Document 4: William Thompson and Anna Wheeler, excerpt from Appeal of One Half the Human Race, Women, Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, To Retain Them in Political and Thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery; In Reply to a Parargraph of Mr. Mill's Celebrated "Article On Government" (London: Richard Taylor, 1825). Reprinted in Marie Mulvey Roberts and Tamae Mizuta, eds., The Reformers: Socialist Feminism (London: Routledge and Thoemmes Press, 1995), pp. 187-92, 196-202.
This 1825 pamphlet carried Mary Wollstonecraft's legacy forward in England, France, and the United States. It criticized contemporary marriage as oppressive to women and advocated a "partnership between equals" as the only basis for happiness in marriage and in society. In their subtitle, Thompson and Wheeler defined their essay as a rebuttal of political philosopher, James Mill (1773-1836), father of John Stuart Mill (1806-1973), who in an 1824 article in the Encyclopedia Britannica wrote that the political interests of women did not need to be represented in government since they were the same as those of their fathers or husbands. Writing from the perspective of working-class women, Thompson and Wheeler went beyond the abstractions and idealism of the utopian socialist movements headed by Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, and Saint-Simon.
Women of England! women, in whatever country ye breathe--wherever ye breathe, degraded--awake! Awake to the contemplation of the happiness that awaits you when all your faculties of mind and body shall be fully cultivated and developed; when every path in which ye can excercise those improved faculties shall be laid open and rendered delightful to you, even as to them who now ignorantly enslave and degrade you. If degradation from long habitude have lost its sting, if the iron have penetrated so deeply into your frame that it has been gradually taken up into the system and mingles unperceived amidst the fluids of your life; if the prostration of reason and the eradication of feeling have kept pace within you, so that you are insensible alike to what you suffer and to what you might enjoy,--your case were all but hopeless. Nothing less, then, than the sight presented before your eyes, of the superior happiness enjoyed by other women, under arrangements of perfect equality with men, could arouse you. Such a sight, even under such circumstances, would excite your envy and kindle up all your extinct desires. But you are not so degraded. The unvaried despotism of so many thousand years, has not so entirely degraded you, has not been able to extinguish within you the feelings of nature, the love of happiness and of equal justice. The united exertions of law, superstition, and pretended morals of past ages of ignorance, have not entirely succeeded. There is still a germ within you, the love of happiness, coeval with your existence, and never to cease but when "life itself shall please no more," which shall conduct you, feeble as it now is, under the guidance of wisdom and benevolence, to that perfect equality of knowledge, sympathy, and enjoyment with men, which the greatest sum of happiness for the whole race demands.
Sleeps there an infant your bosom, to the level of whose intellect the systematic despostism and pitiful jealousy of man have not sought, and for the most part successfully sought, to chain down yours? Does no blush rise amongst you--swells no breast with indignation, at the enormous wrong? Simple as ye are, have ye become enamoured of folly? do you indeed believe it to be a source of power and of happiness? Look to your masters: does knowledge in their hands remain idle? is it with them no source of power and happiness? Think ye then indeed that it is of the use of what are called your personal charms alone that man is jealous? There is not a quality of mind which his animal propensities do not grudge you: not one, those only excepted which, like high-seasoned or far-fetched sauces, render you, as objects of sense, more stimulating to his purely selfish desires. Do ye pretend to enjoy with him, at this banquet of bought or commanded sensuality, the sensuality of prostitution or of marriage? He has a system of domineering hypocrisy, which he calls morals, which brands with the name of vice your enjoyment, while it lauds with the name of virtue, or gilds with that of innocent gratification, his. What quality, worth the possession, and capable of being applied to useful purposes for your own independence and happiness, do you possess, of which ignorant man is not jealous? Strength is his peculiar prerogative; it is unfeminine to possess it: hence every expedient is used in what is called your education, to enervate your bodies, by proscribing that activity which is as necessary to health as to preservation from inevitable casualites. Muscular weakness, what is called delicacy of health approaching to disease, helplessness, are by strange perversion of language denominated rather perfections than defects in women, in order to increase their dependence, even their physical dependence on man; gratifying by one operation his two ruling animal propensities, sexual desire and love of domination. Hectic delicacy of health--though to yourselves accompanied by torment and followed by death--excites man's appetite; and utter weakness, no matter what personal evils it may entail on the possessor, gratifies his love of domination, by rendering his aid on every trivial occasion indispensable for your protection or for your most trifling exertions. Not satisfied with the inferiority of strength which your comparitive size and structure, under the name of nature, give you, his poor jealousy increases it a hundredfold by all the resources of a vicious and partial physical training: and for this weakness and helplessness you are subsequently reproached, as a mark of your natural physical inferiority! Of strength of mind in you the ignorant amongst men, that is to say, the bulk of men, are still more jealous than of strength of body. Cowardice, that is to say, dread without reason, and in consequence of that dread, incapacity of using the means of preservation in your power against the most trifling attacks of the most contemptible animals or even insects or petty accidents, is by the sexual system of morality rather a virtue than a vice in you. No matter what inconveniences you personally suffer from this pernicious quality, no matter how your minds through life are tormented by it; it is of much more importance that man's vanity should be perfumed with his comparitive hardihood than that you should be happy. Not on benevolence, but on antipathy, or malignant jealousy of your good, is the cursed system of sexual morality founded. Strength, without which there