Now that we have given one guinea towards rebuilding a college we must consider whether there is not more that we can do to help you to prevent war. And it is at once obvious, if what we have said about influence is true, that we must turn to the professions, because if we could persuade those who can earn their livings, and thus actually hold in their hands this new weapon, our only weapon, the weapon of independent opinion based upon independent income, to use that weapon against war, we should do more to help you than by appealing to those who must teach the young to earn their livings; or by lingering, however long, round the forbidden places and sacred gates of the universities where they are thus taught. This, therefore, is a more important question than the other.
Let us then lay your letter asking for help to prevent war, before the independent, the mature, those who are earning their livings in the professions. There is no need of rhetoric; hardly, one would suppose, of argument. ‘Here is a man,’ one has only to say, ‘whom we all have reason to respect; he tells us that war is possible; perhaps probable; he asks us, who can earn our livings, to help him in any way we can to prevent war.’ That surely will be enough without pointing to the photographs that are all this time piling up on the table — photographs of more dead bodies, of more ruined houses, to call forth an answer, and an answer that will give you, Sir, the very help that you require. But . . . it seems that there is some hesitation, some doubt — not certainly that war is horrible, that war is beastly, that war is insupportable and that war is inhuman, as Wilfred Owen said, or that we wish to do all we can to help you to prevent war. Nevertheless, doubts and hesitations there are; and the quickest way to understand them is to place before you another letter, a letter as genuine as your own, a letter that happens to lie beside it on the table.1
It is a letter from another honorary treasurer, and it is again asking for money. ‘Will you,’ she writes, ‘send a subscription to’ [a society to help the daughters of educated men to obtain employment in the professions] ‘in order to help us to earn our livings? Failing money,’ she goes on, ‘any gift will be acceptable — books, fruit or cast-off clothing that can be sold in a bazaar.’ Now that letter has so much bearing upon the doubts and hesitations referred to above, and upon the help we can give you, that it seems impossible either to send her a guinea or to send you a guinea until we have considered the questions which it raises.
The first question is obviously, Why is she asking for money? Why is she so poor, this representative of professional women, that she must beg for cast-off clothing for a bazaar? That is the first point to clear up, because if she is as poor as this letter indicates, then the weapon of independent opinion upon which we have been counting to help you to prevent war is not, to put it mildly, a very powerful weapon. On the other hand, poverty has its advantages; for if she is poor, as poor as she pretends to be, then we can bargain with her, as we bargained with her sister at Cambridge, and exercise the right of potential givers to impose terms. Let us then question her about her financial position and certain other facts before we give her a guinea, or lay down the terms upon which she is to have it. Here is the draft of such a letter:
‘Accept a thousand apologies, Madam, for keeping you waiting so long for an answer to your letter. The fact is, certain questions have arisen, to which we must ask you to reply before we send you a subscription. In the first place you are asking for money — money with which to pay your rent. But how can it be, how can it possibly be, my dear Madam, that you are so terribly poor? The professions have been open to the daughters of educated men for almost 20 years. Therefore, how can it be, that you, whom we take to be their representative, are standing, like your sister at Cambridge, hat in hand, pleading for money, or failing money, for fruit, books, or cast-off clothing to sell at a bazaar? How can it be, we repeat? Surely there must be some very grave defect, of common humanity, of common justice, or of common sense. Or can it simply be that you are pulling a long face and telling a tall story like the beggar at the street corner who has a stocking full of guineas safely hoarded under her bed at home? In any case, this perpetual asking for money and pleading of poverty is laying you open to very grave rebukes, not only from indolent outsiders who dislike thinking about practical affairs almost as much as they dislike signing cheques, but from educated men. You are drawing upon yourselves the censure and contempt of men of established reputation as philosophers and novelists — of men like Mr Joad and Mr Wells. Not only do they deny your poverty, but they accuse you of apathy and indifference. Let me draw your attention to the charges that they bring against you. Listen, in the first place, to what Mr C. E. M. Joad has to say of you. He says: “I doubt whether at any time during the last fifty years young women have been more politically apathetic, more socially indifferent than at the present time.” That is how he begins. And he goes on to say, very rightly, that it is not his business to tell you what you ought to do; but he adds, very kindly, that he will give you an example of what you might do. You might imitate your sisters in America. You might found “a society for the advertisement of peace”. He gives an example. This society explained, “I know not with what truth, that the number of pounds spent by the world on armaments in the current year was exactly equal to the number of minutes (or was it seconds?) which had elapsed since the death of Christ, who taught that war is unchristian . . . ” Now why should not you, too, follow their example and create such a society in England? It would need money, of course; but — and this is the point that I wish particularly to emphasize — there can be no doubt that you have the money. Mr Joad provides the proof. “Before the war money poured into the coffers of the W.S.P.U. in order that women might win the vote which, it was hoped, would enable them to make war a thing of the past. The vote is won,” Mr Joad continues, “but war is very far from being a thing of the past.” That I can corroborate myself — witness this letter from a gentleman asking for help to prevent war, and there are certain photographs of dead bodies and ruined houses — but let Mr Joad continue. “Is it unreasonable,” he goes on, “to ask that contemporary women should be prepared to give as much energy and money, to suffer as much obloquy and insult in the cause of peace, as their mothers gave and suffered in the cause of equality?” And again, I cannot help but echo, is it unreasonable to ask women to go on, from generation to generation, suffering obloquy and insult first from their brothers and then for their brothers? Is it not both perfectly reasonable and on the whole for their physical, moral and spiritual welfare? But let us not interrupt Mr Joad. “If it is, then the sooner they give up the pretence of playing with public affairs and return to private life the better. If they cannot make a job of the House of Commons, let them at least make something of their own houses. If they cannot learn to save men from the destruction which incurable male mischievousness bids fair to bring upon them, let women at least learn to feed them, before they destroy themselves.”2 Let us not pause to ask how even with a vote they can cure what Mr Joad himself admits to be incurable, for the point is how, in the face of that statement, you have the effrontery to ask me for a guinea towards your rent? According to Mr Joad you are not only extremely rich; you are also extremely idle; and so given over to the eating of peanuts and ice cream that you have not learnt how to cook him a dinner before he destroys himself, let alone how to prevent that fatal act. But more serious charges are to follow. Your lethargy is such that you will not fight even to protect the freedom which your mothers won for you. That charge is made against you by the most famous of living English novelists — Mr H. G. Wells. Mr H. G. Wells says, “There has been no perceptible woman’s movement to resist the practical obliteration of their freedom by Fascists or Nazis.”3 Rich, idle, greedy and lethargic as you are, how have you the effrontery to ask me to subscribe to a society which helps the daughters of educated men to make their livings in the professions? For as these gentlemen prove in spite of the vote and the wealth which that vote must have brought with it, you have not ended war; in spite of the vote and the power which that vote must have brought with it, you have not resisted the practical obliteration of your freedom by Fascists or Nazis. What other conclusion then can one come to but that the whole of what was called “the woman’s movement” has proved itself a failure; and the guinea which I am sending you herewith is to be devoted not to paying your rent but to burning your building. And when that is burnt, retire once more to the kitchen, Madam, and learn, if you can, to cook the dinner which you may not share.. .’4
There, Sir, the letter stopped; for on the face at the other side of the letter — the face that a letter-writer always sees — was an expression, of boredom was it, or was it of fatigue? The honorary treasurer’s glance seemed to rest upon a little scrap of paper upon which were written two dull little facts which, since they have some bearing upon the question we are discussing, how the daughters of educated men who are earning their livings in the professions can help you to prevent war, may be copied here. The first fact was that the income of the W.S.P.U. upon which Mr Joad has based his estimate of their wealth was (in the year 1912 at the height of their activity) £42,000.5 The second fact was that: ‘To earn £250 a year is quite an achievement even for a highly qualified woman with years of experience.’6 The date of that statement is 1934.
Both facts are interesting; and since both have a direct bearing upon the question before us, let us examine them. To take the first fact first — that is interesting because it shows that one of the greatest political changes of our times was accomplished upon the incredibly minute income of £42,000 a year. ‘Incredibly minute’ is, of course, a comparative term; it is incredibly minute, that is to say, compared with the income which the Conservative party, or the Liberal party — the parties to which the educated woman’s brother belonged — had at their disposal for their political causes. It is considerably less than the income which the Labour party — the party to which the working woman’s brother belongs — has at their disposal.7 It is incredibly minute compared with the sums that a society like the Society for the Abolition of Slavery for example had at its disposal for the abolition of that slavery. It is incredibly minute compared with the sums which the educated man spends annually, not upon political causes, but upon sports and pleasure. But our amazement, whether at the poverty of educated men’s daughters or at their economy, is a decidedly unpleasant emotion in this case, for it forces us to suspect that the honorary treasurer is telling the sober truth; she is poor; and it forces us to ask once more how, if £42,000 was all that the daughters of educated men could collect after many years of indefatigable labour for their own cause, they can help you to win yours? How much peace will £42,000 a year buy at the present moment when we are spending £300,000,000 annually upon arms?
But the second fact is the more startling and the more depressing of the two — the fact that now, almost 20 years, that is, after they have been admitted to the money-making professions ‘to earn £250 a year is quite an achievement even for a highly qualified woman with years of experience.’ Indeed, that fact, if it is a fact, is so startling and has so much bearing upon the question before us that we must pause for a moment to examine it. It is so important that it must be examined, moreover, by the white light of facts, not by the coloured light of biography. Let us have recourse then to some impersonal and impartial authority who has no more axe to grind or dinner to cook than Cleopatra’s Needle — Whitaker’s Almanack, for example.
Whitaker, needless to say, is not only one of the most dispassionate of authors, but one of the most methodical. There, in his Almanack he has collected all the facts about all, or almost all, of the professions that have been opened to the daughters of educated men. In a section called ‘Government and Public Offices’ he provides us with a plain statement of whom the Government employs professionally, and of what the Government pays those whom it employs. Since Whitaker adopts the alphabetical system, let us follow his lead and examine the first six letters of the alphabet. Under A there are the Admiralty, the Air Ministry, and Ministry of Agriculture. Under B there is the British Broadcasting Corporation; under C the Colonial Office and the Charity Commissioners; under D the Dominions Office and Development Commission; under E there are the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Board of Education; and so we come to the sixth letter F under which we find the Ministry of Fisheries, the Foreign Office, the Friendly Societies and the Fine Arts. These then are some of the professions which are now, as we are frequently reminded, open to both men and women equally. And the salaries paid to those employed in them come out of public money which is supplied by both sexes equally. And the income tax which supplies those salaries (among other things) now stands at about five shillings in the pound. We have all, therefore, an interest in asking how that money is spent, and upon whom. Let us look at the salary list of the Board of Education, since that is the class to which we both, Sir, though in very different degrees, have the honour to belong. The President, Whitaker says, of the Board of Education, gets £2,000; his principal Private Secretary gets from £847 to £1,058; his Assistant Private Secretary gets from £277 to £634. Then there is the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Education. He gets £3,000; his Private Secretary gets from £277 to £634. The Parliamentary Secretary gets £1,200; his Private Secretary gets from £277 to £634. The Deputy Secretary gets £2,200. The Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Department gets £1,650. And then there are Principal Assistant Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries, there are Directors of Establishments, Accountants- General, principal Finance Officers, Finance Officers, Legal Advisers, Assistant Legal Advisers — all these ladies and gentlemen, the impeccable and impartial Whitaker informs us, get incomes which run into four figures or over. Now an income which is over or about a thousand a year is a nice round sum when it is paid yearly and paid punctually; but when we consider that the work is a whole- time job and a skilled job we shall not grudge these ladies and gentlemen their salaries, even though our income tax does stand at five shillings in the pound, and our incomes are by no means paid punctually or paid annually. Men and women who spend every day and all day in an office from the age of about 23 to the age of 60 or so deserve every penny they get. Only, the reflection will intrude itself, if these ladies are drawing £1,000, £2,000 and £3,000 a year, not only in the Board of Education, but in all the other boards and offices which are now open to them, from the Admiralty at the beginning of the alphabet to the Board of Works at the end, the statement that ‘£250 is quite an achievement, even for a highly qualified woman with years of experience’ must be, to put it plainly, an unmitigated lie. Why, we have only to walk down Whitehall; consider how many boards and offices are housed there; reflect that each is staffed and officered by a flock of secretaries and under-secretaries so many and so nicely graded that their very names make our heads spin; and remember that each has his or her own sufficient salary, to exclaim that the statement is impossible, inexplicable. How can we explain it? Only by putting on a stronger pair of glasses. Let us read down the list, further and further and further down. At last we come to a name to which the prefix ‘Miss’ is attached. Can it be that all the names on top of hers, all the names to which the big salaries are attached, are the names of gentlemen? It seems so. So then it is not the salaries that are lacking; it is the daughters of educated men.
