[To “Voices from 19th-Century America”]

Notices & reviews of Woman’s Rights, by John Todd (1867) and Woman’s Wrongs, by “Gail Hamilton” (1868)

While John Todd’s Woman’s Rights was occasionally noticed after its publication, it seems not to have been written about as much as Woman’s Wrongs, Gail Hamilton’s ridiculing response. Hamilton was by 1868 the more well-known of the two—something borne out by puzzled critics referring to Todd as “a Rev. Dr. Todd” and “whoever he may be”. Few critics reviewing Wrongs appear to have read Rights—one was, in fact “loth to undertake to do [it]”—but they certainly read Hamilton’s book, which provided them an opportunity to include long, column-eating excerpts. [In the interest of getting this page up before the end of this century, rather than transcribing the excerpts, I copied them directly from the text of Wrongs at this site; those interested in how the excerpts originally appeared will want to see the original reviews.] Because the two works were so often discussed together, I’ve not attempted to label each review with the book it’s highlighting.


Maine Farmer. 19 September 1867

Flag of Our Union. 21 September 1867: 8

The Universalist Quarterly and General Review. October 1867

Medical and Surgical Reporter. 12 October 1867

Christian Advocate. 31 October 1867

The Albion. 25 January 1868

Chicago Tribune. 30 Jan 1868

New York Observer and Chronicle. 30 January 1868

American Literary Gazette and Publishers’ Circular. 1 February 1868

New York Evangelist. 20 February 1868

New York Times. 24 February 1868

The Ladies’ Repository. April 1868

The Radical. April 1868

The Atlantic Monthly. April 1868

The Monthly Religious Magazine. April 1868

The Universalist Quarterly and General Review. April 1868

The Baptist Quarterly. 1 April 1868

Arthur’s Home Magazine. May 1868

Lippincott’s Magazine of Literature, Science and Education. May 1868


Notice. Maine Farmer 35 (19 September 1867): 2.

Woman’s Rights. By Rev. John Todd. Boston: Lee & Shepard. Price paper 15 cts., cloth 59 cts.

A little tract in which the author discusses such subjects as the equality of the sexes, woman’s sphere, what woman’s rights are, dress, voting, wages, abnormity of the country, and woman’s education. It is issued as one of a series of “Tracts for the People,” which we hope may reach every home in the land. For sale in this city by E. Fenno & Son.


Notice. Flag of Our Union 21 September 1867: 8.

Woman’s Rights. By Rev. John Todd, D. D., author of “Serpents in the Dove’s Nest.” Boston: Lee & Shepard.

Dr. Todd—who has done good work by his former book—comes out in this, antagonistic to the fast-growing craze regarding “woman’s rights,” proving that God, nature and human expediency are against it. The points are very ably discussed.


Review. The Universalist Quarterly and General Review 4 (October 1867): 508.

Woman’s Rights. By Rev. John Todd, D. D. Lee & Shepard. [The other side of the question so largely and ably treated by Mrs. Dall. There is some special pleading in the case, but under the head of “Woman’s Education,” there are valuable suggestions, and some plain truths, worthy of every woman’s attention.] [Transcriber’s note: Square brackets original.]


Review. Medical and Surgical Reporter 17 (12 October 1867): 318.

Woman’s Rights. By Rev. John Todd, D. D., Boston: Lee & Sheppard [sic]. 1867. pp. 27.

This is an attack on those who would make woman self-supporting, and allow her, if she wishes to, to provide for herself in some way besides by marriage and prostitution. The author grants that the mind of woman is equal to man’s, but would close to her the avenues of active life for two reasons: because her physical organization is too feeble to endure hard labor: and because “god never designed her for them.” The latter reason is reiterated so frequently, that the reverend author must be of the opinion of Col. Fougas, in About’s novel of “The Man with the Broken Ear,” where he exclaims, “God and I understand each other.” As for the other reason, the physical inferiority, the author overlooks the facts that in Central and Northern Europe, women do by far the hardest work of all kinds, that in savage nations they often surpass the males in endurance and strength, and that they are discouraged by preceptors like himself from acquiring the bodily stamina they should rightfully have. They should not vote, he argues, because they do not acquire property; they do not acquire property, one might suggest, because they have not the chance. We have no especial sympathy with the Dr.’s opponents, but his arguments have a ludicrous resemblance to the admonition of the mother to her son: “Never enter the water, my boy, till you have learned how to swim.”


