« 上一頁繼續 »
admixture of devotion and love. Indeed the true knight seemed often to blend the image of the mistress of his human affections with her whom he conceived to demand a higher homage.
From that day to this the condition of woman has been constantly improving in the whole occidental world. The laws of marriage and inheritance have more and more been conformed to the doctrines and spirit of the New Testament; and under their influence woman has been gradually rising to that condition for which she was originally designed, and in which she was placed when it was said, that God created man, male and female. In the United States, these principles are more fully carried out. The waters of the Atlantic seem to have washed out the last traces of that oriental prejudice which cleaved so long to the race, and which condemns woman to a social inferiority to man.
Another circumstance which has contributed to raise the female sex to a superior social condition to any that she has ever known before, is the sparseness of our population, when compared with the productiveness of the soil, and the perfection of the
mechanic arts. There cannot be much respect for woman where she is forced out of her sphere, and compelled to participate with man in the labors of the field; or when she is so tasked as to preclude all possibility of cultivating her intellectual powers, and of acquiring those accomplishments which are appropriate to her sex. The labor once done by female hands, but now performed by machinery in this country, is perhaps as great in amount as could be done by all the females in it. The result is, that while in Spain, and France, and Italy, and sometimes in England, the women are seen to labor in the same fields and upon the same public works with men, and in consequence become coarse in their persons, and still coarser in their sentiments and manners, nothing of the kind is seen here.
How can any American woman forbear to thank the kind Disposer of her lot every time she sees a colony of the peasantry of the old world pass through our streets, the women bearing in their persons, defrauded of every grace and every charm, the marks of the oppression and servitude of untold generations! Where among the women of
our own happy country can there be found any counterpart to this?
Such is the abundance of physical comfort that reigns among us, extending even to those who get their bread by day labor, that one generation is sufficient to obliterate the marks of the degradation to which they have been accustomed. Their better social condition enables the children of the poorest to acquire a delicacy and refinement, which in the same class is unknown in other countries.
As woman is no where so worthy of respect as in this country, so is she no where treated with so much. A late female traveller from England, who certainly ought to be a competent judge, remarks; "The degree of consideration shown to woman is, in my opinion, greater than is rational, or good for either party." Their better physical condition without doubt, enables them to command greater respect, and this respect reacts upon their physical condition, and gives them those privileges and exemptions, by which alone their dignity may be sustained.
Although as yet falling far short of its relative value, female labor is better rewarded here than it is any where else. For we have
not yet reached, nor shall we reach for centuries to come, the second barbarism, of an overgrown population. When that comes, no matter what may be the sentiment with regard to woman, her degradation and oppression will follow of course. Famine and want extinguish all sentiment, all humanity, and the weaker will always be found the suffering party.
I repeat it then, every American woman has reason to thank God every day of her life, that she was born in this happy country. She cannot read of any portion or period of the world, without becoming more and more convinced, that America is the Paradise of
The enlightened traveller, of whom I just spoke, expresses the opinion that the consideration with which women are treated in this country is carried to excess, that she suffers for it in the end, by the feebleness, effeminacy, helplessness and bad health which it induces. For my own part I must confess that I fully agree with her in this opinion. However important may be the sphere which woman was created to fill, however much she may do to adorn and embellish life, and
promote social happiness, it is evident that ill health puts it entirely out of her power, either to enjoy herself, or minister to the happiness of others.
It must therefore, I think, be set down among the faults of the women of this country, that they do not take sufficient care of their health. There is evidently a great falling off in this particular within one generation. The women that are now going off the stage, are certainly a very different race of beings from those who are coming on. When I see the fragile and diminutive forms of the women of our times, and compare them with the women whom I recollect as the partners of the men of the revolution, it seems to me that if the men of that age had had such mothers, we never should have had any revolution at all.
However sublimated may be our ideas of woman, she still belongs to this earth, she is still subjected to the laws of organized and animated nature. Those laws go on to their fulfilment regardless of sentiment, of fashion and the usages of society. Health is the result of obedience to those laws, and they cannot be infringed in the least degree,