Now three good reasons for this curious deficiency or disparity lie upon the surface. Dr Robson supplies us with the first —‘The Administrative Class, which occupies all the controlling positions in the Home Civil Service, consists to an overwhelming extent of the fortunate few who can manage to get to Oxford and Cambridge; and the entrance examination has always been expressly designed for that purpose.’8 The fortunate few in our class, the daughters of educated men class, are very, very few. Oxford and Cambridge, as we have seen, strictly limit the number of educated men’s daughters who are allowed to receive a university education. Secondly, many more daughters stay at home to look after old mothers than sons stay at home to look after old fathers. The private house, we must remember, is still a going concern. Hence fewer daughters than sons enter for the Civil Service Examination. In the third place, we may fairly assume that 60 years of examination passing are not so effective as 500. The Civil Service Examination is a stiff one; we may reasonably expect more sons to pass it than daughters. We have nevertheless to explain the curious fact that though a certain number of daughters enter for the examination and pass the examination those to whose names the word ‘Miss’ is attached do not seem to enter the four-figure zone. The sex distinction seems, according to Whitaker, possessed of a curious leaden quality, liable to keep any name to which it is fastened circling in the lower spheres. Plainly the reason for this may lie not upon the surface, but within. It may be, to speak bluntly, that the daughters are in themselves deficient; that they have proved themselves untrustworthy; unsatisfactory; so lacking in the necessary ability that it is to the public interest to keep them to the lower grades where, if they are paid less, they have less chance of impeding the transaction of public business. This solution would be easy but, unfortunately, it is denied to us. It is denied to us by the Prime Minister himself. Women in the Civil Services are not untrustworthy, Mr Baldwin informed us the other day. ‘Many of them,’ he said, ‘are in positions in the course of their daily work to amass secret information. Secret information has a way of leaking very often, as we politicians know to our cost. I have never known a case of such a leakage being due to a woman, and I have known cases of leakage coming from men who should have known a great deal better.’ So they are not so loose-lipped and fond of gossip as the tradition would have it? A useful contribution in its way to psychology and a hint to novelists; but still there may be other objections to women’s employment as Civil Servants.
* Since these words were written Mr Baldwin has ceased to be Prime Minister and become an Earl.
Intellectually, they may not be so able as their brothers. But here again the Prime Minister will not help us out. ‘He was not prepared to say that any conclusion had been formed — or was even necessary — whether women were as good as, or better than, men, but he believed that women had worked in the Civil Service to their own content, and certainly to the complete satisfaction of everybody who had anything to do with them.’ Finally, as if to cap what must necessarily be an inconclusive statement by expressing a personal opinion which might rightly be more positive he said, ‘I should like to pay my personal tribute to the industry, capacity, ability and loyalty of the women I have come across in Civil Service positions.’ And he went on to express the hope that business men would make more use of those very valuable qualities.9
Now if anyone is in a position to know the facts it is the Prime Minister; and if anyone is able to speak the truth about them it is the same gentleman. Yet Mr Baldwin says one thing; Mr Whitaker says another. If Mr Baldwin is well informed, so is Mr Whitaker. Nevertheless, they contradict each other. The issue is joined; Mr Baldwin says that women are first-class civil servants; Mr Whitaker says that they are third-class civil servants. It is, in short, a case of Baldwin v. Whitaker, and since it is a very important case, for upon it depends the answer to many questions which puzzle us, not only about the poverty of educated men’s daughters but about the psychology of educated men’s sons, let us try the case of the Prime Minister v. the Almanack.
For such a trial you, Sir, have definite qualifications; as a barrister you have first-hand knowledge of one profession, and as an educated man second-hand knowledge of many more. And if it is true that the daughters of educated men who are of Mary Kingsley’s persuasion have no direct knowledge, still through fathers and uncles, cousins and brothers they may claim some indirect knowledge of professional life — it is a photograph that they have often looked upon — and this indirect knowledge they can improve, if they have a mind, by peeping through doors, taking notes, and asking questions discreetly. If, then, we pool our first-hand, secondhand, direct and indirect knowledge of the professions with a view to trying the important case of Baldwin v. Whitaker we shall agree at the outset that professions are very queer things. It by no means follows that a clever man gets to the top or that a stupid man stays at the bottom. This rising and falling is by no means a cut-and-dried clear-cut rational process, we shall both agree. After all, as we both have reason to know, Judges are fathers; and Permanent Secretaries have sons. Judges require marshals; Permanent Secretaries, private secretaries. What is more natural than that a nephew should be a marshal or the son of an old school friend a private secretary? To have such perquisites in their gift is as much the due of the public servant as a cigar now and then or a cast-off dress here and there are perquisites of the private servant. But the giving of such perquisites, the exercise of such influence, queers the professions. Success is easier for some, harder for others, however equal the brain power may be so that some rise unexpectedly; some fall unexpectedly; some remain strangely stationary; with the result that the professions are queered. Often indeed it is the public advantage that they should be queered. Since nobody, from the Master of Trinity downwards (bating, presumably, a few Head Mistresses), believes in the infallibility of examiners, a certain degree of elasticity is to the public advantage; since the impersonal is fallible, it is well that it should be supplemented by the personal. Happily for us all, therefore, we may conclude, a board is not made literally of oak, nor a division of iron. Both boards and divisions transmit human sympathies, and reflect human antipathies with the result that the imperfections of the examination system are rectified; the public interest is served; and the ties of blood and friendship are recognized. Thus it is quite possible that the name ‘Miss’ transmits through the board or division some vibration which is not registered in the examination room. ‘Miss’ transmits sex; and sex may carry with it an aroma. ‘Miss’ may carry with it the swish of petticoats, the savour of scent or other odour perceptible to the nose on the further side of the partition and obnoxious to it. What charms and consoles in the private house may distract and exacerbate in the public office. The Archbishops’ Commission assures us that this is so in the pulpit.10 Whitehall may be equally susceptible. At any rate since Miss is a woman, Miss was not educated at Eton or Christ Church. Since Miss is a woman, Miss is not a son or a nephew. We are hazarding our way among imponderables. We can scarcely proceed too much on tiptoe. We are trying, remember, to discover what flavour attaches itself to sex in a public office; we are sniffing most delicately not facts but savours. And therefore it would be well not to depend on our own private noses, but to call in evidence from outside. Let us turn to the public press and see if we can discover from the opinions aired there any hint that will guide us in our attempt to decide the delicate and difficult question as to the aroma, the atmosphere that surrounds the word ‘Miss’ in Whitehall. We will consult the newspapers.
I think your correspondent . . . correctly sums up this discussion in the observation that woman has too much liberty. It is probable that this so-called liberty came with the war, when women assumed responsibilities so far unknown to them. They did splendid service during those days. Unfortunately, they were praised and petted out of all proportion to the value of their performances.11
That does very well for a beginning. But let us proceed:
I am of the opinion that a considerable amount of the distress which is prevalent in this section of the community [the clerical] could be relieved by the policy of employing men instead of women, wherever possible. There are today in Government offices, post offices, insurance companies, banks and other offices, thousands of women doing work which men could do. At the same time there are thousands of qualified men, young and middle-aged, who cannot get a job of any sort. There is a large demand for woman labour in the domestic arts, and in the process of regrading a large number of women who have drifted into clerical service would become available for domestic service.12
The odour thickens, you will agree.
Then once more:
I am certain I voice the opinion of thousands of young men when I say that if men were doing the work that thousands of young women are now doing the men would be able to keep those same women in decent homes. Homes are the real places of the women who are now compelling men to be idle. It is time the Government insisted upon employers giving work to more men, thus enabling them to marry the women they cannot now approach.13
There! There can be no doubt of the odour now. The cat is out of the bag; and it is a Tom.
After considering the evidence contained in those three quotations, you will agree that there is good reason to think that the word ‘Miss’, however delicious its scent in the private house, has a certain odour attached to it in Whitehall which is disagreeable to the noses on the other side of the partition; and that it is likely that a name to which ‘Miss’ is attached will, because of this odour, circle in the lower spheres where the salaries are small rather than mount to the higher spheres where the salaries are substantial. As for ‘Mrs’, it is a contaminated word; an obscene word. The less said about that word the better. Such is the smell of it, so rank does it stink in the nostrils of Whitehall, that Whitehall excludes it entirely. In Whitehall as in heaven, there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage.14
Odour then — or shall we call it ‘atmosphere’? — is a very important element in professional life; in spite of the fact that like other important elements it is impalpable. It can escape the noses of examiners in examination rooms, yet penetrate boards and divisions and affect the senses of those within. Its bearing upon the case before us is undeniable. For it allows us to decide in the case of Baldwin v. Whitaker that both the Prime Minister and the Almanack are telling the truth. It is true that women civil servants deserve to be paid as much as men; but it is also true that they are not paid as much as men. The discrepancy is due to atmosphere.
Atmosphere plainly is a very mighty power. Atmosphere not only changes the sizes and shapes of things; it affects solid bodies, like salaries, which might have been thought impervious to atmosphere. An epic poem might be written about atmosphere, or a novel in ten or fifteen volumes. But since this is only a letter, and you are pressed for time, let us confine ourselves to the plain statement that atmosphere is one of the most powerful, partly because it is one of the most impalpable, of the enemies with which the daughters of educated men have to fight. If you think that statement exaggerated, look once more at the samples of atmosphere contained in those three quotations. We shall find there not only the reason why the pay of the professional woman is still so small, but something more dangerous, something which, if it spreads, may poison both sexes equally. There, in those quotations, is the egg of the very same worm that we know under other names in other countries. There we have in embryo the creature, Dictator as we call him when he is Italian or German, who believes that he has the right whether given by God, Nature, sex or race is immaterial, to dictate to other human beings how they shall live; what they shall do. Let us quote again: ‘Homes are the real places of the women who are now compelling men to be idle. It is time the Government insisted upon employers giving work to more men, thus enabling them to marry the women they cannot now approach.’ Place beside it another quotation: ‘There are two worlds in the life of the nation, the world of men and the world of women. Nature has done well to entrust the man with the care of his family and the nation. The woman’s world is her family, her husband, her children, and her home.’ One is written in English, the other in German. But where is the difference? Are they not both saying the same thing? Are they not both the voices of Dictators, whether they speak English or German, and are we not all agreed that the dictator when we meet him abroad is a very dangerous as well as a very ugly animal? And he is here among us, raising his ugly head, spitting his poison, small still, curled up like a caterpillar on a leaf, but in the heart of England. Is it not from this egg, to quote Mr Wells again, that ‘the practical obliteration of [our] freedom by Fascists or Nazis’ will spring? And is not the woman who has to breathe that poison and to fight that insect, secretly and without arms, in her office, fighting the Fascist or the Nazi as surely as those who fight him with arms in the limelight of publicity? And must not that fight wear down her strength and exhaust her spirit? Should we not help her to crush him in our own country before we ask her to help us to crush him abroad? And what right have we, Sir, to trumpet our ideals of freedom and justice to other countries when we can shake out from our most respectable newspapers any day of the week eggs like these?
Here, rightly, you will check what has all the symptoms of becoming a peroration by pointing out that though the opinions expressed in these letters are not altogether agreeable to our national self- esteem they are the natural expression of fear and a jealousy which we must understand before we condemn them. It is true, you will say, that these gentlemen seem a little unduly concerned with their own salaries and their own security, but that is comprehensible, given the traditions of their sex, and even compatible with a genuine love of freedom and a genuine hatred of dictatorship. For these gentlemen are, or wish to become, husbands and fathers, and in that case the support of the family will depend upon them. In other words, sir, I take you to mean that the world as it is at present is divided into two services; one the public and the other the private. In one world the sons of educated men work as civil servants, judges, soldiers and are paid for that work; in the other world, the daughters of educated men work as wives, mothers, daughters — but are they not paid for that work? Is the work of a mother, of a wife, of a daughter, worth nothing to the nation in solid cash? That fact, if it be a fact, is so astonishing that we must confirm it by appealing once more to the impeccable Whitaker. Let us turn to his pages again. We may turn them, and turn them again. It seems incredible, yet it seems undeniable. Among all those offices there is no such office as a mother’s; among all those salaries there is no such salary as a mother’s. The work of an archbishop is worth £15,000 a year to the State; the work of a judge is worth £5,000 a year; the work of a permanent secretary is worth £3,000 a year; the work of an army captain, of a sea captain, of a sergeant of dragoons, of a policeman, of a postman — all these works are worth paying out of the taxes, but wives and mothers and daughters who work all day and every day, without whose work the State would collapse and fall to pieces, without whose work your sons, sir, would cease to exist, are paid nothing whatever. Can it be possible? Or have we convicted Whitaker, the impeccable, of errata?