Review. Christian Advocate 42 (31 October 1867): 347.

Tracts for the People. No. 4. Woman’s Rights. By John Todd, D. D., Author of “Serpents in the Dove’s Nest.” 16mo., pp. 27. Paper, 15 cents; cloth, 50 cents. Boston: Lee & Shepard.

A veteran new England clergyman speaks in this little book “kindly, faithfully, plainly, calmly, and decidedly” to the women of his generation respecting their “rights.” He thinks the disgusting clamor for “woman’s rights,” so called, springs from a desire to be independent of man, far more independent of him than he ever was or can be of woman. He disputes the equality of the sexes, though he admits that woman’s mind is superior to man’s, quicker, more flexible, more elastic. “You cannot invent,” he tells woman; “you cannot compete with men in a long course of mental labor;” even in the use of the piano the masters are men. Woman’s mission is to be “the mother and the former of all the character of the human race;” and her “rights” are to have the love, honor, consideration, and employment, which will make her a good wife, mother, and crown of her family; while to whatever will prevent that result she has no right. He does not believe in the “Bloomer,” or in the ballot for woman, and thinks that we are in danger of educating her into the grave. He denies that God ever designed that she should be made independent and self-supporting. Yes, doctor, we believe it all; but what is to be done with those seventy thousand more women than men in Massachusetts alone?


Review. The Albion 46 (25 January 1868): 45.

In any other country than America, which is emphatically the country of Isms, it would hardly have been possible for a woman to write, much less than to print, such a book as Woman’s Wrongs, A Counter Irritant, which the lady who writes under the nom de plume of Gail Hamilton, has recently issued through the press of Messrs. Ticknor and Fields. It is not, as the reader might suppose, a treatise, or discussion, on woman’s rights, which, of course would easily be got at by writing on the opposite subject; or, not so much that, as a reply to a series of articles from the pen of the Rev. John Todd, D[.] D.,—whoever he may be—which originally appeared in a leading religious newspaper of New England, and which appears to have roused the ire of Gail Hamilton. Dr. Todd seems a good enough sort of man, and his ideas are such as obtain among men of his station and intelligence, in the pulpit or out; but both he, and they, are abomination in the eyes of Gail Hamilton, who pokes all manner of fun at them, often, it must be confessed, justly. The learned divine is an ungrammatical writer, for which he deserves to be scored; but to chaff him for his grammar, or want of it, is one thing, and to answer his arguments, or assertions, or both, by vague declamation—psychological, political and otherwise—is another. Gail Hamilton is smart, and sometimes witty, but neither her wit nor her smartness have convinced us that it is a good thing for women to vote; or that the majority of women of America wish to vote, or would vote under any consideration. We have been amused by Gail Hamilton’s book, which, if it be an answer to Dr. Todd, and his scribblements, is not an answer to Alfred Tennyson, and the settlement of woman’s place and rights in the social scale, as the last has set them forth in “The Princess.” We commend to Gail Hamilton’s consideration a few lines in the mouth of the old king—the father of the prince—which, if they would not “weed her of her folly,” have certainly weeded many women of theirs, and are likely to weed many more. …

[Transcriber’s note: In Tennyson’s “The Princess,” the title character seeks equal rights for women. The young prince hoping to marry her is advised by his father:

… Man for the field and woman for the hearth:

Man for the sword and for the needle she:

Man with the head and woman with the heart:

Man to command and woman to obey;

All else confusion. …

… A lusty brace

Of twins may weed her of her folly. Boy,

The bearing and the training of a child

Is woman’s wisdom.]


“Woman’s Wrongs.” Chicago Tribune 30 Jan 1868: 2.
A Few Extracts from Gail Hamilton’s Latest Work.

Gail Hamilton has taken hold of the subject of “Woman’s Wrongs,” and applied “a counter irritant,” wherein she polishes off a Rev. Dr. Todd, of Massachusetts, who considers himself a master of the subject, and has obtruded some very stupid and highly clerical advice on women generally. Indeed, St. Paul himself is not let off without some sound buffets. Gail, however, is conservative on certain points, such as suffrage, and is only less severe on the Susan Anthonys, Stantons and Tiltons, who are now the advance-guard of female rights and advocates. Although the publishers, Messrs. Ticknor & Fields, have liberally supplied the book-dealers with copies of Gail’s last book, we are temp[t]ed to add to this general notice the following extracts:

TODD POLISHED OFF.

