THE FUTURE OF WOMAN, THE HOME, AND MARRIAGE
No true sportsman ever prophesies.
For the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the prophet.
If he is right, he can brag the rest of his days of
his seer-like vision. If he is wrong, no one takes
the trouble to reproach or mock him.
Therefore I do not claim to be a prophet
in discussing the future of woman, the home, and marriage.
At any time just one invention may come along that
will totally alter the face of things. Moreover
we are now in the midst of great changes in industry,
in social relations, in the largest matters of national
and international nature. Men and women alike
are involved in these changes, but it is impossible
to judge the outcome. For history records many
abortive reformations, many reactionary centuries
and eras as well as successful reformations and progressive
Whether or not it fits woman to be
a housewife of the traditional kind, feminism is certain
to develop further. Women will enter into more
diverse occupations than ever before, they will enter
politics, they will find their way to direct power
and action. More and more those who work will
be specialized and individualized –
the woman executive, the writer, the artist, the doctor,
lawyer, architect, chemist, and sociologist will
resist the dictum “Woman’s place is the
Home.” The woman of this group will either
be forced into celibacy, or in ever-increasing numbers
she will insist on some sort of arrangement whereby
she can carry on her work. She will perhaps refuse
to bear children and transform domesticity into an
apartment hotel life, in which she and her husband
eat breakfast and dinner together and spend the rest
of the waking time separately, as two men might.
Such a development, while perhaps
satisfying the ideas of progress of the feminist,
will be bad eugenically. There will be a removal
from the race of the value of these women, the intellectual
members of their sex. Whether the work this group
of women do will equal the value of the children they
might have had no one can say.
But after all, the number of women
who will enter the professions and remain in them
on the conditions above stated will be relatively small.
The main function of women will always be childbearing.
If ever there comes a time when the drift will be
away from this function, then a counter-movement will
start up to sway women back into this sphere of their
functions. Moreover, the bulk of women entering
industry will enter it in the humbler occupations
and they will in the main be willing enough to marry
and bear children, even in the limited way. Yet
since they enter marriage with a wider experience
than ever before, the conditions of marriage and the
home must change, even though gradually.
So on the whole we may look to an
increasing individuality of woman, an increasing feeling
of worth and dignity as an individual, an increasing
reluctance to take up life as the traditional housewife.
Rebellion against the monotony and the seclusive character
of the home will increase rather than diminish, and
it must be faced without prejudice and without any
reliance on any authority, either of church or state,
that will force women back to “womanly”
ways of thinking, feeling or doing.
Sooner or later we shall have to accept
legally what we now recognize as fact, the
restriction of childbearing. Whether we regard
it as good or bad, the modern woman will not bear
and nurse a large family. And the modern man,
though he has his little joke about the modern family,
is one with his wife in this matter. With husband
and wife agreed there seems little to do but accept
That this condition of affairs is
leaving the peopling of the world to the backward,
the ignorant, and the careless is at present accepted
by most authors. One has only to read the serious
articles on this subject in the journals devoted to
racial biology to realize how deeply important the
matter is. Yet there may be some undue alarm felt,
for contraceptive measures are becoming so prevalent
in Europe, America, and Asia that all races will soon
be on the same footing, and moreover all classes in
society except the feeble-minded are learning the
procedures. The prolificness of the feeble-minded
is indeed a menace, and society may find itself compelled
to lower their fertility artificially.
What will probably happen is that
the one, two, or three-child family will be born before
the mother’s thirty-fifth year, and she will
then or before forty become free from the severest
burdens of the housewife. What will she do with
her time; what will the better-to-do woman do?
Will she gradually give her energies to the community,
or will she while away her time in the spurious culture
that occupies so many club women to-day?
It is safe to say that women will
enter far more largely than ever before into movements
for the betterment of the race. Though their way
of life may breed neurasthenia for some, it will have
this great advantage, the mother feeling
will sweep into society, will enter politics, and
social discussions. That we need that feeling
no one will deny who has ever tried to enlist social
energies for race betterment and failed while politicians
stepped in for all the funds necessary even for some
anti-social activities. We have too much legalism
in our social structure and not near enough of the
humanism that the socially minded mother can bring.