Ah, you will interpose, here is another misunderstanding. Husband and wife are not only one flesh; they are also one purse. The wife’s salary is half the husband’s income. The man is paid more than the woman for that very reason — because he has a wife to support. The bachelor then is paid at the same rate as the unmarried woman? It appears not — another queer effect of atmosphere, no doubt; but let it pass. Your statement that the wife’s salary is half the husband’s income seems to be an equitable arrangement, and no doubt, since it is equitable, it is confirmed by law. Your reply that the law leaves these private matters to be decided privately is less satisfactory, for it means that the wife’s half-share of the common income is not paid legally into her hands, but into her husband’s. But still a spiritual right may be as binding as a legal right; and if the wife of an educated man has a spiritual right to half her husband’s income, then we may assume that the wife of an educated man has as much money to spend, once the common household bills are met, upon any cause that appeals to her as her husband. Now her husband, witness Whitaker, witness the wills in the daily paper, is often not merely well paid by his profession, but is master of a very considerable capital sum. Therefore this lady who asserts that £250 a year is all that a woman can earn today in the professions is evading the question; for the profession of marriage in the educated class is a highly paid one, since she has a right, a spiritual right, to half her husband’s salary. The puzzle deepens; the mystery thickens. For if the wives of rich men are themselves rich women, how does it come about that the income of the W.S.P.U. was only £42,000 a year; how does it come about that the honorary treasurer of the college rebuilding fund is still asking for £100,000; how does it come about that the treasurer of a society for helping professional women to obtain employment is asking not merely for money to pay her rent but will be grateful for books, fruit or cast-off clothing? It stands to reason that if the wife has a spiritual right to half her husband’s income because her own work as his wife is unpaid, then she must have as much money to spend upon such causes as appeal to her as he has. And since those causes are standing hat in hand a-begging we are forced to conclude that they are causes that do not take the fancy of the educated man’s wife. The charge against her is a very serious one. For consider — there is the money — that surplus fund that can be devoted to education, to pleasure, to philanthropy when the household dues are met; she can spend her share as freely as her husband can spend his. She can spend it upon whatever causes she likes; and yet she will not spend it upon the causes that are dear to her own sex. There they are, hat in hand a-begging. That is a terrible charge to bring against her.
But let us pause for a moment before we decide that charge against her. Let us ask what are the causes, the pleasures, the philanthropies upon which the educated man’s wife does in fact spend her share of the common surplus fund. And here we are confronted with facts which, whether we like them or not, we must face. The fact is that the tastes of the married woman in our class are markedly virile. She spends vast sums annually upon party funds; upon sport; upon grouse moors; upon cricket and football. She lavishes money upon clubs — Brooks’, White’s, the Travellers’, the Reform, the Athenaeum — to mention only the most prominent. Her expenditure upon these causes, pleasures and philanthropies must run into many millions every year. And yet by far the greater part of this sum is spent upon pleasures which she does not share. She lays out thousands and thousands of pounds upon clubs to which her own sex is not admitted;15 upon racecourses where she may not ride; upon colleges from which her own sex is excluded. She pays a huge bill annually for wine which she does not drink and for cigars which she does not smoke. In short, there are only two conclusions to which we can come about the educated man’s wife — the first is that she is the most altruistic of beings who prefers to spend her share of the common fund upon his pleasures and causes; the second, and more probable, if less creditable, is not that she is the most altruistic of beings, but that her spiritual right to a share of half her husband’s income peters out in practice to an actual right to board, lodging and a small annual allowance for pocket money and dress. Either of these conclusions is possible; the evidence of public institutions and subscription lists puts any other out of the question. For consider how nobly the educated man supports his old school, his old college; how splendidly he subscribes to party funds; how munificently he contributes to all those institutions and sports by which he and his sons educate their minds and develop their bodies — the daily papers bear daily witness to those indisputable facts. But the absence of her name from subscription lists, and the poverty of the institutions which educate her mind and her body seem to prove that there is something in the atmosphere of the private house which deflects the wife’s spiritual share of the common income impalpably but irresistibly towards those causes which her husband approves and those pleasures which he enjoys. Whether creditable or discreditable, that is the fact. And that is the reason why those other causes stand a-begging.
With Whitaker’s facts and the facts of the subscription lists before us, we seem to have arrived at three facts which are indisputable and must have great influence upon our inquiry how we can help you to prevent war. The first is that the daughters of educated men are paid very little from the public funds for their public services; the second is that they are paid nothing at all from the public funds for their private services; and the third is that their share of the husband’s income is not a flesh-and-blood share but a spiritual or nominal share, which means that when both are clothed and fed the surplus fund that can be devoted to causes, pleasures or philanthropies gravitates mysteriously but indisputably towards those causes, pleasures and philanthropies which the husband enjoys, and of which the husband approves. It seems that the person to whom the salary is actually paid is the person who has the actual right to decide how that salary shall be spent.
These facts then bring us back in a chastened mood and with rather altered views to our starting point. For we were going, you may remember, to lay your appeal for help in the prevention of war before the women who earn their livings in the professions. It is to them, we said, to whom we must appeal, because it is they who have our new weapon, the influence of an independent opinion based upon an independent income, in their possession. But the facts once more are depressing. They make it clear in the first place that we must rule out, as possible helpers, that large group to whom marriage is a profession, because it is an unpaid profession, and because the spiritual share of half the husband’s salary is not, facts seem to show, an actual share. Therefore, her disinterested influence founded upon an independent income is nil. If he is in favour of force, she too will be in favour of force. In the second place, facts seem to prove that the statement ‘To earn £250 a year is quite an achievement even for a highly qualified woman with years of experience’ is not an unmitigated lie but a highly probable truth. Therefore, the influence which the daughters of educated men have at present from their money-earning power cannot be rated very highly. Yet since it has become more than ever obvious that it is to them that we must look for help, for they alone can help us, it is to them that we must appeal. This conclusion then brings us back to the letter from which we quoted above — the honorary treasurer’s letter, the letter asking for a subscription to the society for helping the daughters of educated men to obtain employment in the professions. You will agree, sir, that we have strong selfish motives for helping her — there can be no doubt about that. For to help women to earn their livings in the professions is to help them to possess that weapon of independent opinion which is still their most powerful weapon. It is to help them to have a mind of their own and a will of their own with which to help you to prevent war. But . . . — here again, in those dots, doubts and hesitations assert themselves — can we, considering the facts given above, send her our guinea without laying down very stringent terms as to how that guinea shall be spent?
For the facts which we have discovered in checking her statement as to her financial position have raised questions which make us wonder whether we are wise to encourage people to enter the professions if we wish to prevent war. You will remember that we are using our psychological insight (for that is our only qualification) to decide what kind of qualities in human nature are likely to lead to war. And the facts disclosed above are of a kind to make us ask, before we write our cheque, whether if we encourage the daughters of educated men to enter the professions we shall not be encouraging the very qualities that we wish to prevent? Shall we not be doing our guinea’s worth to ensure that in two or three centuries not only the educated men in the professions but the educated women in the professions will be asking — oh, of whom? as the poet says — the very question that you are asking us now: How can we prevent war? If we encourage the daughters to enter the professions without making any conditions as to the way in which the professions are to be practised shall we not be doing our best to stereotype the old tune which human nature, like a gramophone whose needle has stuck, is now grinding out with such disastrous unanimity? ‘Here we go round the mulberry tree, the mulberry tree, the mulberry tree. Give it all to me, give it all to me, all to me. Three hundred millions spent upon war.’ With that song, or something like it, ringing in our ears we cannot send our guinea to the honorary treasurer without warning her that she shall only have it on condition that she shall swear that the professions in future shall be practised so that they shall lead to a different song and a different conclusion. She shall only have it if she can satisfy us that our guinea shall be spent in the cause of peace. It is difficult to formulate such conditions; in our present psychological ignorance perhaps impossible. But the matter is so serious, war is so insupportable, so horrible, so inhuman, that an attempt must be made. Here then is another letter to the same lady.
‘Your letter, Madam, has waited a long time for an answer, but we have been examining into certain charges made against you and making certain inquiries. We have acquitted you, Madam, you will be relieved to learn, of telling lies. It would seem to be true that you are poor. We have acquitted you further, of idleness, apathy and greed. The number of causes that you are championing, however secretly and ineffectively, is in your favour. If you prefer ice creams and peanuts to roast beef and beer the reason would seem to be economic rather than gustatory. It would seem probable that you have not much money to spend upon food or much leisure to spend upon eating it in view of the circulars and leaflets you issue, the meetings you arrange, the bazaars you organize. Indeed, you would appear to be working, without a salary too, rather longer hours than the Home Office would approve. But though we are willing to deplore your poverty and to commend your industry we are not going to send you a guinea to help you to help women to enter the professions unless you can assure us that they will practise those professions in such a way as to prevent war. That, you will say, is a vague statement, an impossible condition. Still, since guineas are rare and guineas are valuable you will listen to the terms we wish to impose if, you intimate, they can be stated briefly. Well then, Madam, since you are pressed for time, what with the Pensions Bill, what with shepherding the Peers into the House of Lords so that they may vote on it as instructed by you, what with reading Hansard and the newspapers — though that should not take much time; you will find no mention of your activities there;16 a conspiracy of silence seems to be the rule; what with plotting still for equal pay for equal work in the Civil Service, while at the same time you are arranging hares and old coffee-pots so as to seduce people into paying more for them than they are strictly worth at a bazaar — since, in one word, it is obvious that you are busy, let us be quick; make a rapid survey; discuss a few passages in the books in your library; in the papers on your table, and then see if we can make the statement less vague, the conditions more clear.
‘Let us then begin by looking at the outside of things, at the general aspect. Things have outsides let us remember as well as insides. Close at hand is a bridge over the Thames, an admirable vantage ground for such a survey. The river flows beneath; barges pass, laden with timber, bursting with corn; there on one side are the domes and spires of the city; on the other, Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. It is a place to stand on by the hour, dreaming. But not now. Now we are pressed for time. Now we are here to consider facts; now we must fix our eyes upon the procession — the procession of the sons of educated men.
