point to half a dozen occupations which are
deemed strictly suitable for women. Why don't
we confine ourselves to this ground? Why
don't I encourage girls to become governesses,
hospital nurses, and so on? You think I ought
to reply that already there are too many
applicants for such places. It would be true,
but I don't care to make use of the argument,
which at once involves us in a debate with
the out-crowded clerk. No; to put the truth
in a few words, I am not chiefly anxious
that you should earn money, but that
women in general shall become rational and
responsible human beings.
Follow me carefully. A governess, a nurse,
may be the most admirable of women. I will
dissuade no one from following those careers
who is distinctly fitted for them. But these
are only a few out of the vast number of
girls who must, if they are not to be despicable
persons, somehow find serious work. Because
I myself have had an education in clerkship,
and have most capacity for such employment,
I look about for girls of like mind, and
do my best to prepare them for work in offices.
And (here I must become emphatic once more)
I am glad to have entered on this
course. I am glad that I can show
girls the way to a career which my opponents
Now see why. Womanly and womanish are two
very different words; but the latter, as
the world uses it, has become practically
synonymous with the former. A womanly occupation
means, practically, an occupation that a
man disdains. And here is the root of the
matter. I repeat that I am not first of all
anxious to keep you supplied with daily bread.
I am a troublesome, aggressive, revolutionary
person. I want to do away with that common
confusion of the words womanly and womanish,
and I see very clearly that this can only
be effected by an armed movement, an invasion
by women of the spheres which men have always
forbidden us to enter. I am strenuously opposed
to that view of us set forth in such charming
language by Mr. Ruskin — for
it tells on the side of those men who think
and speak of us in a way the reverse of charming.
Were we living in an ideal world, I think
women would not go to sit all day in offices.
But the fact is that we live in a world as
far from ideal as can be conceived. We live
in a time of warfare, of revolt. If woman
is no longer to be womanish but a human being
of powers and responsibilities, she must
become militant, defiant. She must push her
claims to the extremity.
excellent governess, a perfect hospital nurse,
do work which is invaluable; but for our
cause of emancipation they are no good — nay,
they are harmful. Men point to them, and
say, Imitate these, keep to your proper world.
Our proper world is the world of intelligence,
of honest effort, of moral strength. The
old types of womanly perfection are no longer
helpful to us. Like the Church service, which
to all but one person in a thousand has become
meaningless gabble by dint of repetition,
these types have lost their effect. They
are no longer educational. We have to ask
ourselves, What course of training will wake
women up, make them conscious of their souls,
startle them into healthy activity?
It must be something new, something free
from the reproach of womanliness. I don't
care whether we crowd out the men or not.
I don't care what results, if
only women are made strong and self-reliant
and nobly independent! The world must look
to its concerns. Most likely we shall have
a revolution in the social order greater
than any that yet seems possible, Let it
come, and let us help it in coming.
When I think of the contemptible wretchedness
of women enslaved by custom, by their weakness,
by their desires, I am ready to cry, Let
the world perish in tumult rather than things
go on in this way!
must be a new type of woman, active in every
sphere of life: a new worker out in the world,
a new ruler of the home. Of the old ideal
virtues we can retain many, but we have to
add to them those which have been thought
appropriate only in men. Let a woman be gentle,
but at the same time let her be strong; let
her be pure of heart, but none the less wise
and instructed. Because we have to set an
example to the sleepy of our sex, we must
carry on an active warfare — must be
invaders. Whether woman is the equal of man
I neither know nor care. We are not his equal
in size, in weight, in muscle, and, for all
I can say, we may have less power of brain.
That has nothing to do with it. Enough for
us to know that our natural growth has been
stunted. The mass of women have always been
paltry creatures, and their paltriness has
proved a curse to men. So, if you like to
put it in this way, we are working for the
advantage of men as well as for our own.
Let the responsibility for disorder rest
on those who have made us despise our old
selves. At any cost — at any cost — we
will free ourselves from the heritage of
weakness and contempt!