Is the increasing incidence of divorce
a revolt against domesticity? To some extent
yes, but where women obtain the divorce it is mainly
a refusal to tolerate unfaithfulness, desertion, incompatibility
of temperament. It does not mean that the family
is threatened by divorce, rather that the
family is threatened by the conditions for which divorce
is nowadays obtained and which were formerly not reasons
for divorce. In many countries adultery on the
part of the man, cruel and abusive treatment, chronic
intoxication, and desertion were not grounds for divorce.
These to-day are the grounds for divorce, and in the
opinion of the writer they should invalidate a marriage.
I would go even further and say that wherever there
was concealed insanity or venereal disease the marriage
should be annulled, as it is in some States.
Divorce will not then diminish, despite
the campaign against it, until the conditions for
which it is sought are removed. Until that time
comes, to bind two people together who are manifestly
unhappy simply encourages unfaithfulness and cruelty,
and is itself a cruelty.
Whether we can devise a system where
woman’s individuality and humanness can have
scope and yet find her willing to accept the rôles
of mother and homekeeper, is a serious question.
It seems to me certain that woman will continue to
demand her freedom, regardless of her status as wife
and mother. She will continue to receive more
and more general and special education, and she will
continue to find the rôle of the traditional housewife
more uncongenial. Out of that maladaptation and
the discontent and rebellion will arise her neurosis.
In other words what we must seek to
do those of us who are not bound by tradition
alone but who seek to modify institutions to human
beings rather than the reverse is to find
out what changes in the home and matrimonial conditions
are necessary for the woman of to-day and to-morrow.
That there has been a huge migration
to the cities in the last century is one of its outstanding
peculiarities. This urban movement has meant
the greater concentration of humans in a given area,
and it is therefore directly responsible for the apartment
house. That is to say, there has been a trend
away from individual homes, completely segregated and
individualized, to houses where at least part of the
housework was eliminated, in a sense was coöperative.
This coöperation is increasing; more and more houses
have janitors, more and more houses furnish heat.
In the highest class of apartment house the trend is
toward permanent hotel life, with the exception that
individual housekeeping is possible.
Because of the limited space and the
desire of the modern well-to-do woman to escape as
much as possible from housekeeping, because of the
smaller families (which idea has been fostered by landlords),
the number of rooms and the size of the rooms have
grown less. The kitchenette apartment is a new
departure for those who can afford more room, for it
is well known that the poor in the slums have long
since lived in one or two rooms serving all purposes.
The huge modern apartment house, the huge modern tenement
house, are part first of the urban movement and second
of that movement away from housekeeping which has been
sketched in the Introduction.
The home has been praised as the nucleus
of society, its center, its heart. Its virtues
have been so unanimously extolled that one need but
recite them. It is the embodiment of family, the
soul of mother, father, and children. It is the
place where morality and modesty are taught. In
it arise the basic virtues of love of parents, love
of children, love of brothers and sisters; sympathy
is thus engendered; loyalty has here its source.
The privacy of the home is a refuge from excitement
and struggle and gives rest and peace to the weary
battler with the world. It is a sanctuary where
safety is to be sought, and this finds expression in
the English proverb, “Every Englishman’s
home is his castle.” It is a reward, a
purpose in that men and women dream of their own home
and are thrilled by the thought. Throughout its
quiet runs the scarlet thread of its sex life.
Home is where love is legitimate and encouraged.
Yet the home has great faults; it
is no more a divine institution than anything else
human is. Without at all detracting from its great,
its indispensable virtues, let us, as realists, study
On the physical-economic side is the
inefficiency and waste inseparable from individual
housekeeping. Labor-saving machinery and devices
are often too expensive for the individual home, and
so small stoves do the cooking and the heating, each
individual housewife or her helper washes by hand
the dishes of each little group. Shopping is a
matter for each woman, and necessitates numberless
small shops; perhaps the biggest waste of time and
energy lies here. The cooking is done according
to the intelligence and knowledge of nutrition of
each housewife, and housewives, like the rest of the
world, range in intelligence from feeble-mindedness
to genius, with a goodly number of the uninformed,
unintelligent, and careless. Poets and novelists
and the stage extol home cooking, but the doctors
and dietitians know there are as many kinds of home
cooking as there are kinds of homekeepers. The
laboratory and not the home has been the birthplace
of the science of nutrition, and we have still many
traditions regarding the merits of home cooking and
feeding to break from.