‘There they go, our brothers who have been educated at public schools and universities, mounting those steps, passing in and out of those doors, ascending those pulpits, preaching, teaching, administering justice, practising medicine, transacting business, making money. It is a solemn sight always — a procession, like a caravanserai crossing a desert. Great-grandfathers, grandfathers, fathers, uncles — they all went that way, wearing their gowns, wearing their wigs, some with ribbons across their breasts, others without. One was a bishop. Another a judge. One was an admiral. Another a general. One was a professor. Another a doctor. And some left the procession and were last heard of doing nothing in Tasmania; were seen, rather shabbily dressed, selling newspapers at Charing Cross. But most of them kept in step, walked according to rule, and by hook or by crook made enough to keep the family house, somewhere, roughly speaking, in the West End, supplied with beef and mutton for all, and with education for Arthur. It is a solemn sight, this procession, a sight that has often caused us, you may remember, looking at it sidelong from an upper window, to ask ourselves certain questions. But now, for the past twenty years or so, it is no longer a sight merely, a photograph, or fresco scrawled upon the walls of time, at which we can look with merely an aesthetic appreciation. For there, trapesing along at the tail end of the procession, we go ourselves. And that makes a difference. We who have looked so long at the pageant in books, or from a curtained window watched educated men leaving the house at about nine-thirty to go to an office, returning to the house at about six-thirty from an office, need look passively no longer. We too can leave the house, can mount those steps, pass in and out of those doors, wear wigs and gowns, make money, administer justice. Think — one of these days, you may wear a judge’s wig on your head, an ermine cape on your shoulders; sit under the lion and the unicorn; draw a salary of five thousand a year with a pension on retiring. We who now agitate these humble pens may in another century or two speak from a pulpit. Nobody will dare contradict us then; we shall be the mouthpieces of the divine spirit — a solemn thought, is it not? Who can say whether, as time goes on, we may not dress in military uniform, with gold lace on our breasts, swords at our sides, and something like the old family coal-scuttle on our heads, save that that venerable object was never decorated with plumes of white horsehair. You laugh — indeed the shadow of the private house still makes those dresses look a little queer. We have worn private clothes so long — the veil that St Paul recommended. But we have not come here to laugh, or to talk of fashions — men’s and women’s. We are here, on the bridge, to ask ourselves certain questions. And they are very important questions; and we have very little time in which to answer them. The questions that we have to ask and to answer about that procession during this moment of transition are so important that they may well change the lives of all men and women for ever. For we have to ask ourselves, here and now, do we wish to join that procession, or don’t we? On what terms shall we join that procession? Above all, where is it leading us, the procession of educated men? The moment is short; it may last five years; ten years, or perhaps only a matter of a few months longer. But the questions must be answered; and they are so important that if all the daughters of educated men did nothing, from morning to night, but consider that procession from every angle, if they did nothing but ponder it and analyse it, and think about it and read about it and pool their thinking and reading, and what they see and what they guess, their time would be better spent than in any other activity now open to them. But, you will object, you have no time to think; you have your battles to fight, your rent to pay, your bazaars to organize. That excuse shall not serve you, Madam. As you know from your own experience, and there are facts that prove it, the daughters of educated men have always done their thinking from hand to mouth; not under green lamps at study tables in the cloisters of secluded colleges. They have thought while they stirred the pot, while they rocked the cradle. It was thus that they won us the right to our brand-new sixpence. It falls to us now to go on thinking; how are we to spend that sixpence? Think we must. Let us think in offices; in omnibuses; while we are standing in the crowd watching Coronations and Lord Mayor’s Shows; let us think as we pass the Cenotaph; and in Whitehall; in the gallery of the House of Commons; in the Law Courts; let us think at baptisms and marriages and funerals. Let us never cease from thinking — what is this “civilization” in which we find ourselves? What are these ceremonies and why should we take part in them? What are these professions and why should we make money out of them? Where in short is it leading us, the procession of the sons of educated men?
‘But you are busy; let us return to facts. Come indoors then, and open the books on your library shelves. For you have a library, and a good one. A working library, a living library; a library where nothing is chained down and nothing is locked up; a library where the songs of the singers rise naturally from the lives of the livers. There are the poems, here the biographies. And what light do they throw upon the professions, these biographies? How far do they encourage us to think that if we help the daughters to become professional women we shall discourage war? The answer to that question is scattered all about these volumes; and is legible to anyone who can read plain English. And the answer, one must admit, is extremely queer. For almost every biography we read of professional men in the nineteenth century, to limit ourselves to that not distant and fully documented age, is largely concerned with war. They were great fighters, it seems, the professional men in the age of Queen Victoria. There was the battle of Westminster. There was the battle of the universities. There was the battle of Whitehall. There was the battle of Harley Street. There was the battle of the Royal Academy. Some of these battles, as you can testify, are still in progress. In fact the only profession which does not seem to have fought a fierce battle during the nineteenth century is the profession of literature. All the other professions, according to the testimony of biography, seem to be as bloodthirsty as the profession of arms itself. It is true that the combatants did not inflict flesh wounds;17 chivalry forbade; but you will agree that a battle that wastes time is as deadly as a battle that wastes blood. You will agree that a battle that costs money is as deadly as a battle that costs a leg or an arm. You will agree that a battle that forces youth to spend its strength haggling in committee rooms, soliciting favours, assuming a mask of reverence to cloak its ridicule, inflicts wounds upon the human spirit which no surgery can heal. Even the battle of equal pay for equal work is not without its timeshed, its spiritshed, as you yourself, were you not unaccountably reticent on certain matters, might agree. Now the books in your library record so many of these battles that it is impossible to go into them all; but as they all seem to have been fought on much the same plan, and by the same combatants, that is by professional men v. their sisters and daughters, let us, since time presses, glance at one of these campaigns only and examine the battle of Harley Street, in order that we may understand what effect the professions have upon those who practise them.
‘The campaign was opened in the year 1869 under the leadership of Sophia Jex-Blake. Her case is so typical an instance of the great Victorian fight between the victims of the patriarchal system and the patriarchs, of the daughters against the fathers, that it deserves a moment’s examination. Sophia’s father was an admirable specimen of the Victorian educated man, kindly, cultivated and well-to-do. He was a proctor of Doctors’ Commons. He could afford to keep six servants, horses and carriages, and could provide his daughter not only with food and lodging but with “handsome furniture” and “a cosy fire” in her bedroom. For salary, “for dress and private money”, he gave her £40 a year. For some reason she found this sum insufficient. In 1859, in view of the fact that she had only nine shillings and ninepence left to last her till next quarter, she wished to earn money herself. And she was offered a tutorship with the pay of five shillings an hour. She told her father of the offer. He replied, “Dearest, I have only this moment heard that you contemplate being PAID for the tutorship. It would be quite beneath you, darling, and I CANNOT CONSENT TO IT,” She argued: “Why should I not take it? You as a man did your work and received your payment, and no one thought it any degradation, but a fair exchange . . . Tom is doing on a large scale what I am doing on a small one.” He replied: “The cases you cite, darling, are not to the point . . . T. W. . . . feels bound as a MAN . . . to support his wife and family, and his position is a high one, which can only be filled by a first-class man of character, and yielding him nearer two than one thousand a year . . . How entirely different is my darling’s case! You want for nothing, and know that (humanly speaking) you will want for nothing. If you married tomorrow — to my liking — and I don’t believe you would ever marry otherwise — I should give you a good fortune.” Upon which her comment, in a private diary, was: “Like a fool I have consented to give up the fees for this term only — though I am miserably poor. It was foolish. It only defers the struggle.”18
‘There she was right. The struggle with her own father was over. But the struggle with fathers in general, with the patriarchy itself, was deferred to another place and another time. The second fight was at Edinburgh in 1869. She had applied for admission to the Royal College of Surgeons. Here is a newspaper account of the first skirmish. “A disturbance of a very unbecoming nature took place yesterday afternoon in front of the Royal College of Surgeons . . . Shortly before four o’clock . . . nearly 200 students assembled in front of the gate leading to the building . . . ” the medical students howled and sang songs. “The gate was closed in their [the women’s] faces . . . Dr Handyside found it utterly impossible to begin his demonstration . . . a pet sheep was introduced into the room” and so on. The methods were much the same as those that were employed at Cambridge during the battle of the Degree. And again, as on that occasion, the authorities deplored those downright methods and employed others, more astute and more effective, of their own. Nothing would induce the authorities encamped within the sacred gates to allow the women to enter. They said that God was on their side, Nature was on their side, Law was on their side, and Property was on their side. The college was founded for the benefit of men only; men only were entitled by law to benefit from its endowments. The usual committees were formed. The usual petitions were signed. The humble appeals were made. The usual bazaars were held. The usual questions of tactics were debated. As usual it was asked, ought we to attack now, or is it wiser to wait? Who are our friends and who are our enemies? There were the usual differences of opinion, the usual divisions among the counsellors. But why particularize? The whole proceeding is so familiar that the battle of Harley Street in the year 1869 might well be the battle of Cambridge University at the present moment. On both occasions there is the same waste of strength, waste of temper, waste of time, and waste of money. Almost the same daughters ask almost the same brothers for almost the same privileges. Almost the same gentlemen intone the same refusals for almost the same reasons. It seems as if there were no progress in the human race, but only repetition. We can almost hear them if we listen singing the same old song, “Here we go round the mulberry tree, the mulberry tree, the mulberry tree” and if we add, “of property, of property, of property,” we shall fill in the rhyme without doing violence to the facts.
‘But we are not here to sing old songs or to fill in missing rhymes. We are here to consider facts. And the facts which we have just extracted from biography seem to prove that the professions have a certain undeniable effect upon the professors. They make the people who practise them possessive, jealous of any infringement of their rights, and highly combative if anyone dares dispute them. Are we not right then in thinking that if we enter the same professions we shall acquire the same qualities? And do not such qualities lead to war? In another century or so if we practise the professions in the same way, shall we not be just as possessive, just as jealous, just as pugnacious, just as positive as to the verdict of God, Nature, Law and Property as these gentlemen are now? Therefore this guinea, which is to help you to help women to enter the professions, has this condition as a first condition attached to it. You shall swear that you will do all in your power to insist that any woman who enters any profession shall in no way hinder any other human being, whether man or woman, white or black, provided that he or she is qualified to enter that profession, from entering it; but shall do all in her power to help them.
‘You are ready to put your hand to that, here and now, you say, and at the same time stretch out that hand for the guinea. But wait. Other conditions are attached to it before it is yours. For consider once more the procession of the sons of educated men; ask yourself once more, where is it leading us? One answer suggests itself instantly. To incomes, it is obvious, that seem, to us at least, extremely handsome. Whitaker puts that beyond a doubt. And besides the evidence of Whitaker, there is the evidence of the daily paper — the evidence of the wills, of the subscription lists that we have considered already. In one issue of one paper, for example, it is stated that three educated men died; and one left £1,193,251; another £1,010,288; another £1,404,132. These are large sums for private people to amass, you will admit. And why should we not amass them too in course of time? Now that the Civil Service is open to us we may well earn from one thousand to three thousand a year; now that the Bar is open to us we may well earn £5,000 a year as judges, and any sum up to forty or fifty thousand a year as barristers. When the Church is open to us we may draw salaries of fifteen thousand, five thousand, three thousand yearly, with palaces and deaneries attached. When the Stock Exchange is open to us we may die worth as many millions as Pierpont Morgan, or as Rockefeller himself. As doctors we may make anything from two thousand to fifty thousand a year. As editors even we may earn salaries that are by no means despicable. One has a thousand a year; another two thousand; it is rumoured that the editor of a great daily paper has a salary of five thousand yearly. All this wealth may in the course of time come our way if we follow the professions. In short, we may change our position from being the victims of the patriarchal system, paid on the truck system, with £30 or £40 a year in cash and board and lodging thrown in, to being the champions of the capitalist system, with a yearly income in our own possession of many thousands which, by judicious investment, may leave us when we die possessed of a capital sum of more millions than we can count.
‘It is a thought not without its glamour. Consider what it would mean if among us there were now a woman motorcar manufacturer who, with a stroke of the pen, could endow the women’s colleges with two or three hundred thousand pounds apiece. The honorary treasurer of the rebuilding fund, your sister at Cambridge, would have her labours considerably lightened then. There would be no need of appeals and committees, of strawberries and cream and bazaars. And suppose that there were not merely one rich woman, but that rich women were as common as rich men. What could you not do? You could shut up your office at once. You could finance a woman’s party in the House of Commons. You could run a daily newspaper committed to a conspiracy, not of silence, but of speech. You could get pensions for spinsters; those victims of the patriarchal system, whose allowance is insufficient and whose board and lodging are no longer thrown in. You could get equal pay for equal work. You could provide every mother with chloroform when her child is born;19 bring down the maternal death-rate from four in every thousand to none at all, perhaps. In one session you could pass Bills that will now take you perhaps a hundred years of hard and continuous labour to get through the House of Commons. There seems at first sight nothing that you could not do, if you had the same capital at your disposal that your brothers have at theirs. Why not, then, you exclaim, help us to take the first step towards possessing it? The professions are the only way in which we can earn money. Money is the only means by which we can achieve objects that are immensely desirable. Yet here you are, you seem to protest, haggling and bargaining over conditions. But consider this letter from a professional man asking us to help him to prevent war. Look also at the photographs of dead bodies and ruined houses that the Spanish Government sends almost weekly. That is why it is necessary to haggle and to bargain over conditions.