can be no health, both of body and mind, would cause you to approach too nearly to those high prerogatives in your masters, with whom to aim at an equality is the summit of female audacity, if not of wickedness. Prudence for the management of your affairs, wisdom for the guidance of your voluntary actions, the same unrelenting jealousy of ignorance proscribes. An education of baby-clothes, and sounds, and postures, you are given, instead of real knowledge; the incidents are withheld from you, by which you could learn, as man does, the management of affairs and the prudential guidance of your own actions; and thus factitiously incapacitated, man interposes, seizes on your property, leaves you none to manage, and assumes the despotic guidance of your actions, as the right of his superior wisdom and prudence! Every moral and intellectual quality of which you might be possessed, is thus deliberately and systematically sacrificed at the shrine of man's all-devouring jealousy, of his most immoral love of superiority, deriving pleasure where if benevolent he could not avoid feeling pain, from the contemplation of the weaknesses, vices, or privations, thus entailed upon you his fellow-creatures. That no intellectual faculities may be by you developed, it is immoral that you should exercise even the faculty of speech (though it is a quality at times of the highest virtue, exciting the utmost admiration in man), to address in public, that is to say; to address any where, numbers of your fellow-creatures; this high and exciting source of influence and intellectual improvement, man's universal jealousy having also monopolized. On the stage, as servants, as despised servants, you may act and receive his payment to flatter his eye and ear; but for your own interest in life, to turn to any serious use those powers of graceful and reasoning eloquence, which these illicit occasions have shown you to possess, and with which they have enabled you to thrill man's overpowered faculties, his cowardly and malignant jealousy forbids the excercise. An excluding law would be in this case superfluous. Though superhuman wisdom were to be gleaned by woman, as grains from the well reaped fields of men, and in spite of their exclusions, your lips, the vehicle of such wisdom, would be closed, in spite of the vain permissions of law, by the superior strength of men, even by open force!
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To obtain equal rights, the basis of equal happiness with men, you must be respected by them; not merely desired, like rare meats, to pamper their selfish appetites. To be respected by them, you must be respectable in your own eyes; you must exert more power, you must be more useful. You must regard yourselves as having equal capabilities of contributing to the general happiness with men, and as therefore equally entitled with them to every enjoyment. You must excercise these capabilites, nor cease to remonstrate till no more than equal duties are exacted from you, till no more than equal punishments are inflicted upon you, till equal enjoyments and equal means of seeking happiness are permitted to you as to men.
Still evils encompass you, inherent in the very system of labor by individual competition, even in its most free and perfect form. Men dread the competition of other men, of each other, in every line of industry. How much more will they dread your additional competition! How much will this dread of the competition of your industry and talents be aggravated by their previous contempt of your fabricated impotence! Hard enough, now, they will say, to earn subsistence and to acquire comforts: what will it be when an additional rivalship, equal to perhaps one third of actual human exertion, is thrown into the scale against them? How fearfully would such an influx of labor and talents into the market of competition bring down their remuneration!
An evil of no less magnitude, and immediately consequent on the preceding, opposes your happiness in the present state of social arrangements. Will man, laboring by individual competition, afford you any part of the fruits of his individual exertions as a compensation for the loss of time, pain, and expense incurred by women in bearing and rearing his and your common children? His present compensation of measured food, clothing, and idleness, with despotism over young children and inferior animals to compensate for his more lofty despotism over yourselves, coupled with personal insignificance, in what he calls his marriage contract, you know, or ought to know, how to appreciate. But not to say that this can only apply to that portion amongst you whom necessity compels to enter into so iniquitously partial a yoke; not to say that the duties and enjoyments of marriage might, if man ceased to be an ignorantly selfish creature, be rendered equal to both the contracting parties; the utmost compensation you could expect from this source would never afford you a permanent chance of happiness equal to that of men. You will always, under the system of individual compensation and individual accumulations of wealth, be liable to the casualty of misery on the death of the active producer of the family, and occasional injustice from domestic abuse of superior strength and influence, against which no laws can entirely guard. Under the system of production by individual competition, it is impossible to expect that public opinion should be raised so high as to supply the defects of law, which can only repress--at the expense of the minor evils of punishment--the more flagrant and proveable acts of injustice, but can not take cognizance of those minute occurences which so often form the groundwork of the happiness or misery of life. Superiority in the production or accumulation of individual wealth will ever be whispering into man's ear preposterous notions of his relative importance over woman, which notions must be ever prompting him to unsocial airs towards women, and particularly towards that woman who co-operates with him in the rearing of a family: for, individual wealth being under this system the one thing needful, all other qualities not tending to acquire it, though contributing ever so largely to increase the common stock of mutual happiness, are disregarded; and compensation for the excercise of such qualities or talents, for the endurance of pains and privations, would scarcely be dreamed of. If man, pursuing individual wealth, condescend to be equally instrumental with you in the production of children, the whole of the pleasure he takes care to enjoy and make the most of, as his by right of superior strength; but as to the pains and privations which his enjoyments may have entailed upon another, where is the bond that his labor should afford compensation for them?
