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them many privileges. They were not permitted to make any legal contract. They were not permitted to bequeath their own fortunes, or-ordinarily—to give testimony in court. But they might plead ignorance of the law, “as a ground for dissolving an obligation," which, if often convenient, was always demoralizing. Being somewhat contemptuously absolved from the oath of allegiance in the Middle Ages, they were as a consequence immune from outlawry. On the other hand, the severity with which they were punished for certain crimes which were presumed to come easy to them-poisoning, husbandmurder, witchcraft (King Jamie was not the only wiseacre who marveled that there should be twenty witches to one warlock)—is evidence of fear on the legislators' part. The oldest laws, the oldest axioms which antedate all laws, betray this uneasy sense of insecurity. “Day and night must women be held by their protectors in a state of dependence,” says Manu, the Hindu Noah, who took no female with him in his miraculously preserved boat, but was content with his own safety, and trusted the continuance of the race to the care and ingenuity of the gods.
In our day, and in our country, women gained their rights (I use the word "rights" advisedly, because, though its definition be disputed, every one knows what it implies) after a prolonged, but not embittered struggle. Certain states moved so slowly that they were overtaken by a federal amendment. Even with the franchise to back them, American women have a hard time making their way in the professions, though a great deal of courtesy is shown them by professional men. They have a hard time making their way in trades, where the unions block their progress. They have a very small share of political patronage, and few good positions on the civil lists. Whether the best interests of the country will be advanced or retarded by a complete recognition of their claims—which implies giving them an even chance with men—is a point on which no one can speak with authority. The absence of data leaves room only for surmise. Women are striving to gain this “even chance" for their own sakes, which is lawful and reasonable. Their public utterances, it is true, dwell pointedly on the regeneration of the world. This also is lawful and reasonable. Public utterances have always dwelt on the regeneration of the world, since the apple was eaten and Paradise closed its gates.
Meanwhile American chivalry, a strong article and equal to anything Europe ever produced, clings passionately and persistently to its inward vision. Ellen Key speaks casually of "the vices which men call woman's nature.” If Swedish gentlemen permit themselves this form of speech, it finds no echo in our loyal land. Two things an American hates to do: hold a woman accountable for her misdeeds, and punish her accordingly. When Governor Craig of North Carolina set aside the deathsentence which had been passed upon a murderess and committed her to prison for life, he gave to the public this plain and comprehensive statement: "There is no escape from the conclusion that Ida Bell Warren is guilty of murder, deliberate and premeditated. Germany executed the woman spy; England did not. The action of the military governor of Belgium was condemned by the conscience of the world. The killing of this woman would send a shiver through North Carolina."
Apart from the fact that Edith Cavell was not a spy, and that her offense was one which has seldom in the world's history been so cruelly punished, Governor Craig's words deserve attention. He explicitly exempted a woman, because she was a woman, from the penalty which would have been incurred by a man. Incidentally he was compelled to commute the death-sentence of her confederate, as it was hardly possible to send the murderous wife to prison, and her murderous accomplice to the chair. That the execution of Mrs. Warren would have sent a "shiver" through North Carolina is doubtless true. The Governor had received countless letters and telegrams protesting against the infliction of the deathpenalty on a woman.
One of the reasons which has been urged for the total abolition of this penalty is the reluctance of juries to convict women of crimes punishable by death. The number of wives who murder their husbands, and of girls who murder their lovers, is a menace to society. Our sympathetic tolerance of these crimes passionnés, the sensational scenes in court, and the prompt acquittals which follow are a menace to law and justice. Better that their perpetrators should be sent to prison and suffer a few years of corrective discipline, until soft-hearted sentimentalists circulate petitions and secure their pardon and release.
The right to be judged as men are judged is perhaps the only form of equality which feminists fail to demand. Their attitude to their own errata is well expressed in the solemn warning addressed by Mr. Louis Untermeyer's Eve to the Almighty,
"Pause, God, and ponder, ere Thou judgest me!"
The right to be punished is not, and has never been, a popular prerogative with either sex. There was, indeed, a London baker who was sentenced in the year 1816 to
be whipped and imprisoned for vagabondage. He served his term; but, whether from clemency or from oversight, the whipping was never administered. When released, he promptly brought action against the prison authorities because he had not been whipped, “according to the statute," and he won his case. Whether or not the whipping went with the verdict is not stated; but it was a curious joke to play with the grim realities of British law.
American women are no such sticklers for a code. They acquiesce in their frequent immunity from punishment, and are correspondingly, and very naturally, indignant when they find themselves no longer immune. There was a pathetic ring in the explanation offered some years ago by Mayor Harrison of Chicago, whose policemen were accused of brutality to female strikers and pickets. “When the women do anything in violation of the law," said the Mayor to a delegation of citizens, “the police arrest them. And then, instead of going along quietly as men prisoners would, the women sit down on the sidewalks. What else can the policemen do but lift them up?"
If men "go along quietly,” it is because custom, not choice, has bowed their necks to the yoke of order and equity. They break the law without being prepared to defy it. The lawlessness of women may be due as much to their long exclusion from citizenship,
"Some reverence for the laws ourselves have made."
as to the lenity shown them by men—a lenity which they stand ever ready to abuse. We have only to imagine what would have happened to a group of men who had chosen to air a grievance by picketing the White House,
the speed with which they would have been arrested, fined, dispersed, and forgotten, to realize the nature of the tolerance granted to women. For months these female pickets were unmolested Money was subscribed to purchase for them umbrellas and overshoes. The President, whom they were affronting, sent them out coffee on cold mornings. It was only when their utterances became treasonable, when they undertook to assure our Russian visitors that Mr. Wilson and Mr. Root were deceiving Russia, and to entreat these puzzled foreigners to help them free our nation, that their sport was suppressed, and they became liable to arrest and imprisonment.
Much censure was passed upon the unreasonable violence of these women. The great body of American suffragists repudiated their action, and the anti-suffragists used them to point stern morals and adorn vivacious tales. But was it quite fair to permit them in the beginning a liberty which would not have been accorded to men, and which led inevitably to license? Were they not treated as parents sometimes treat children, allowing them to use bad language because “if you pay no attention to them, they will stop it of their own accord,” and then, when they do not stop it, punishing them for misbehaving before company? When a sympathetic gentleman wrote to a not very sympathetic paper to say that the second Liberty Loan would be more popular if Washington would "call off the dogs of war on women," he turned a flashlight upon the fathomless gulf with which sentimentalism has divided the sexes.
No one dreams of calling policemen and magistrates “dogs of war" because they arrest and punish men for disturbing the peace. If men claim the privileges of citizenship, they are permitted to suffer its penalties.