‘For the evidence of the letter and of the photographs when combined with the facts with which history and biography provide us about the professions seem together to throw a certain light, a red light, shall we say, upon those same professions. You make money in them; that is true; but how far is money in view of those facts in itself a desirable possession? A great authority upon human life, you will remember, held over two thousand years ago that great possessions were undesirable. To which you reply, and with some heat as if you suspected another excuse for keeping the purse- string tied, that Christ’s words about the rich and the Kingdom of Heaven are no longer helpful to those who have to face different facts in a different world. You argue that as things are now in England extreme poverty is less desirable than extreme wealth. The poverty of the Christian who should give away all his possessions produces, as we have daily and abundant proof, the crippled in body, the feeble in mind. The unemployed, to take the obvious example, are not a source of spiritual or intellectual wealth to their country. These are weighty arguments; but consider for a moment the life of Pierpont Morgan. Do you not agree with that evidence before us that extreme wealth is equally undesirable, and for the same reasons? If extreme wealth is undesirable and extreme poverty is undesirable, it is arguable that there is some mean between the two which is desirable. What then is that mean — how much money is needed to live upon in England today? How should that money be spent? What is the kind of life, the kind of human being, you propose to aim at if you succeed in extracting this guinea? Those, Madam, are the questions that I am asking you to consider and you cannot deny that those are questions of the utmost importance. But alas, they are questions that would lead us far beyond the solid world of actual fact to which we are here confined. So let us shut the New Testament; Shakespeare, Shelley, Tolstoy and the rest, and face the fact that stares us in the face at this moment of transition — the fact of the procession; the fact that we are trapesing along somewhere in the rear and must consider that fact before we can fix our eyes upon the vision on the horizon.
‘There it is then, before our eyes, the procession of the sons of educated men, ascending those pulpits, mounting those steps, passing in and out of those doors, preaching, teaching, administering justice, practising medicine, making money. And it is obvious that if you are going to make the same incomes from the same professions that those men make you will have to accept the same conditions that they accept. Even from an upper window and from books we know or can guess what those conditions are. You will have to leave the house at nine and come back to it at six. That leaves very little time for fathers to know their children. You will have to do this daily from the age of twenty-one or so to the age of about sixty-five. That leaves very little time for friendship, travel or art. You will have to perform some duties that are very arduous, others that are very barbarous. You will have to wear certain uniforms and profess certain loyalties. If you succeed in your profession the words “For God and Empire” will very likely be written, like the address on a dog-collar, round your neck.20 And if words have meaning, as words perhaps should have meaning, you will have to accept that meaning and do what you can to enforce it. In short, you will have to lead the same lives and profess the same loyalties that professional men have professed for many centuries. There can be no doubt of that.
‘If you retaliate, what harm is there in that? Why should we hesitate to do what our fathers and grandfathers have done before us? Let us go into greater detail and consult the facts which are nowadays open to the inspection of all who can read their mother tongue in biography. There they are, those innumerable and invaluable works upon the shelves of your own library. Let us glance again rapidly at the lives of professional men who have succeeded in their professions. Here is an extract from the life of a great lawyer. “He went to his chambers about half-past nine . . . He took briefs home with him. .. so that he was lucky if he got to bed about one or two o’clock in the morning.”21 That explains why most successful barristers are hardly worth sitting next at dinner — they yawn so. Next, here is a quotation from a famous politician’s speech. “ . . . since 1914 I have never seen the pageant of the blossom from the first damson to the last apple — never once have I seen that in Worcestershire since 1914, and if that is not a sacrifice I do not know what is.”22 A sacrifice indeed, and one that explains the perennial indifference of the Government to art — why, these unfortunate gentlemen must be as blind as bats. Take the religious profession next. Here is a quotation from the life of a great bishop. “This is an awful mind- and-soul-destroying life. I really do not know how to live it. The arrears of important work accumulate and crush.”23 That bears out what so many people are saying now about the Church and the nation. Our bishops and deans seem to have no soul with which to preach and no mind with which to write. Listen to any sermon in any church; read the journalism of Dean Alington or Dean Inge in any newspaper. Take the doctor’s profession next. “I have taken a good deal over £13,000 during the year, but this cannot possibly be maintained, and while it lasts it is slavery. What I feel most is being away from Eliza and the children so frequently on Sundays, and again at Christmas.”24 That is the complaint of a great doctor; and his patient might well echo it, for what Harley Street specialist has time to understand the body, let alone the mind or both in combination, when he is a slave to thirteen thousand a year? But is the life of a professional writer any better? Here is a sample taken from the life of a highly successful journalist. “On another day at this time he wrote a 1,600 words article on Nietzsche, a leader of equal length on the railway strike for the Standard, 600 words for the Tribune and in the evening was at Shoe Lane.”25 That explains among other things why the public reads its politics with cynicism, and authors read their reviews with foot-rules — it is the advertisement that counts; praise or blame have ceased to have any meaning. And with one more glance at the politician’s life, for his profession after all is the most important practically, let us have done. “Lord Hugh LOITERED IN THE LOBBY . . . The Bill [the Deceased Wife’s Sister Bill] was in consequence dead, and the further chances of the cause were relegated to the chances and mischances of another year.”26 That not only serves to explain a certain prevalent distrust of politicians, but also reminds us that since you have the Pensions Bill to steer through the lobbies of so just and humane an institution as the House of Commons, we must not loiter too long ourselves among these delightful biographies, but must try to sum up the information which we have gained from them.
‘What then do these quotations from the lives of successful professional men prove, you ask? They prove, as Whitaker proves things, nothing whatever. If Whitaker, that is, says that a bishop is paid five thousand a year, that is a fact; it can be checked and verified. But if Bishop Gore says that the life of a bishop is “an awful mind — and soul-destroying life” he is merely giving us his opinion; the next bishop on the bench may flatly contradict him. These quotations then prove nothing that can be checked and verified; they merely cause us to hold opinions. And those opinions cause us to doubt and criticize and question the value of professional life — not its cash value; that is great; but its spiritual, its moral, its intellectual value. They make us of the opinion that if people are highly successful in their professions they lose their senses. Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures. Sound goes. They have no time to listen to music. Speech goes. They have no time for conversation. They lose their sense of proportion — the relations between one thing and another. Humanity goes. Money making becomes so important that they must work by night as well as by day. Health goes. And so competitive do they become that they will not share their work with others though they have more than they can do themselves. What then remains of a human being who has lost sight, and sound, and sense of proportion? Only a cripple in a cave.
‘That of course is a figure, and fanciful; but that it has some connection with figures that are statistical and not fanciful — with the three hundred millions spent upon arms — seems possible. Such at any rate would seem to be the opinion of disinterested observers whose position gives them every opportunity for judging widely, and for judging fairly. Let us examine two such opinions only. The Marquess of Londonderry said:
We seem to hear a babel of voices among which direction and guidance are lacking, and the world appears to be marking time . . . During the last century gigantic forces of scientific discovery had been unloosed, while at the same time we could discern no corresponding advance in literary or scientific achievement . . . The question we are asking ourselves is whether man is capable of enjoying these new fruits of scientific knowledge and discovery, or whether by their misuse he will bring about the destruction of himself and the edifice of civilization.27
‘Mr Churchill said:
Certain it is that while men are gathering knowledge and power with ever-increasing and measureless speed, their virtues and their wisdom have not shown any notable improvement as the centuries have rolled. The brain of a modern man does not differ in essentials from that of the human beings who fought and loved here millions of years ago. The nature of man has remained hitherto practically unchanged. Under sufficient stress — starvation, terror, warlike passion, or even cold intellectual frenzy, the modern man we know so well will do the most terrible deeds, and his modern woman will back him up.28
‘Those are two quotations only from a great number to the same effect. And to them let us add another, from a less impressive source but worth your reading since it too bears upon our problem, from Mr Cyril Chaventry of North Wembley.
A woman’s sense of values [he writes], is indisputably different from that of a man. Obviously therefore a woman is at a disadvantage and under suspicion when in competition in a man- created sphere of activity. More than ever today women have the opportunity to build a new and better world, but in this slavish imitation of men they are wasting their chance.29
‘That opinion, too, is a representative opinion, one from a great number to the same effect provided by the daily papers. And the three quotations taken together are highly instructive. The two first seem to prove that the enormous professional competence of the educated man has not brought about an altogether desirable state of things in the civilized world; and the last, which calls upon professional women to use “their different sense of values” to “build a new and better world” not only implies that those who have built that world are dissatisfied with the results, but, by calling upon the other sex to remedy the evil imposes a great responsibility and implies a great compliment. For if Mr Chaventry and the gentlemen who agree with him believe that “at a disadvantage and under suspicion” as she is, with little or no political or professional training and upon a salary of about £250 a year, the professional woman can yet “build a new and better world”, they must credit her with powers that might almost be called divine. They must agree with Goethe:
The things that must pass
Are only symbols;
Here shall all failure
Grow to achievement,
Here, the Untellable
Work all fulfilment,
The woman in woman
Lead forward for ever30
— another very great compliment, and from a very great poet you will agree.
‘But you do not want compliments; you are pondering quotations. And since your expression is decidedly downcast, it seems as if these quotations about the nature of professional life have brought you to some melancholy conclusion. What can it be? Simply, you reply, that we, daughters of educated men, are between the devil and the deep sea. Behind us lies the patriarchal system; the private house, with its nullity, its immorality, its hypocrisy, its servility. Before us lies the public world, the professional system, with its possessiveness, its jealousy, its pugnacity, its greed. The one shuts us up like slaves in a harem; the other forces us to circle, like caterpillars head to tail, round and round the mulberry tree, the sacred tree, of property. It is a choice of evils. Each is bad. Had we not better plunge off the bridge into the river; give up the game; declare that the whole of human life is a mistake and so end it?
‘But before you take that step, Madam, a decisive one, unless you share the opinion of the professors of the Church of England that death is the gate of life — Mors Janua Vitae is written upon an arch in St Paul’s — in which case there is, of course, much to recommend it, let us see if another answer is not possible.
‘Another answer may be staring us in the face on the shelves of your own library, once more in the biographies. Is it not possible that by considering the experiments that the dead have made with their lives in the past we may find some help in answering the very difficult question that is now forced upon us? At any rate, let us try. The question that we will now put to biography is this: For reasons given above we are agreed that we must earn money in the professions. For reasons given above those professions seem to us highly undesirable. The questions we put to you, lives of the dead, is how can we enter the professions and yet remain civilized human beings; human beings, that is, who wish to prevent war?
‘This time let us turn to the lives not of men but of women in the nineteenth century — to the lives of professional women. But there would seem to be a gap in your library, Madam. There are no lives of professional women in the nineteenth century. A Mrs Tomlinson, the wife of a Mr Tomlinson, F.R.S., F.C.S., explains the reason. This lady, who wrote a book “advocating the employment of young ladies as nurses for children”, says: “ . . . it seemed as if there were no way in which an unmarried lady could earn a living but by taking a situation as governess, for which post she was often unfit by nature and education, or want of education.”31 That was written in 1859 — less than 100 years ago. That explains the gap on your shelves. There were no professional women, except governesses, to have lives written of them. And the lives of governesses, that is the written lives, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. What then can we learn about the lives of professional women from studying the lives of governesses? Happily old boxes are beginning to give up their old secrets. Out the other day crept one such document written about the year 1811. There was, it appears, an obscure Miss Weeton, who used to scribble down her thoughts upon professional life among other things when her pupils were in bed. Here is one such thought. “Oh! how I have burned to learn Latin, French, the Arts, the Sciences, anything rather than the dog trot way of sewing, teaching, writing copies, and washing dishes every day . . . Why are not females permitted to study physics, divinity, astronomy, etc., etc., with their attendants, chemistry, botany, logic, mathematics, &c.?”32 That comment upon the lives of governesses, that question from the lips of governesses, reaches us from the darkness. It is illuminating, too. But let us go on groping; let us pick up a hint here and a hint there as to the professions as they were practised by women in the nineteenth century. Next we find Anne Clough, the sister of Arthur Clough, pupil of Dr Arnold, Fellow of Oriel, who, though she served without a salary, was the first principal of Newnham, and thus may be called a professional woman in embryo — we find her training for her profession by “doing much of the housework” . . . “earning money to pay off what had been lent by their friends”, “pressing for leave to keep a small school”, reading books her brother lent her, and exclaiming, “If I were a man, I would not work for riches, to make myself a name or to leave a wealthy family behind me. No, I think I would work for my country, and make its people my heirs.”33 The nineteenth-century women were not without ambition it seems. Next we find Josephine Butler, who, though not strictly speaking a professional woman, led the campaign against the Contagious Diseases Act to victory, and then the campaign against the sale and purchase of children “for infamous purposes”— we find Josephine Butler refusing to have a life of herself written, and saying of the women who helped her in those campaigns: “The utter absence in them of any desire for recognition, of any vestige of egotism in any form, is worthy of remark. In the purity of their motives they shine out ‘clear as crystal’.”34 That, then, was one of the qualities that the Victorian woman praised and practised — a negative one, it is true; not to be recognized; not to be egotistical; to do the work for the sake of doing the work.35 An interesting contribution to psychology in its way. And then we come closer to our own time; we find Gertrude Bell, who, though the diplomatic service was and is shut to women, occupied a post in the East which almost entitled her to be called a pseudo-diplomat — we find rather to our surprise that “Gertrude could never go out in London without a female friend or, failing that, a maid.36 . . . when it seemed unavoidable for Gertrude to drive in a hansom with a young man from one tea party to another, she feels obliged to write and confess it to my mother.”37 So they were chaste, the women pseudo-diplomats of the Victorian Age?38 And not merely in body; in mind also. “Gertrude was not allowed to read Bourget’s The Disciple” for fear of contracting whatever disease that book may disseminate. Dissatisfied but ambitious, ambitious but austere, chaste yet adventurous — such are some of the qualities that we have discovered. But let us go on looking — if not at the lines, then between the lines of biography. And we find, between the lines of their husbands’ biographies, so many women practising — but what are we to call the profession that consists in bringing nine or ten children into the world, the profession which consists in running a house, nursing an invalid, visiting the poor and the sick, tending here an old father, there an old mother? — there is no name and there is no pay for that profession; but we find so many mothers, sisters and daughters of educated men practising it in the nineteenth century that we must lump them and their lives together behind their husbands’ and brothers’, and leave them to deliver their message to those who have the time to extract it and the imagination with which to decipher it. Let us ourselves, who as you hint are pressed for time, sum up these random hints and reflections upon the professional life of women in the nineteenth century by quoting once more the highly significant words of a woman who was not a professional woman in the strict sense of the word, but had some nondescript reputation as a traveller nevertheless — Mary Kingsley:
I don’t know if I ever revealed the fact to you that being allowed to learn German was ALL the paid-for education I ever had. £2,000 was spent on my brother’s. I still hope not in vain.