Take as one minor example the gorging
encouraged on Sunday and certain holidays. The
housewife feels it her duty to slave in a kitchen all
Sunday morning that an over-big meal may be eaten in
half an hour by her family. She encourages gluttony
by feeling that her standing as cook is directly proportional
to the heartiness of her meal. Thanksgiving,
Christmas, the good cheer of gluttony is
sentimentalized and hallowed into poetry and music.
The table that groans under its good cheer has its
sequence in the diners who groan without cheer.
While we might further dilate on the
physical deficiencies and inefficiencies of the segregated
home, there is a disadvantage of vaster importance.
After all, institutionalized cooking is rarely satisfactory,
because it lacks the spirit of good home cooking, the
desire to meet individual taste without profit.
It lacks the ideal of service.
There are bad effects from the segregation
and the privacy of the home, even of the good kind.
For there are very many bad homes; those in which
drunkenness, immorality, quarreling, selfishness, improvidence,
brutality, and crime are taught by example. After
all, we like to speak too much in generalities the
Home, Woman, Man, Labor, Capital, Mankind forgetting
there is no such thing as “the Home.”
There are homes of all kinds with every conceivable
ideal of life and training and having only one thing
in common, that they are segregated social
units, based usually on the family relationship.
Montaigne very truly said approximately this:
“He who generalizes says ‘Hello’
to a crowd; he who knows shakes hands with
In the first place the home (to show
my inconsistency in regard to generalizing) is the
place where prejudice is born, nourished, and grown
to its fullest proportions. The child born and
reared in a home is exposed to the contagion of whatever
silliness and prejudice actuate the lives and dominate
the thought and feeling of its parents. And the
quirks and twists to which it is exposed affect its
life either positively or negatively, for it either
accepts their prejudices or develops counter-prejudices
against them. To cite a familiar case; it is
traditional that some of the children brought up overstrictly,
overcarefully, throw off as soon as possible and as
completely as possible conventional morals and manners.
Such persons have simply overreacted to their training,
revolted against the prejudice of their teaching by
Further, the home fosters an anti-social
feeling, or perhaps it would be kinder to say a non-social
feeling. Your home-loving person comes in the
course of time to that state of mind where little else
is of importance; the home becomes the only place
where his sympathies and his altruistic purposes find
any real outlet. The capitalist of the stage (and
of real life too) is one so devoted to his home and
family that he decorates one and the other with the
trophies of other homes. There is none so devoted
to his home as the peasant, and there is no one so
individualistic, so intent in his own prosperity.
The home encourages an intense altruism, but usually
a narrow one. The feeling of warmth and comfort
of the hearth fire when a blizzard rages outside too
often makes us forget the poor fellows in the blizzard.
Thus the home is the backbone of conservatism,
which is good, but it becomes also the basis of reactionary
feeling. It is the people that break away from
home and home ties who do the great things.
When the home is quiet and harmonious
it is the place where great virtues are developed.
But when it is noisy and disharmonious, then its very
seclusiveness, its segregation, lends to the quarrels
the bitterness of civil war. The intensity of
feeling aroused is proportional to the intimacy of
the home and not to the importance of the thing quarreled
about. Good manners and that sign and symbol of
largeness of spirit, tolerance for the opinions of
others, rarely are born in the home.
It is hardly realized how much quarreling,
how much of intense emotional violence goes on in
many homes. Its isolation and the absence of the
restraining influence of formality and courtesy bring
the wills of the family members into sharp conflict.
Words are used that elsewhere would bring the severest
physical answer, or bring about the most complete
disruption of friendly relations. Love and anger,
duty and self-interest bring about intense inner conflict
in the home, and the struggle between the two generations,
the rising and the receding, is here at its height.
That courtesy to each other might
be taught the children, might be insisted on by the
parents is my firm belief. Love and intimacy need
not exclude form. Manners and morals are not
exclusive of each other. If the marriage ceremony
included the vow to be polite, it might leave out
almost everything else. The home should be the
place where tolerance, courtesy, and emotional control
are taught both by precept and example.