“Taking him on his own ground, what would he have these unmarried women do? What course does he propose to the girls who have left school and are entering their womanhood? Marriage, marriage, marriage, is the one profession, the one sphere, the one blessing which he holds out to them,—

“A sovereign balm for every wound,

A cordial for their fears.”

He sees honor, dignity, support, nowhere else. To this, and this alone, he urges them by every consideration earthly and heavenly. What then? Shall the girls take matters into their own hands? Shall they swarm into the counting-rooms, the factories, the colleges, the theological seminaries, drop a courtesy to the young men, and say, ‘Sir, will you please to marry me?’ As for sitting at home and waiting for the young men to come to them, they do that now. Unless Dr. Todd means that they are to go out into the highways and hedges and compel men to come in, it is difficult to see what he does mean. If he permitted himself to use his eyes,—a habit which he gives no sign of every having fallen into,—he would see that reluctance to marriage is not the great or the growing fault of women. He would see with deep inward shame not unmixed with pity, that mental idleness, lack of purpose and interest in life, poverty, weakness, and bad teachings, have made women so ready to accept any sort of marriage, that too often the womanly name is lightly spoken, the womanly assent lightly valued. That which should be to men the prize of life they count but an ordinary commodity. Wives are to be selected, not won. Love is a serving-man, not a conqueror. Marriage is a provision, an occupation, an arrangement, any coarse and common thing, and Dr. Todd will have it so.

“And all the Wackford Squeerses who have gone into the business of newspaper editing smack their lips over this twopenn’orth of milk in a mug of lukewarm water, and cry out to their unlucky readers, ‘Here ’s richness!’

FEMALE SUFFRAGE.

“Female suffrage is not an affair of antagonism between man and woman. It is not a struggle in which women are to be the gainers and men the losers. It is one in which both are to gain or both to lose alike. If women ought to vote, a woman’s vote is as much a man’s right as it is a woman’s right. If women ought not to vote, a woman’s vote is as great an impertinence to a woman as to a man. It is not even whether women wish to vote; whether they ought to vote; whether the country needs the votes of her women, and can afford to do without them.

“If society were millennial, if men and women were infallible, if every woman on arriving at maturity became the justly beloved and honored wife of a justly beloved and honored husband, and remained so during all the years of their lives, she might safely trust her interests in his hands; but with a society so far deflected from uprightness as ours, with human life so far from its ideal, there is no class that can safely delegate its interests to another class. It is because human nature is defective that human laws are made; and human nature being defective, it is never safe to trust it with irresponsible power.

“What definite benefit is to accrue to woman or to the State from indiscriminate female suffrage, I must confess, after all the talk, I fail to see. The volume of the vote will be increased, but I do not see that its proportion will be affected; and the proportion of the vote and not its volume is the quarter from which danger threatens. True, in a republican government, the broader the basis, the better, provided it be sound; but if it be not sound, how can its breadth be an element of strength? Believing, as I do, most firmly, that the right of suffrage belongs to woman in precisely the same measure as to man,—no more and no less,—and that it will do for woman precisely what it does for man—no better and no worse,—still, were the alternative presented to me of changing the basis of suffrage, either by extending the franchise indiscriminately to women, or by still further restricting it among men, I think I should unhesitatingly choose the latter. I would far sooner trust the welfare of the country to the freely acting wisdom of intelligent and virtuous men, than to the wisdom of intelligent and virtuous men and women, hampered, baffled, and overborne by the folly of unintelligent and vicious men and women.

WOMAN’S WORK AND WAGES AND THE BALLOT.

“How will the possession of the ballot affect in any way the vexed question of work and wages? One orator says: ‘Shall Senators tell me in their places that I have no need of the ballot, when forty thousand women in the city of New York alone are earning their daily bread at starving prices with the needle?’ But what will the ballot do for those forty thousand women when they get it? It will not give them husbands, nor make their thriftless husbands provident, nor their invalid husbands healthy. They cannot vote themselves out of their dark, unwholesome sewing-rooms into counting-rooms and insurances offices, nor have they generally the qualifications which these places require. The ballot will not enable them to do anything for which their constitution or their education has not fitted them, and I do not know of any law now which prevents them from doing anything for which they are fitted, except the holding of government offices. I can think of no other occupation which the right of suffrage will open to woman, and of public officers the number must always be, in proportion to the population, insignificant. If, as is affirmed, politics is ‘out of her sphere,’ if, as I should say, and as I certainly believe, the nature of woman inclines her to private and domestic, rather than to public life, the women who will fill the higher offices will be very few; and, after the subordinate offices are filled, the bulk of the female population will still remain to be provided for. It could hardly be otherwise without calamity. Says a female writer: ‘How many doors to remunerative employments would be thrown open to woman if she had the ballot! How politicians would interest themselves in finding places for her!’ But I can only say, far distant be that day! If the possession of the ballot is to enlist woman in the great army of office-seekers, it will be a disastrous possession both to herself and the state. I cannot look upon such a sentiment from a woman without dismay. Are women to be elevated by becoming entangled with politicians and intriguing for places? Are men thus elevated? Is it generally considered a creditable and honorable employment for men to be hanging upon the skirts of Congressmen? Finding places for her! I trust the ballot, if it does anything, will enable woman to command place for herself. I trust that the mischievous doctrine that places are to be found for persons, and not persons for places, will receive no countenance from women.