‘That statement is so suggestive that it may save us the bother of groping and searching between the lines of professional men’s lives for the lives of their sisters. If we develop the suggestions we find in that statement, and connect it with the other hints and fragments that we have uncovered, we may arrive at some theory or point of view that may help us to answer the very difficult question, which now confronts us. For when Mary Kingsley says, “ . . . being allowed to learn German was ALL the paid-for education I ever had”, she suggests that she had an unpaid-for education. The other lives that we have been examining corroborate that suggestion. What then was the nature of that “unpaid-for education” which, whether for good or for evil, has been ours for so many centuries? If we mass the lives of the obscure behind four lives that were not obscure, but were so successful and distinguished that they were actually written, the lives of Florence Nightingale, Miss Clough, Mary Kingsley and Gertrude Bell, it seems undeniable that they were all educated by the same teachers. And those teachers, biography indicates, obliquely, and indirectly, but emphatically and indisputably none the less, were poverty, chastity, derision, and — but what word covers “lack of rights and privileges”? Shall we press the old word “freedom” once more into service? “Freedom from unreal loyalties”, then, was the fourth of their teachers; that freedom from loyalty to old schools, old colleges, old churches, old ceremonies, old countries which all those women enjoyed, and which, to a great extent, we still enjoy by the law and custom of England. We have no time to coin new words, greatly though the language is in need of them. Let “freedom from unreal loyalties” then stand as the fourth great teacher of the daughters of educated men.
‘Biography thus provides us with the fact that the daughters of educated men received an unpaid-for education at the hands of poverty, chastity, derision and freedom from unreal loyalties. It was this unpaid for education, biography informs us, that fitted them, aptly enough, for the unpaid-for professions. And biography also informs us that those unpaid-for professions had their laws, traditions, and labours no less certainly than the paid-for professions. Further, the student of biography cannot possibly doubt from the evidence of biography that this education and these professions were in many ways bad in the extreme, both for the unpaid themselves and for their descendants. The intensive childbirth of the unpaid wife, the intensive money-making of the paid husband in the Victorian age had terrible results, we cannot doubt, upon the mind and body of the present age. To prove it we need not quote once more the famous passage in which Florence Nightingale denounced that education and its results; nor stress the natural delight with which she greeted the Crimean war; nor illustrate from other sources — they are, alas, innumerable — the inanity, the pettiness, the spite, the tyranny, the hypocrisy, the immorality which it engendered as the lives of both sexes so abundantly testify. Final proof of its harshness upon one sex at any rate can be found in the annals of our “great war”, when hospitals, harvest fields and munition works were largely staffed by refugees flying from its horrors to their comparative amenity.
‘But biography is many-sided; biography never returns a single and simple answer to any question that is asked of it. Thus the biographies of those who had biographies — say Florence Nightingale, Anne Clough, Emily Brontë, Christina Rossetti, Mary Kingsley — prove beyond a doubt that this same education, the unpaid for, must have had great virtues as well as great defects, for we cannot deny that these, if not educated, still were civilized women. We cannot, when we consider the lives of our uneducated mothers and grandmothers, judge education simply by its power to “obtain appointments”, to win honour, to make money. We must if we are honest, admit that some who had no paid-for education, no salaries and no appointments were civilized human beings — whether or not they can rightly be called “English” women is matter for dispute; and thus admit that we should be extremely foolish if we threw away the results of that education or gave up the knowledge that we have obtained from it for any bribe or decoration whatsoever. Thus biography, when asked the question we have put to it — how can we enter the professions and yet remain civilized human beings, human beings who discourage war, would seem to reply: If you refuse to be separated from the four great teachers of the daughters of educated men — poverty, chastity, derision and freedom from unreal loyalties — but combine them with some wealth, some knowledge, and some service to real loyalties then you can enter the professions and escape the risks that make them undesirable.
‘Such being the answer of the oracle, such are the conditions attached to this guinea. You shall have it, to recapitulate, on condition that you help all properly qualified people, of whatever sex, class or colour, to enter your profession; and further on condition that in the practice of your profession you refuse to be separated from poverty, chastity, derision and freedom from unreal loyalties. Is the statement now more positive, have the conditions been made more clear and do you agree to the terms? You hesitate. Some of the conditions, you seem to suggest, need further discussion. Let us take them, then, in order. By poverty is meant enough money to live upon. That is, you must earn enough to be independent of any other human being and to buy that modicum of health, leisure, knowledge and so on that is needed for the full development of body and mind. But no more. Not a penny more.
‘By chastity is meant that when you have made enough to live on by your profession you must refuse to sell your brain for the sake of money. That is you must cease to practise your profession, or practise it for the sake of research and experiment; or, if you are an artist, for the sake of the art; or give the knowledge acquired professionally to those who need it for nothing. But directly the mulberry tree begins to make you circle, break off. Pelt the tree with laughter.
‘By derision — a bad word, but once again the English language is much in need of new words — is meant that you must refuse all methods of advertising merit, and hold that ridicule, obscurity and censure are preferable, for psychological reasons, to fame and praise. Directly badges, orders, or degrees are offered you, fling them back in the giver’s face.
‘By freedom from unreal loyalties is meant that you must rid yourself of pride and nationality in the first place; also of religious pride, college pride, school pride, family pride, sex pride and those unreal loyalties that spring from them. Directly the seducers come with their seductions to bribe you into captivity, tear up the parchments; refuse to fill up the forms.
‘And if you still object that these definitions are both too arbitrary and too general, and ask how anybody can tell how much money and how much knowledge are needed for the full development of body and mind, and which are the real loyalties which we must serve and which the unreal which we must despise, I can only refer you — time presses — to two authorities. One is familiar enough. It is the psychometer that you carry on your wrist, the little instrument upon which you depend in all personal relationships. If it were visible it would look something like a thermometer. It has a vein of quicksilver in it which is affected by any body or soul, house or society in whose presence it is exposed. If you want to find out how much wealth is desirable, expose it in a rich man’s presence; how much learning is desirable expose it in a learned man’s presence. So with patriotism, religion and the rest. The conversation need not be interrupted while you consult it; nor its amenity disturbed. But if you object that this is too personal and fallible a method to employ without risk of mistake, witness the fact that the private psychometer has led to many unfortunate marriages and broken friendships, then there is the other authority now easily within the reach even of the poorest of the daughters of educated men. Go to the public galleries and look at pictures; turn on the wireless and rake down music from the air; enter any of the public libraries which are now free to all. There you will be able to consult the findings of the public psychometer for yourself. To take one example, since we are pressed for time. The Antigone of Sophocles has been done into English prose or verse by a man whose name is immaterial.39 Consider the character of Creon. There you have a most profound analysis by a poet, who is a psychologist in action, of the effect of power and wealth upon the soul. Consider Creon’s claim to absolute rule over his subjects. That is a far more instructive analysis of tyranny than any our politicians can offer us. You want to know which are the unreal loyalties which we must despise, which are the real loyalties which we must honour? Consider Antigone’s distinction between the laws and the Law. That is a far more profound statement of the duties of the individual to society than any our sociologists can offer us. Lame as the English rendering is, Antigone’s five words are worth all the sermons of all the archbishops.40 But to enlarge would be impertinent. Private judgement is still free in private and that freedom is the essence of freedom.
‘For the rest, though the conditions may seem many and the guinea, alas, is single, they are not for the most part as things are at present very difficult of fulfilment. With the exception of the first — that we must earn enough money to live upon — they are largely ensured us by the laws of England. The law of England sees to it that we do not inherit great possessions; the law of England denies us, and let us hope will long continue to deny us, the full stigma of nationality. Then we can scarcely doubt that our brothers will provide us for many centuries to come, as they have done for many centuries past, with what is so essential for sanity, and so invaluable in preventing the great modern sins of vanity, egotism, megalomania — that is to say ridicule, censure and contempt.41 And so long as the Church of England refuses our services — long may she exclude us! — and the ancient schools and colleges refuse to admit us to a share of their endowments and privileges we shall be immune without any trouble on our part from the particular loyalties and fealties which such endowments and privileges engender. Further, Madam, the traditions of the private house, that ancestral memory which lies behind the present moment, are there to help you. We have seen in the quotations given above how great a part chastity, bodily chastity, has played in the unpaid education of our sex. It should not be difficult to transmute the old ideal of bodily chastity into the new ideal of mental chastity — to hold that if it was wrong to sell the body for money it is much more wrong to sell the mind for money, since the mind, people say, is nobler than the body. Then again, are we not greatly fortified in resisting the seductions of the most powerful of all seducers — money — by those same traditions? For how many centuries have we not enjoyed the right of working all day and every day for £40 a year with board and lodging thrown in? And does not Whitaker prove that half the work of educated men’s daughters is still unpaid-for work? Finally, honour, fame, consequence — is it not easy for us to resist that seduction, we who have worked for centuries without other honour than that which is reflected from the coronets and badges on our father’s or husband’s brows and breasts?
‘Thus, with law on our side, and property on our side, and ancestral memory to guide us, there is no need of further argument; you will agree that the conditions upon which this guinea is yours are, with the exception of the first, comparatively easy to fulfil. They merely require that you should develop, modify and direct by the findings of the two psychometers the traditions and the education of the private house which have been in existence these 2,000 years. And if you will agree to do that, there can be an end of bargaining between us. Then the guinea with which to pay the rent of your house is yours — would that it were a thousand! For if you agree to these terms then you can join the professions and yet remain uncontaminated by them; you can rid them of their possessiveness, their jealousy, their pugnacity, their greed. You can use them to have a mind of your own and a will of your own. And you can use that mind and will to abolish the inhumanity, the beastliness, the horror, the folly of war. Take this guinea then and use it, not to burn the house down, but to make its windows blaze. And let the daughters of uneducated women dance round the new house, the poor house, the house that stands in a narrow street where omnibuses pass and the street hawkers cry their wares, and let them sing, “We have done with war! We have done with tyranny!” And their mothers will laugh from their graves, “It was for this that we suffered obloquy and contempt! Light up the windows of the new house, daughters! Let them blaze!”
‘Those then are the terms upon which I give you this guinea with which to help the daughters of uneducated women to enter the professions. And by cutting short the peroration let us hope that you will be able to give the finishing touches to your bazaar, arrange the hare and the coffee-pot, and receive the Right Honourable Sir Sampson Legend, O.M., K.C.B., LL.D., D.C.L., P.C., etc., with that air of smiling deference which befits the daughter of an educated man in the presence of her brother.’