Can the home be altered to bring in
more of the social spirit and yet maintain its great
virtues, its extraordinary attraction for the human
heart? It’s an old story that criticism,
the pointing out of defect, is easy, while good suggestions
are few and difficult to convert into programs for
action. In medicine diagnosis is far ahead of
treatment, so in society at large.
Any plans that have for their end
a sort of social barracks, with men and women and
their children living in apartments, but eating and
drinking in large groups, will meet the fiercest resistance
from the sentiment of our times and cannot succeed,
unless it is forced on us by some breakdown of the
social structure. Nevertheless a larger coöperation,
at least in the cities, will come. Buildings must
be built so that a deal of individual labor disappears.
Just as coöperative stores are springing up, so coöperative
kitchens, community kitchens organized for service
would be a great benefit. Especially for the poor,
without servants, where the woman is frequently forced
to neglect her own rest and the children’s welfare
because she must cook, would such a development be
of great value. Unfortunately the few community
kitchens now operating have in mind only the middle-class
housewife and not the housewife in most need, the
poor housewife. Here is a plan for real social
service; cooking for the poor of the cities, scientific,
nutritious, tasty, at cost. Much of the work of
medicine would be eliminated with one stroke; much
of racial degeneracy and misery would disappear in
That the home needs labor-saving devices
in order that much of the disagreeable work may be
eliminated is unquestioned. Inventive genius
has only given a fragmentary attention to the problems
of the housewife. Most of the devices in use
are far beyond the means of the poor and even the
lower middle class. Furthermore, though they save
labor many of them do not save time. The tests
by which the good household device ought to be judged
First Is it efficient?
Second Is it labor saving?
Third Is it time saving?
We need to break away from traditional
cooking apparatus and traditional diet. The installation
and use of fireless cookers, self-regulating ovens,
is a first step. The discarding of most of the
puddings, roasts, fancy dishes that take much time
in the preparation and that keep the housewife in
the kitchen would not only save the housewife but would
also be of great benefit to her husband. The cult
of hearty eating, which results in keeping a woman
(mistress or maid) in the kitchen for three or more
hours that a man may eat for twenty or thirty minutes
is folly. The type of meal that either takes
only a short time for preparation and devices which
render the attention of the housewife unnecessary
are ethical and healthy, both for the family and society.
The joys of the table are not to be despised, and only
the dyspeptic or the ascetic hold them in contempt;
but simplicity in eating is the very heart of the
joy of the table.
Elaboration and gluttony are alike
in this, they increase the housework and
decrease the well-being of the diner.
How to maintain the sweetness of the
family spirit of the home and yet bring into it a
wider social spirit, break down its isolated individualistic
character, is a problem I do not pretend to be able
to solve. Ancient nations emphasized the social-national
aspect of life overmuch, as for example the Spartans;
the modern home overemphasizes the family aspect.
We must avoid extremes by clinging to the virtues and
correcting the vices of the home.
Alarmists are constantly raising the
cry that marriage is declining and that society is
thereby threatened at its very heart. There is
the pessimist who feels that the “irreligion”
of to-day is responsible; there is the one who blames
feminism; and there is the type that finds in Democracy
and liberalism generally the cause of the receding
old-fashioned morality. Divorce, late marriage,
and child-restriction are the manifestations of this
decadence, and the press, the pulpit, science, and
the State all have taken notice of these modern phenomena,
though with widely differing attitudes.
That matrimony is changing cannot
be questioned or denied. The main change is that
woman is entering more and more as an equal partner
whose rights the modern law recognizes as the ancient
law did not. She is no longer to be classed as
exemplified by the famous words of Petruchio, when
he claimed his wife, the erstwhile shrew, as his property
in exactly the same sense as any domestic animal,
linking the wife with the horse, the cow, the ass,
as the chattels of the man. The law agreed to
this attitude of the man, the Church supported it;
woman, strangely enough, seemed to glory in it.
