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speech-making, subjected to the jeers and hisses of an idle and vulgar crowd, or gaining the equivocal applause of a rabid and fanatical minority. Let us confess that it does violence to our prejudices, or to something deeper and holier, to hear a woman's voice strained and cracked, in the attempt to galvanize an audience into the acceptance of her formulas, or into an enthusiasm of sympathy.
That women have their rights, and, what is unfortunately true, their wrongs, great, deep, and terrible, no fairminded man can question. Possibly it may be a matter of taste, possibly a deeper difference, which divides us from the feminine agitators. Let us leave these imitators of Demosthenes, these matrons or maidens. who are emulous of the renown of Cicero, to their platforms and conventions, in undisputed possession of their ill-timed and unfortunate celebrity; and spend a little time quietly and after our own fashion, in considering the aspect of woman's sphere and woman's duties.
While radicalism is vengefully trumpeting the doom of the present order of things, is with pomp and circumstance heralding the new creation which is to emerge from the débris of the present; conservatism, upon the other hand, is apt to gratulate itself upon the Christian tone, temper, and spirit of our age and country, intimating, if not directly avowing, that among certain communities assembled in Christian sanctuaries, and associated in divers angelic organizations, the law given by the Nazarene is fully recognised and implicitly obeyed; and that, in virtue of the savour of this, the only genuine salt of the earth, the state of society is about as good and happy as the possibilities will permit. The one class of interpreters would assure us that the family, on its present basis, is a sham; that marriage is a legal prostitution; that woman
THEIR VARIOUS EXPOUNDERS.
is a slave. The other exponents of the life of the world are disposed to insist that the family is a paradisiacal state, and that the laws, immunities, and circumstances of women are admirably adapted to their situation, needing no improvement. "Christian America" is a compliment not seldom bestowed upon our self-admiring countrymen, by their elegant and accurate orators. As a practical commentary upon the Christianity of America, let me invite your attention to two classes of our women—I mean the poor and the outcasts. It is an inquiry to which you are urged by self-interest as well as humanity; for amongst our rapid mutations, our sudden changes of position and fortune, no man can tell how soon his own wife and daughters may be dragged into the garrets of the one, or hurled into the hells of the other.
What are the resources available to a woman who is obliged to get her own bread? To teach, to stand behind a counter, to sew, to wash. The endowments and attainments of a small class open to them the competition for the uncertain prizes of literature; a lottery, by the way, where the blanks fearfully outnumber the prizes. Sad enough is the state of any one who must write for bread; pitiable to the last degree, as it seems to me, is the condition of a woman forced to this extremity; but what shall I say of the other chances which are open to women? What is the attitude of society towards them? That of a champion to defend or to espouse their cause? That of a friend to cheer or succour? That of an acquaintance even, to recognise with an approving smile and bow? I hazard little in declaring that the relation is that of a taskmaster and oppressor. Hundreds of places of easy employment and remunerative profit, the duties of which could be perfectly performed by women, are now usurped by men; and within thenarrow boundaries allotted to
women, hard indeed is the work, and trifling the compen→ sation. Let a man and a woman, equally versed in the science of music, equally gifted to instruct in its art, seek professional employment in teaching it. He will command a remuneration of from one-third to two-thirds more than she. The world degrades the sex into inferiority, and women themselves are apt to be the first in inflicting this dignity. The rule here stated holds good in other spheres of labour. A male cook will receive from two to ten times as much as a woman; and a tailor can live in comfort, and even make a fortune; while a shirt-maker gains scanty subsistence, or is reduced to the verge of starvation. Stern and angry as the vengeful Nemesis, appears to be the fate presiding over those women who must gain their daily bread by daily toil. The terrible scenes and facts upon which the eyes of the world were first opened, and in favour of which the world's best sympathies were invoked by that noble man, Thomas Hood, have not yet been banished or annihilated from our centres of civilization and refinement. There are to-day in New York and in other cities throughout the land, many gaunt and haggard forms, worn to the bone by want and wretchedness, who might with fearful truth and propriety recite, as the tale of their own life, the Song of the Shirt." And yet we are a most Christian people, and live in a most Christian age !
What a fearful exposition of the workings and characteristics of our civilization is presented to every pedestrian upon Broadway after nightfall! Bedizened forms, brazen faces, hoarse or metallic voices, which in themselves announce the sin of their owners, and attest their curse, greet us at every step. And these are women whose infant brows were bedewed by as gentle tears as ever fell from our own mothers' eyes;
OLD INFLUENCES NOT YET REMOVED.
whose childish steps were watched with as tender a solicitude; whose way was consecrated by as constant and fervent prayers! All these were once inmates
of homes such as our daughters have; and now they are wanderers, with a brand upon their brow, more accursed and withering than Cain's. They have forfeited, respect, affection, hope, heaven. They are doomed to the worm that dieth not, and to the fire that is not quenched. Not only does their own conscience thunder the curses of the violated law, and guilt enfold them in its dark robe, but society declares their crime unpardonable. For that sin in a woman there is no remission. For man, however, there is plenteous grace and fullest absolution. The serpent enters the bower; he assails the weakest yet strongest part of her nature; not openly-for one glance of her maiden innocence would blast him-but with guile. The language of love is used; the power of love is wrested from its divine agency, to be made a hellish instrument. Confidence, and the heart's most sacred feelings, are won. Then comes the ruin; and the god of this world- -our most Christian society-drives the woman forth from Eden to wander a fugitive and an outcast, but receives the snake into its most cherished embrace. The woman is condemned to woe, world without end; but the man is accepted as an ornament of our best society. We introduce him to our wiyes and daughters; if his crimes are spoken of, we significantly hint at "wild oats," or speak in studied phrase of "youthful indiscretions." Mamma suggests that all young men are a little wild, but marriage cures them of that; and our young ladies think him only the more interesting because he is esteemed a "fast young man." You knowingly permit the roué to embrace your daughter in the dance; you entrust her to his care in long walks and rides; you permit the seducer
to lead your daughter to the altar, and give him your paternal blessing; and at the same time soothe yourself into complacency at being one of a "most respectable people," and a "most Christian society." The fair image of God is despoiled and shattered, and the iconoclast is accepted as respectable and worthy.
Oh, the weary footfalls and despairing hearts among the graves of the five-and-twenty thousand lost women of the city of New-York! Their mournful dirge has been sung by the same great-hearted poet who awoke the strains of the Song of the Shirt. Let him tell the fate of one of them, for it is the story of the class:
"Alas for the rarity
Home she had none.
Feelings had changed;
"Where the lamps quiver
With many a light
"The bleak wind of March
Made her tremble and shiver;
But not the dark arch,
Or the black flowing river:
Mad from life's history,
Glad to death's mystery
Swift to be hurl'd
Out of the world!