Such then, Sir, was the letter finally sent to the honorary treasurer of the society for helping the daughters of educated men to enter the professions. Those are the conditions upon which she is to have her guinea. They have been framed, so far as possible, to ensure that she shall do all that a guinea can make her do to help you to prevent war. Whether the conditions have been rightly laid down, who shall say? But as you will see, it was necessary to answer her letter and the letter from the honorary treasurer of the college rebuilding fund, and to send them both guineas before answering your letter, because unless they are helped, first to educate the daughters of educated men, and then to earn their living in the professions, those daughters cannot possess an independent and disinterested influence with which to help you to prevent war. The causes it seems are connected. But having shown this to the best of our ability, let us return to your own letter and to your request for a subscription to your own society.
1. To quote the exact words of one such appeal: ‘This letter is to ask you to set aside for us garments for which you have no further use . . . Stockings, of every sort, no matter how worn, are also most acceptable . . . The Committee find that by offering these clothes at bargain prices . . . they are performing a really useful service to women whose professions require that they should have presentable day and evening dresses which they can ill afford to buy.’ (Extract from a letter received from the London and National Society for Women’s Service, 1938.)
2. The Testament of Joad, by C. E. M. Joad, pp. 210-11. Since the number of societies run directly or indirectly by Englishwomen in the cause of peace is too long to quote (see The Story of the Disarmament Declaration, p. 15, for a list of the peace activities of professional, business and working-class women) it is unnecessary to take Mr Joad’s criticism seriously, however illuminating psychologically.
3. Experiment in Autobiography, by H. G. Wells, p. 486. The men’s ‘movement to resist the practical obliteration of their freedom by Nazis or Fascists’ may have been more perceptible. But that it has been more successful is doubtful. Nazis now control the whole of Austria.’ (Daily paper, 12 March 1938).
4. ‘Women, I think, ought not to sit down to table with men; their presence ruins conversation, tending to make it trivial and genteel, or at best merely clever.’ (Under the Fifth Rib, by C. E. M. Joad, p. 58.) This is an admirably outspoken opinion, and if all who share Mr Joad’s sentiments were to express them as openly, the hostess’s dilemma — whom to ask, whom not to ask — would be lightened and her labour saved. If those who prefer the society of their own sex at table would signify the fact, the men, say, by wearing a red, the women by wearing a white rosette, while those who prefer the sexes mixed wore parti-coloured buttonholes of red and white blended, not only would much inconvenience and misunderstanding be prevented, but it is possible that the honesty of the buttonhole would kill a certain form of social hypocrisy now all too prevalent. Meanwhile, Mr Joad’s candour deserves the highest praise, and his wishes the most implicit observance.
5. According to Mrs H. M. Swanwick, the W.S.P.U. had ‘an income from gifts, in the year 1912, of £42,000.’ (I Have Been Young, by H. M. Swanwick, p. 189.) The total spent in 1912 by the Women’s Freedom League was £26,772 12s. 9d. (The Cause, by Ray Strachey, p. 311.) Thus the joint income of the two societies was £68,772 12s. 9d. But the two societies were, of course, opposed.
6. ‘But, exceptions apart, the general run of women’s earnings is low, and £250 a year is quite an achievement, even for a highly qualified woman with years of experience.’ (Careers and Openings for Women, by Ray Strachey, p. 70.) Nevertheless ‘The numbers of women doing professional work have increased very fast in the last twenty years, and were about 400,000 in 1931, in addition to those doing secretarial work or employed in the Civil Service.’ (op. cit, p. 44.)
7. The income of the Labour Party in 1936 was £50,153. (Daily Telegraph, September 1937.)
8. The British Civil Service. The Public Service, by William A. Robson, p. 16.
Professor Ernest Barker suggests that there should be an alternative Civil Service Examination for ‘men and women of an older growth’ who have spent some years in social work and social service. ‘Women candidates in particular might benefit. It is only a very small proportion of women students who succeed in the present open competition: indeed very few compete. On the alternative system here suggested it is possible, and indeed probable, that a much larger proportion of women would be candidates. Women have a genius and a capacity for social work and service. The alternative form of competition would give them a chance of showing that genius and that capacity. It might give them a new incentive to compete for entry into the administrative service of the state, in which their gifts and their presence are needed.’ (The British Civil Servant. ‘The Home Civil Service,’ by Professor Ernest Barker, p. 41.) But while the home service remains as exacting as it is at present, it is difficult to see how an incentive can make women free to give ‘their gifts and their presence’ to the service of the state, unless the state will undertake the care of elderly parents; or make it a penal offence for elderly people of either sex to require the services of daughters at home.
9. Mr Baldwin, speaking at Downing Street, at a meeting on behalf of Newnham College Building Fund, 31 March 1936.
10. The effect of a woman in the pulpit is thus defined in Women and the Ministry, Some Considerations on the Report of the Archbishops’ Commission on the Ministry of Women (1936), p. 24. ‘But we maintain that the ministration of women . . . will tend to produce a lowering of the spiritual tone of Christian worship, such as is not produced by the ministrations of men before congregations largely or exclusively female. It is a tribute to the quality of Christian womanhood that it is possible to make this statement; but it would appear to be a simple matter of fact that in the thoughts and desires of that sex the natural is more easily made subordinate to the supernatural, the carnal to the spiritual than is the case with men; and that the ministrations of a male priesthood do not normally arouse that side of female human nature which should be quiescent during the times of the adoration of almighty God. We believe, on the other hand, that it would be impossible for the male members of the average Anglican congregation to be present at a service at which a woman ministered without becoming unduly conscious of her sex.’
In the opinion of the Commissioners, therefore, Christian women are more spiritually minded than Christian men — a remarkable, but no doubt adequate, reason for excluding them from the priesthood.
11. Daily Telegraph, 20 January 1936.
12. Daily Telegraph, 1936.
13. Daily Telegraph, 22 January 1936.
14. ‘There are, so far as I know, no universal rules on this subject [i.e. sexual relations between civil servants]; but civil servants and municipal officers of both sexes are certainly expected to observe the conventional proprieties and to avoid conduct which might find its way into the newspapers and there be described as “scandalous”. Until recently sexual relations between men and women officers of the Post Office were punishable with immediate dismissal of both parties . . . The problem of avoiding newspaper publicity is a fairly easy one to solve so far as court proceedings are concerned: but official restriction extends further so as to prevent women civil servants (who usually have to resign on marriage) from cohabiting openly with men if they desire to do so. The matter, therefore, takes on a different complexion.’ (The British Civil Servant. The Public Service, by William A. Robson, pp. 14, 15.)
15. Most men’s clubs confine women to a special room, or annexe, and exclude them from other apartments, whether on the principle observed at St Sofia that they are impure, or whether on the principle observed at Pompeii that they are too pure, is matter for speculation.
16. The power of the Press to burke discussion of any undesirable subject was, and still is, very formidable. It was one of the ‘extraordinary obstacles’ against which Josephine Butler had to fight in her campaign against the Contagious Diseases Act. ‘Early in 1870 the London Press began to adopt that policy of silence with regard to the question, which lasted for many years, and called forth from the Ladies’ Association the famous “Remonstrance against the Conspiracy of Silence”, signed by Harriet Martineau and Josephine E. Butler, which concluded with the following words: “Surely, while such a conspiracy of silence is possible and practised among leading journalists, we English greatly exaggerate our privileges as a free people when we profess to encourage a free press, and to possess the right to hear both sides in a momentous question of morality and legislation.”’ (Personal Reminiscences of a Great Crusade, by Josephine E. Butler, p. 49.) Again, during the battle for the vote the Press used the boycott with great effect. And so recently as July 1937 Miss Philippa Strachey in a letter headed ‘A Conspiracy of Silence’, printed (to its honour) by the Spectator almost repeats Mrs Butler’s words: ‘Many hundreds and thousands of men and women have been participating in an endeavour to induce the Government to abandon the provision in the new Contributory Pensions Bill for the black-coated workers which for the first time introduces a differential income limit for men and women entrants . . . In the course of the last month the Bill has been before the House of Lords, where this particular provision has met with strong and determined opposition from all sides of the Chamber . . . These are events one would have supposed to be of sufficient interest to be recorded in the daily Press. But they have been passed over in complete silence by the newspapers from The Times to the Daily Herald . . . The differential treatment of women under this Bill has aroused a feeling of resentment among them such as has not been witnessed since the granting of the franchise . . . How is one to account for this being completely concealed by the Press?’
17. Flesh wounds were of course inflicted during the battle of Westminster. Indeed the fight for the vote seems to have been more severe than is now recognized. Thus Flora Drummond says: ‘Whether we won the vote by our agitation, as I believe, or whether we got it for other reasons, as some people say, I think many of the younger generation will find it hard to believe the fury and brutality aroused by our claim for votes for women less than thirty years ago.’ (Flora Drummond in the Listener, 25 August 1937.) The younger generation is presumably so used to the fury and brutality that claims for liberty arouse that they have no emotion available for this particular instance. Moreover, that particular fight has not yet taken its place among the fights which have made England the home, and Englishmen the champions of, liberty. The fight for the vote is still generally referred to in terms of sour deprecation: ‘ . . . and the women . . . had not begun that campaign of burning, whipping, and picture-slashing which was finally to prove to both Front Benches their eligibility for the Franchise.’ (Reflections and Memories, by Sir John Squire, p. 10.) The younger generation therefore can be excused if they believe that there was nothing heroic about a campaign in which only a few windows were smashed, shins broken, and Sargent’s portrait of Henry James damaged, but not irreparably, with a knife. Burning, whipping and picture-slashing only it would seem become heroic when carried out on a large scale by men with machine-guns.
18. The Life of Sophia Jex-Blake, by Margaret Todd, M.D., p. 72.
19. ‘Much has lately been said and written of the achievements and accomplishments of Sir Stanley Baldwin during his Premierships and too much would be impossible. Might I be permitted to call attention to what Lady Baldwin has done? When I first joined the committee of this hospital in 1929, analgesics (pain deadeners) for normal maternity cases in the wards were almost unknown, now their use is ordinary routine and they are availed of in practically 100 per cent of cases, and what is true of this hospital is true virtually for all similar hospitals. This remarkable change in so short a time is due to the inspiration and the tireless efforts and encouragement of Mrs Stanley Baldwin, as she then was . . . ’ (Letter to The Times from C. S. Wentworth Stanley, Chairman House Committee, the City of London Maternity Hospital, 1937.) Since chloroform was first administered to Queen Victoria on the birth of Prince Leopold in April 1853 ‘normal maternity cases in the wards’ have had to wait for seventy-six years and the advocacy of a Prime Minister’s wife to obtain this relief.
20. According to Debrett the Knights and Dames of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire wear a badge consisting of ‘a cross patonce, enamelled pearl, fimbriated or, surmounted by a gold medallion with a representation of Britannia seated within a circle gules inscribed with the motto “For God and the Empire”. This is one of the few orders open to women, but their subordination is properly marked by the fact that the ribbon in their case is only two inches and one quarter in breadth; whereas the ribbon of the Knights is three inches and three quarters in breadth. The stars also differ in size. The motto, however, is the same for both sexes, and must be held to imply that those who thus ticket themselves see some connection between the Deity and the Empire, and hold themselves prepared to defend them. What happens if Britannia seated within a circle gules is opposed (as is conceivable) to the other authority whose seat is not specified on the medallion, Debrett does not say, and the Knights and Dames must themselves decide.