Not so under the system of, Association, or of Labor by Mutual Co-Operation.
This scheme of social arrangements is the only one which will complete and for ever insure the perfect equality and entire reciprocity of happiness between women and men. Those evils, which neither an equality of civil and criminal laws, nor of political laws, nor an equal system of morals upheld by an enlightened public opinion, can entirely obviate, this scheme of human exertion will remove or abundantly compensate. Even for the partial dispensations of nature it affords a remedy. Large numbers of men and women co-operating together for mutual happiness, all their possessions and means of enjoyment being the equal property of all--individual property and competition for ever excluded--women are not asked to labor as much in point of strength of muscle as men, but to contribute what they can, with as much cheerful benevolence, to the common happiness. All talents, all faculties, whether from nature or education, whether of mind or muscle, are here equally appreciated if they are spontaneosly afforded and improved, and if they are necessary to keep up the common mass of happiness. Here no dread of being deserted by a husband with a helpless and pining family, could compel a woman to submit to the barbarities of an exclusive master. The whole Association educate and provide for the children of all: the children are independent of the exertions or the bounty of any individual parent: the whole wealth and beneficence of the community support woman against the enormous wrong of such casualities: they affect her not. She is bound by no motives to submit to injustice: it would not, therefore, be practised upon her. Here the evil of losing, by any accident, a beloved companion, is not aggravated to woman by the unanticipated pressure of overwhelming want. All her comforts, her respectability, depending on her personal qualities, remain unchanged: she co-operates as before to the common happiness, and her intelligent and sympathizing associates mitigate and gradually replace the bitterness of a last separation from the friend of her affections. Here, the daughter of the deserted mother could not, from want or vanity, sell the use of her person. She is as fully supplied with all comforts as any other member of the community, co-operating with them in whatever way her talents may permit to the common good. The vile trade of prostitution, consigning to untimely graves the youth and beauty of every civilized land, and gloated on by men pursuing individual wealth and upholding the sexual and partial system of morals, could not here exist. Man has, here, no individual wealth more than woman, with which to buy her person for the animal use of a few years. Man, like woman, if he wish to be beloved, must learn the art of pleasing, of benevolence, of deserving love. Here, the happiness of a young woman is not blasted for life by the scorn and persecutions of unrelenting hypocrisy, for that very indiscretion which weaves the gay chaplet of exulting gallantry round the forehead of unrestrained man. Morality is, here, just and equal in her awards. Why so? Because, man having no more wealth than woman, and no more influence over the general property, and his superior strength being brought down to its just level of utility, he can produce no sexual gratification but from the voluntary affection of woman: in proscribing her indiscretions, therefore, he must proscribe his own: and as far as the greatest degree of common happiness might require that such indiscretions should be equally repressed in the two sexes, so far and no farther would they be impartially discouraged in both. If women cease to be dependent on individual men for their daily support, if the children of all the pairs of the community are educated and maintained out of the common stock of wealth and talents, if every possible aid of medical skill and kindness is afforded impartially to all, to compensate for the bitterness of those hours when the organization of woman imposes on her superfluous sufferings; what motives, under such circumstances, could lead women to submit to unmerited reproach more than men, for those very acts in which men must from the very nature of things be equal participators? No means of persecution being left to men, all reproach not founded on reason and justice, all attempt at exclusive reproach, would be thrown back with laughter and contempt on the fools who harboured them. Woman's love must under such circumstances be earned, be merited, not, as now, bought or commanded: it would not be prostituted on heartless miscreants who could first steal the gem and then murder with their scorn its innocent confiding owner. Such men, in such an Association, might love themselves! a species of love, in which they would find no rivals to molest them!
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