentiments of mankind. A few ages before, we see woman secluded, oppressed,
her will and inclinations first subjected to the control of her parents, and afterwards to that of her husband, her lot chosen for her without the least regard to her happiness. On a sudden we see her raised to an idol. The splendid pageant of the tournament passes before us.
All there then was of wealth, of nobility, of valor, is assembled; chariots are glittering, horses are prancing, young and hot blood is mounted, armed to the teeth for mortal combat. And all for what? For whom is all this pomp, this military array, this fierce and bloody encounter? Direct your eye to yonder pavilion, decked with more than oriental magnificence,
"Where the gorgeous East with richest hand, Showers on her kings barbaric, pearl and gold."
There sits woman enthroned as queen, and all this magnificence is but an expression of the new born reverence which had sprung up for her in the human heart. The suitor for her hand and heart, no longer approaches her sordid parents with money, to buy her as a slave, but he must win her affections by a surrender of his own. The parties thus commencing their connexion on avowed
terms of equality, there was a better chance for kind and respectful treatment on the part of the stronger sex.
To this elevation of woman the theology of the time undoubtedly contributed. Woman had been nearly connected with the story of man's redemption.
“The holy virgin bending o'er her blessed babe,”
had been made the subject of art, by the vivid feelings and fervid imaginations of the southern Europeans. And nothing perhaps, could be more striking to a barbarian fancy. How could it be, that woman should not be exalted in the eyes of those who were taught, that Mary had been the mother of God. The Madonna and her child, in painting and sculpture, was the favorite decoration of the temples of the Most High. It was impossible for those barbarians, already imbued with a reverence for the female sex unknown among other nations, thus to see woman associated with the forms and rites of religion, without insensibly elevating their own conceptions of her dignity and her rights. ACcordingly we see in those ages the strangest