21. Life of Sir Ernest Wild, K.C., by R. J. Rackham, p. 91.
22. Lord Baldwin, speech reported in The Times, 20 April 1936.
23. Life of Charles Gore, by G. L. Prestige, D.D., pp. 240-41.
24. Life of Sir William Broadbent, K.C.V.O., F.R.S., edited by his daughter, M. E. Broadbent, p. 242.
25. The Lost Historian, a Memoir of Sir Sidney Low, by Desmond Chapman-Huston, p. 198.
26. Thoughts and Adventures, by the Rt Hon. Winston Churchill, p. 57.
27. Speech at Belfast by Lord Londonderry, reported in The Times, 11 July 1936.
28. Thoughts and Adventures, by the Rt Hon. Winston Churchill, p. 279.
29. Daily Herald, 13 February 1935.
30. Goethe’s Faust, translated by Melian Stawell and G. L. Dickinson.
31. The Life of Charles Tomlinson, by his niece, Mary Tomlinson, p. 30.
32. Miss Weeton, Journal of a Governess, 1807-1811, edited by Edward Hall, pp. 14, xvii.
33. A Memoir of Anne Jemima Clough, by B. A. Clough, p. 32.
34. Personal Reminiscences of a Great Crusade, by Josephine Butler, p. 189.
35. ‘You and I know that it matters little if we have to be the out-of-sight piers driven deep into the marsh, on which the visible ones are carried, that support the bridge. We do not mind if, hereafter, people forget that there ARE any low down at all; if some have to be used up in trying experiments, before the best way of building the bridge is discovered. We are quite willing to be among these. The bridge is what we care for, and not our place in it, and we believe that, to the end, it may be kept in remembrance that this is alone to be our object.’ (Letter from Octavia Hill to Mrs N. Senior, 20 September 1874. The Life of Octavia Hill, by C. Edmund Maurice, pp. 307-8.)
Octavia Hill (1838-1912) initiated the movement for ‘securing better homes for the poor and open spaces for the public. .. The “Octavia Hill System” has been adopted over the whole planned extension of [Amsterdam]. In January 1928 no less than 28,648 dwellings had been built.’ (Octavia Hill, from letters edited by Emily S. Maurice, pp. 10-11.)
36. The maid played so important a part in English upper-class life from the earliest times until the year 1914, when the Hon. Monica Grenfell went to nurse wounded soldiers accompanied by a maid [Bright Armour, by Monica Salmond, p. 20], that some recognition of her services seems to be called for. Her duties were peculiar. Thus she had to escort her mistress down Piccadilly ‘where a few club men might have looked at her out of a window,’ but was unnecessary in Whitechapel, ‘where malefactors were possibly lurking round every corner.’ But her office was undoubtedly arduous. Wilson’s part in Elizabeth Barrett’s private life is well known to readers of the famous letters. Later in the century (about 1889-92) Gertrude Bell ‘went with Lizzie, her maid, to picture exhibitions; she was fetched by Lizzie from dinner parties; she went with Lizzie to see the Settlement in Whitechapel where Mary Talbot was working . . . ’ (Early Letters of Gertrude Bell, edited by Lady Richmond.) We have only to consider the hours she waited in cloak rooms, the acres she toiled in picture galleries, the miles she trudged along West End pavements to conclude that if Lizzie’s day is now almost over, it was in its day a long one. Let us hope that the thought that she was putting into practice the commands laid down by St Paul in his Letters to Titus and the Corinthians, was a support; and the knowledge that she was doing her utmost to deliver her mistress’s body intact to her master a solace. Even so in the weakness of the flesh and in the darkness of the beetle-haunted basement she must sometimes have bitterly reproached St Paul on the one hand for his chastity, and the gentlemen of Piccadilly on the other for their lust. It is much to be regretted that no lives of maids, from which a more fully documented account could be constructed, are to be found in the Dictionary of National Biography.
37. The Earlier Letters of Gertrude Bell, collected and edited by Elsa Richmond, pp. 217-18.
38. The question of chastity, both of mind and body, is of the greatest interest and complexity. The Victorian, Edwardian and much of the Fifth Georgian conception of chastity was based, to go no further back, upon the words of St Paul. To understand their meaning we should have to understand his psychology and environment — no light task in view of his frequent obscurity and the lack of biographical material. From internal evidence, it seems clear that he was a poet and a prophet, but lacked logical power, and was without that psychological training which forces even the least poetic or prophetic nowadays to subject their personal emotions to scrutiny. Thus his famous pronouncement on the matter of veils, upon which the theory of women’s chastity seems to be based, is susceptible to criticism from several angles. In the Letter to the Corinthians his argument that a woman must be veiled when she prays or prophesies is based upon the assumption that to be unveiled ‘is one and the same thing as if she were shaven.’ That assumption granted, we must ask next: What shame is there in being shaven? Instead of replying, St Paul proceeds to assert, ‘For a man indeed ought not to have his head veiled, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God’: from which it appears that it is not being shaven in itself that is wrong; but to be a woman and to be shaven. It is wrong, it appears, for the woman because ‘the woman is the glory of the man.’ If St Paul had said openly that he liked the look of women’s long hair many of us would have agreed with him, and thought the better of him for saying so. But other reasons appeared to him preferable, as appears from his next remark: ‘For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man; for neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man: for this cause ought the woman to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.’ What view the angels took of long hair we have no means of knowing; and St Paul himself seems to have been doubtful of their support or he would not think it necessary to drag in the familiar accomplice nature. ‘Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a dishonour to him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seemeth to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.’ The argument from nature may seem to us susceptible of amendment; nature, when allied with financial advantage, is seldom of divine origin; but if the basis of the argument is shifty, the conclusion is firm. ‘Let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law.’ Having thus invoked the familiar but always suspect trinity of accomplices, Angels, nature and law, to support his personal opinion, St Paul reaches the conclusion which has been looming unmistakably ahead of us: ‘And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home: for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church.’ The nature of that ‘shame’, which is closely connected with chastity has, as the letter proceeds, been considerably alloyed. For it is obviously compounded of certain sexual and personal prejudices. St Paul, it is obvious, was not only a bachelor (for his relations with Lydia see Renan, Saint Paul, p. 149. ‘Est-il cependant absolument impossible que Paul ait contracté avec cette soeur une union plus intime? On ne saurait l’affirmer’); and, like many bachelors, suspicious of the other sex; but a poet and like many poets preferred to prophesy himself rather than to listen to the prophecies of others. Also he was of the virile or dominant type, so familiar at present in Germany, for whose gratification a subject race or sex is essential. Chastity then as defined by St Paul is seen to be a complex conception, based upon the love of long hair; the love of subjection; the love of an audience; the love of laying down the law, and, subconsciously, upon a very strong and natural desire that the woman’s mind and body shall be reserved for the use of one man and one only. Such a conception when supported by the Angels, nature, law, custom and the Church, and enforced by a sex with a strong personal interest to enforce it, and the economic means, was of undoubted power. The grip of its white if skeleton fingers can be found upon whatever page of history we open from St Paul to Gertrude Bell. Chastity was invoked to prevent her from studying medicine; from painting from the nude; from reading Shakespeare; from playing in orchestras; from walking down Bond Street alone. In 1848 it was ‘an unpardonable solecism’ for the daughters of a gardener to drive down Regent Street in a hansom cab (Paxton and the Bachelor Duke, by Violet Markham, p. 288); that solecism became a crime, of what magnitude theologians must decide, if the flaps were left open. In the beginning of the present century the daughter of an ironmaster (for let us not flout distinctions said today to be of prime importance), Sir Hugh Bell, had ‘reached the age of 27 and married without ever having walked alone down Piccadilly . . . Gertrude, of course, would never have dreamt of doing that . . . ’ The West End was the contaminated area. ‘It was one’s own class that was taboo; . . . ’ (The Earlier Letters of Gertrude Bell, collected and edited by Elsa Richmond, pp. 217-18.) But the complexities and inconsistencies of chastity were such that the same girl who had to be veiled, i.e. accompanied by a male or a maid, in Piccadilly, could visit Whitechapel, or Seven Dials, then haunts of vice and disease, alone and with her parents’ approval. This anomaly did not altogether escape comment. Thus Charles Kingsley as a boy exclaimed: ‘ . . . and the girls have their heads crammed full of schools, and district visiting, and baby linen, and penny clubs. Confound!!! and going about among the most abominable scenes of filth and wretchedness, and indecency to visit the poor and read the Bible to them. My own mother says that the places they go into are fit for no girl to see, and that they should not know such things exist.’ (Charles Kingsley, by Margaret Farrand Thorp, p. 12.) Mrs Kingsley, however, was exceptional. Most of the daughters of educated men saw such ‘abominable scenes’, and knew that such things existed. That they concealed their knowledge, is probable; what effect that concealment had psychologically it is impossible here to inquire. But that chastity, whether real or imposed, was an immense power, whether good or bad, it is impossible to doubt. Even today it is probable that a woman has to fight a psychological battle of some severity with the ghost of St Paul, before she can have intercourse with a man other than her husband. Not only was the social stigma strongly exerted on behalf of chastity, but the Bastardy Act did its utmost to impose chastity by financial pressure. Until women had the vote in 1918, ‘the Bastardy Act of 1872 fixed the sum of 5s. a week as the maximum which a father, whatever his wealth, could be made to pay towards the maintenance of his child.’ (Josephine Butler, by M. G. Fawcett and E. M. Turner, note, p. 101.) Now that St Paul and many of his apostles have been unveiled themselves by modern science chastity has undergone considerable revision. Yet there is said to be a reaction in favour of some degree of chastity for both sexes. This is partly due to economic causes; the protection of chastity by maids is an expensive item in the bourgeois budget. The psychological argument in favour of chastity is well expressed by Mr Upton Sinclair: ‘Nowadays we hear a great deal about mental troubles caused by sex repression; it is the mood of the moment. We do not hear anything about the complexes which may be caused by sex indulgence. But my observation has been that those who permit themselves to follow every sexual impulse are quite as miserable as those who repress every sexual impulse. I remember a class-mate in College; I said to him: “Did it ever occur to you to stop and look at your own mind? Everything that comes to you is turned into sex.” He looked surprised, and I saw that it was a new idea to him; he thought it over, and said: “I guess you are right.”’ (Candid Reminiscences, by Upton Sinclair, p. 63.) Further illustration is supplied by the following anecdote: ‘In the splendid library of Columbia University were treasures of beauty, costly volumes of engravings, and in my usual greedy fashion I went at these, intending to learn all there was to know about Renaissance art in a week or two. But I found myself overwhelmed by this mass of nakedness; my senses reeled, and I had to quit.’ (op. cit., pp. 62-3.)
39. The translation here used is by Sir Richard Jebb (Sophocles, the Plays and Fragments, with critical notes, commentary and translation, in English prose). It is impossible to judge any book from a translation, yet even when thus read The Antigone is clearly one of the great masterpieces of dramatic literature. Nevertheless, it could undoubtedly be made, if necessary, into anti-Fascist propaganda. Antigone herself could be transformed either into Mrs Pankhurst, who broke a window and was imprisoned in Holloway; or into Frau Pommer, the wife of a Prussian mines official at Essen, who said: ‘“The thorn of hatred has been driven deep enough into the people by the religious conflicts, and it is high time that the men of today disappeared.” . . . She has been arrested and is to be tried on a charge of insulting and slandering the State and the Nazi movement.’ (The Times, 12 August 1935.) Antigone’s crime was of much the same nature and was punished in much the same way. Her words, ‘See what I suffer, and from whom, because I feared to cast away the fear of heaven! . . . And what law of heaven have I transgressed? Why, hapless one, should I look to the gods any more — what ally should I invoke — when by piety I have earned the name of impious?’ could be spoken either by Mrs Pankhurst, or by Frau Pommer; and are certainly topical. Creon, again, who ‘thrust the children of the sunlight to the shades, and ruthlessly lodged a living soul in the grave’; who held that ‘disobedience is the worst of evils’, and that ‘whomsoever the city may appoint, that man must be obeyed, in little things and great, in just things and unjust’ is typical of certain politicians in the past, and of Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini in the present. But though it is easy to squeeze these characters into up-to-date dress, it is impossible to keep them there. They suggest too much; when the curtain falls we sympathize, it may be noted, even with Creon himself. This result, to the propagandist undesirable, would seem to be due to the fact that Sophocles (even in a translation) uses freely all the faculties that can be possessed by a writer; and suggests, therefore, that if we use art to propagate political opinions, we must force the artist to clip and cabin his gift to do us a cheap and passing service. Literature will suffer the same mutilation that the mule has suffered; and there will be no more horses.
40. The five words of Antigone are: [Greek text] ’Tis not my nature to join in hating, but in loving. (Antigone, line 523, Jebb.) To which Creon replied: ‘Pass, then, to the world of the dead, and, if thou must needs love, love them. While I live, no woman shall rule me.’
41. Even at a time of great political stress like the present it is remarkable how much criticism is still bestowed upon women. The announcement, ‘A shrewd, witty and provocative study of modern woman’, appears on an average three times yearly in publishers’ lists. The author, often a doctor of letters, is invariably of the male sex; and ‘to mere man’, as the blurb puts it (see Times Lit. Sup., 12 March 1938), ‘this book will be an eye-opener.’
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