Woman's Industrial Subjection.—No. 2.—Its Gradual Development Under Governments of Force

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J. K. Ingalls, "Woman's Industrial Subjection.—No. 2.—Its Gradual Development Under Governments of Force," The Woman's Tribune, March 23, 1889, p. 114-5.

Woman's Industrial Subjection—No. 2.


They misread history and misjudge motives, who suppose that our social and civil inequities have been established by design. The law of growth applies to human institutions as well as to physical bodies. Conspiracies to maintain, extend and perpetuate power there may have been and such still exist; but the wrong has ever been developed through mutual ignorance and misapprehension. The beginnings of distinct forms of-oppression have often occurred where the weaker has sought the protection of the stronger, against real or imaginary foes, by contract, made unequal through ignorance rather than design. Such contract resulted necessarily in the increase of authority on one side and increased dependence on the other.

The necessity of co-operation in all production of wealth, furnished the opportunity for constant encroachments of the one and the increasing subjection of the other. The earliest and simplest form of co-operation was between two of the opposite sex. Such co-operation would be mandatory on the part of one and involuntary on the part of the other; or it would be mutually desired and therefore voluntary on the part of each. The more primitive form; I think, was mutual and voluntary, the later mastership of the man being preceded by that of the woman, has resulted, through inevitable divergencies, in ages of ignorance and inexperience. The first divergence from simple mutualism would appear to have been in favor of woman's supremacy, since she seems to have been the earliest toiler and accumulator, and so leader in this field. It is evident that as late as the time of Abraham and Isaac, the woman was not a subordinate as to the control of home. The expulsion of Hagar and her child and the ruse to deprive Esau of his birthright shows that the wife then was ruler of the tent, and of the domestic economics, such as they were. Instances of the brutal domination of the man over the woman occur only among retrograde tribes, or under rigorous despotism, or under the demoralization caused by incomplete co-operation, as in our modern industrialism, where it ends in production and does net embrace division, to the toiler except as it is inevitable toward the slave, serf or wage worker, whose numbers And condition must be maintained or production for the operator will cease. We see here the intimate connection of industry and economy with subjection of any kind, and which seems to have in them its only foothold. Woman's industrial and economic emancipation is then her great need.

Woman's present status seems to have grown through alternations of supremacy, rather than from any constitutional inability to lead or rule. Government in this arbitrary sense is an art most easily learned, and woman has abundantly proved her capacity in that line. Between the man and the woman the struggle for leadership was certain to arise. Only through long experience and culture could they arrive at just estimates of each other's services and claims. In their attempts at mutual understanding they must have followed one of w these lines, either entire subordination of the man to the woman, or of the woman to the man, or of a division of rule, corresponding to the division of labor, which is indispensable to any co-operative work whatever.

That woman was the first ruler in the home and its industries, I think there can Arise no doubt. That man took the lead in outdoor pursuits, as hunting, fishing and war, is equally clear. There was thus a primitive division of leadership as well as of labor, of headship, and of handship. In his own field the man had the advantage of the woman, whose time and energies were at times engrossed in rearing and caring for the young. She was at such times wholly disqualified from following the chase or engaging in war and hence an allotment of sphere was evolved in which subjection by force might have been wholly absent. But when the men of a tribe or family were conquered and slain, as was the barbaric custom, the women became subject to the simple will of the victors, who were able to discover that their labor could be used to advantage. As savage life gave way to the barbaric love of power and ostentation innumerable methods were adopted to turn the service of the captive to account, and by set laws to perpetuate and render stable the relation of master and slave, first established through the arbitrament of brute force. The power of compelling the service of a captured woman, would also suggest the policy of subjecting the women of his household to his arbitrary will. Thus in the early customs h of all historic peoples, the man became a sovereign of his prescribed domain, with power of life and death over all therein, as wife and children as well as captured or purchased slaves. Absolute power thus enthroned led to subjection of other families, tribes and nations, to the empire or Czarism as in Asia or to oligarchies and democracies sustained by the labor of slaves, as in Greece.

Power once tasted is cherished. Having taken root it grows and persistently seeks to protect and perpetuate its dominions. The conflict of the ages has been the struggle of mankind to reclaim and regain what was once given up to the dominion of force, or surrendered in the hope of protection from greater evil. Force may have sometimes effected a reversal of conditions, but has settled nothing; only the master and slave have changed places. It is only when sublimer elements are evolved that its grip is relaxed. In this respect woman under the most despotic masculine rule, has often brought the man to terms, and become herself a relentless despot. Under Feudalism, the idea of a common brotherhood exerted a wide influence in modifying the austere despotisms, and inaugurated a knighthood for the protection of the weak and the oppressed. Its organization was defective, and was confronted at length by that gigantic mercantile tendency which has choked the very life of the chivalrous spirit from our times, The pivotal thought of this commercial impulse is contract. When the simple barbaric "rule of the stronger," gave way to the "fiction of law," slavery was continued on an assumption of "service due," as a result of the original contract between the victor and the victim in the contest where a forfeited life was spared on condition of the future services of the conquered, and his posterity forever. Under our own constitution chattel slavery was upheld for three quarters of a century solely upon this monstrous assumption masquerading as law and abolished then, not by a repudiation of the fiction about "persons owing service," but by the war power dealing with contraband "property," and as a military necessity.