With the rise of woman into the status
of a human being (a revolution not yet accomplished
in entirety) the property relationship weakened but
lingers very strongly as a tradition that molds the
lives of husband and wife. Women are still held
more rigidly to their duties as wives than men to
their duties as husbands, and the will of the husband
still rules in the major affairs of life, even though
in a thousand details the wife rules. Theoretically
every man willingly acknowledges the importance of
his wife as mother and homekeeper, but practically
he acts as if his work were the really important activity
of the family. The obedience of the wife is still
asked for by most of the religious ceremonies of the
times. Two great opinions are therefore still
struggling in the home and in society; one that matrimony
implies the dependence and essential inferiority of
woman, and the other that the man and woman are equal
partners in the relationship. I fully realize
that the advocate of the first opinion will deny that
the inferiority of woman is at all implied in their
standpoint. But it is an inferior who vows obedience,
it is the inferior who loses legal rights, it is the
inferior who yields to another the “headship”
of the home.
The struggle of these two opinions
will have only one outcome, the complete victory of
the modern belief that the sexes are, all in all,
equal, and that therefore marriage is a contract of
equals. Meanwhile the struggling opinions, with
the scene of conflict in every home, in every heart,
cause disorder as all struggles do. When the victory
is complete, then conduct will be definite and clear-cut,
then the home will be reorganized in relation to the
new belief, and then new problems will arise and be
met. How conduct will be changed, what the new
problems will be and how they will be met, I do not
pretend to know.
Meanwhile there is this to say, that
marriage should be guarded so that the grossly unfit
do not marry. A thorough physical examination
is as necessary for matrimony as it is for civil service,
and many of the horrors every generation of doctors
has witnessed could be eliminated at once and for
Further, if marriage is a desirable
state, and on the whole it must be preferred to a
single existence, surely so long as our code of morals
remains unchanged, and so long as we believe the race
must be perpetuated, then the too late marriage should
be discouraged. The ideal age for women to enter
matrimony is from twenty-two to twenty-five; the ideal
age for men is from twenty-five to twenty-eight.
It is not my province to deal at length with this
subject, but I may state that I believe that continence
beyond these ages becomes increasingly difficult,
that immorality is encouraged, that adaptability becomes
lessened, and that wiser selection of mates does not
occur. But how bring about early marriages in
a time when the luxuries seem to have become necessities,
and therefore the necessity of marriage is eyed more
and more as an extravagance of the foolhardy?
How bring about early marriage when women are earning
pay almost equal to that of the men and are therefore
more reluctant to enter matrimony unless at a high
standard of living. The late marriage is an evil,
but how it can be displaced by the early marriage
under the present social scheme I do not see.
We have considered divorce before
this. It is not an evil but a symptom of evil;
not a disease in itself. It cannot be lessened
or abolished unless we are willing to state that a
man and a woman should live together as husband and
wife, hating, despising, or fearing one another.
We cannot countenance brutality, unfaithfulness, or
temperamental mismating. It is true that divorces
are often obtained for trivial reasons, but usually
the partners are not adapted to one another, according
to modern ways of thinking and feeling. What is
commonplace in one age is cruelty in the next, and
this is a matter not of argument but of expectation
Nothing more need be said of contraceptive
measures than this: they are inevitably increasing
in use and soon will be part of the average marriage.
Society must recognize this, and the lawmakers must
legalize what they themselves practise.
Matrimony, the home, woman, these
are nodal points in the network of our human lives.
But they are not fixed centers, and the great weaver,
Time, changes the design constantly. Through
them run the threads of the great instincts, of tradition,
of economic change, of the ideas, ideals, and activities
of man the restless. Man will always love woman,
woman will always love man; children will be born
and reared, and sex conflict, maladjustment, will
always be secondary to these great facts. How
men and women will live together, how they will arrange
for the children, will be questions that women will
help the world answer as well as their mates.
That the main trend of things is for better, more ethical,
more just relationship, I do not doubt. The secondary,
most noisy changes are perhaps evil, the main primary
change is good.
Meanwhile in the hurly-burly of new
things, of complex relationships, working blindly,
is the nervous housewife. This book has been written
that she may know herself better and thus move towards
the light; that her husband may win sympathy and understanding
and be bound to her in a closer, better union, and
that the physician and Society may seek the direct
and the remote means to helping her.