A New Light on the Woman Question
February 12, 1904 — National Rifles’ Armory Hall, Washington DC
My subject is a scientific theory as to the origin and relation of the eternal duo. It was started by our greatest living sociologist, Lester Ward – the explanation of the order in which the sexes were developed. What is it that this suffrage movement has has to meet, as it has plowed along up hill for fifty hears, with its tremendous battery of arguments which it discharges into thin air? What it has to overcome is not an argument but a feeling, which rests at bottom on the sea expressed in the “rib story.”
As a parable this fairly represents the old belief that man was created first, that he was the race, was “it,” and that woman was created, as modern jokers put it, for “Adams Express Company.” The poet expressed the same idea when he called woman, “God’s last, best gift to man.” Ward gives the biological facts. In the evolution of species the earliest periods were the longest. During ages of the world’s history, while animal life was slowly evolving, the female was the larger, stronger, and more representative creature. The male was small, often a parasite, told off for the sole purpose of reproduction.
By natural selection, the female choosing always the best male, the male was gradually developed until he became bigger and stronger than the female. For a time natural selection continued to work, the males competing for the favor of the female. Then the male reduced the female to subjection. It occurred to him that it was easier to fight one little female once and subjugate her than to fight a lot of big males over and over.
The feminine ideal with many is the beehive – lots of honey, lots of young ones, and nothing else. It wa necessary that the male should become dominant for a time if the race was to progress. Now women are ceasing to be subjugated and we are approaching as tate of equal rights. It was through a free motherhood and the female’s constant selection of the best mate that she brought into the world power and brain enough to enable man to do what he has done. That are motherhood, reinstated, choosing always the best and refusing anything less, will bring us a higher humanity than we have yet known.
Source: Charlotte Perkins. “A New Light on the Woman Question.” The Woman’s Journal, April 25, 1904, pp. 76-77.