In making laws for the many, the few, even in republics, who aspire to make, interpret and execute the laws—whom Charles O'Connor designates as the most dangerous class in any society—present the law-making power as a close corporation, and have never broadened the base ungrudgingly. About 15 per cent. of the population vote, not to make laws, but to elect one of the contending cabals, to promote a party policy the farming of the country's interest to capitalistic rings, or levying black-mail upon undisturbed violators of equity and justice. The voter thinks he is the political unit. To increase the number of voters would decrease his value as such. He becomes unwilling to share with women the power to make laws for others to obey. He must improve his only opportunity to play a lordly part in ruling somebody.

In seeking a companion, the man of ordinary attainments and circumstance in life, desires the services of a wife to secure the comforts and fellowship of home and often thinks that this can only be done by having a subordinate, "Someone must be the head;" and the thought does not occur to him, that the head work may be divided as well as the handwork. Now it has been clearly shown that all production is cooperative, and the first steps in co-operation arose with the mated pair. The condition of women then largely depends on the equities involved in the division or ultimate ownership of such production. The present inequality of division does not spring from the circumstance of sex. It is the labor of the workers whether men or women and what that labor will effect, that begets the desire to command their service. The commercial brigandage under which labor now toils is not more or less unjust towards women than towards workers of the other sex, except that in the marital union the woman has been ignored as a partner in the division of the results of the partnership business, much the same as the laborer has been ignored as a partner in the otherwise co-operative workshop, factory or farm. He was once cared for as a slave, now in lieu thereof he is paid wages, and their acceptance is assumed as a release of his share. The wife has a home and support from her husband and so is assumed to have renounced her title to her life long earnings in favor of her superior. Her subordination then so far as it is not cheerfully yielded, is the same as that of her working brother, wholly economic. The peculiarity of her subjection lies mainly in her necessity for a home wherein her womanhood can have scope and opportunity for self support and personal independence.

In the slow development of rational and equitable methods of division, woman has been the greatest sufferer, because in addition to sharing the depressed condition of her toiling husband, the same discriminating rule applies between him and herself. In the following number we shall inquire into the fundamental evil in our civil and economic systems upon which this monstrous injustice to woman and to the wealth producer rests, the power of the state to interfere and force eviction from home and opportunity, under a legal fiction of the commercial ownership of the land, and of constructive possession against actual possession.

Let us briefly notice now the attitude of the later school of political economists to ward the industries of home, its toil and compensations, reciprocal or otherwise. Home, its wealth in comforts, luxuries or bare necessaries, is wholly denied a place n the science limited to "profits in trade." The home of the trader, humble or pretentious, is no factor in speculation, so all its services are ignored. Even thus narrowed the science might he tolerated for the ingenuity displayed and serve a useful purpose, but it oversteps its self appointed sphere. It seeks to justify the class laws and discriminations, derived from ages of barbarism and nescience, as elemental, factors in economics, and so to rule out alll remonstrance against the exactions of a capital or governing class, from the working world, of which woman s the major position. How interesting to woman to be told that the home is not wealth in the exact sense; that her principal labors have no relation to political economy; and yet that "demand and supply" operate universally and invariably under whatever social and civil system, and therefore that equity and justice must ever result to labor and to woman in the very sequence of things! The school I refer to does not embrace J. Stewart Mill, J. E. Cairnes or Prof. Jevons, but McLeod, Giffen, Profs. Perry and Sumner. The first named, as the sole hope of the laborer, suggests that he "should keep down his numbers." Doubtless if noticing woman at all he would make a similar suggestion. To increase wealth by reducing the number of its producers, and to enhance the awards of labor by limiting its products, seems in the light of this science to be the sole chance the working man and the working woman have of escaping destitution, the necessary consequence of having produced too large a supply of the comforts and luxuries of life for those who trade in them! Will they sometime discover, that it is not the law of supply and demand, but class law and bought legislation which enable the few to appreciate the wealth which industry creates, by studied evasion of the economic law, and of the competition forced upon the worker?

The ruling motives affecting human conduct are well defined. Individual or social good is the sole aim. Good to self or to . others, immediate or remote, sways every rational attempt in every sphere of activity. Certain distinctions may be justly drawn however between a class of activities which seek good through the exercise of one's own powers over the materials and forces of nature, or in mutual co-operation with others, and a class which aims simply at appropriation to self of the goods others have toiled to produce.

The distinction here stated will be more e fully discussed in a future number. I wish merely to say here that mankind long since outgrew the stage in which this latter aim at controlled human conduct in general. Yet it is assumed to be the universal impulse governing men and women, and the all-controlling force in political economy. That but few accumulate large fortunes, while the many toil in penury proves that the latter are actuated by quite different motives. Otherwise we should have constant war. No industry except that compelled from slaves, and all freedom and equitable commerce would be unknown. But one half of the work of the world, at least, is and ever has been from nobler motives; since what is done to serve one's self, family, friends or the public good, is wholly beyond such conception. Even in trade, as it now exists, there are more fair minded men than sharpers and cheats. To seek one's own good is nominally just. To seek the goods others have toiled to produce without equivalent is robbery. Solely to seek the good of others is emotional unwisdom. By self denial and self abnegation woman has contributed to her own subjection. To seek the good of self in mutual effort and good will with others is rational and human. Divergence from these aims results in strife, subordination and servitude of the weaker, and general misrule and suffering, only to be remedied by return to reciprocal services, equitable division and exchange of products.

In my next I shall treat of man's relation to the land; and particularly to woman in its allotment.

J. K. Ingalls, Glenora, N. Y

  • Joshua King Ingalls, “Woman’s Industrial Subjection.—No. 2.—Its Gradual Development Under Governments of Force,” The Woman’s Tribune ??, no. ?? (March 23, 1889): 114-115.