ANNA DICKINSON AND BREAD BAKING.

“A popular lecturer not long since declared that Anna Dickinson could make as good a loaf of bread as any one, and that there was nowhere a better-ordered cottage than that over which Lucy Stone presided. His motives were good, and his statements may have been adapted to the hardness of his hearers’ hearts, but he should never have condescended to make them. It was coming down from the true position to pander to a false principle. So far as lecturer or audience was concerned, judging from the newspaper report of the lecture, it is no more Anna Dickinson’s duty to know how to make bread than it is Caleb Cushing’s. Whether Anna Dickinson can make bread, or Lucy Stone keep house, is the affair only of those persons for whom it is the duty of the one to make bread and of the other to keep house. If Anna Dickinson chooses to deliver lectures, and buy bread with the proceeds instead of making it,—if Lucy Stone and her husband choose that she shall deliver lectures and hire a pair of hands to keep their house,—it is altogether fitting and proper. It is a thousand times more fitting and proper a way of keeping house than the way which men not unfrequently adopt, and without rebuke,—namely, marrying for it. Let us see every man bound down to one specific trade before we attempt to bind women. Let us see every boy constrained to raise wheat to make bread with, before we constrain every girl to make bread.

THE MOHAMMEDAN, MORMON AND CHRISTIAN VIEWS.

“The Mohammedan and the Mormon doctrines are that women have no life in the next world except through their husbands. The Christian doctrine is that they have none in this. ‘Man,’ says a popular lecturer, ‘needs the conscious affection of a female heart to soften the asperities of his own, and to give completeness to his being.’ But what of the female heart while it is thus softening his asperities and completing his being? Is asperity-softening a pleasant work? Will it be likely to give completeness to the female being? or is she supposed to be already complete? ‘In order to found a home,’ says the same lecturer, according to the newspaper report, ‘the first thing to do is to look around for a woman who would make a good partner in this home business,—a woman pure, good, sensible, modest, tidy, good-looking, and intelligent.’ I should say, decidedly the first thing for him is to take a good long look at himself, and make sure that he is pure, good, sensible, modest, tidy, good-looking, and intelligent, and therefore a fit person for a woman of such qualities to associate with.

PAUL AND CHRIST.

“Paul could never quite get out of his mind the notion of woman’s sphere. Into the mind of Christ it never came. Paul admonished women to guide the house. Jesus applauded a woman for not guiding the house. All his intercourse with woman was adapted to lift her up from the level where she stood into a higher region,—to take her above the wearying, petty cares of ‘her sphere,’ and fix her thoughts on higher themes,—themes that expand the mind and enlarge the heart. It was not Martha, cumbered with much serving, but Mary, who left her house to look after itself while she sat at Jesus’ feet, who received his commendation. Martha is the model woman of men, but Jesus praised Mary. Men at different times brought accusations against women, but Jesus always maintained their cause. Even when they were palpably and grievously wrong, he shielded their guilt with his own purity, and couched his censure in such gentleness that displeasure is swallowed up in love. O, never man spake like this man![”]


“Woman’s Wrongs.” New York Observer and Chronicle 46 (30 January 1868): 37.

“Gail Hamilton” has written another book. Like all that she writes, it has good and evil in it, and this time the good is ahead. She writes it in a fit of passion, and poor Dr. Todd is the victim of her rage. The good Dr. had written a book—a very sensible book—on the subject of Woman’s Rights, in which he had shown from Scripture, facts and reason, that women’s sphere is not political, but social, and that the new-fangled doctrines of the Cady—Stanton school are false and foolish. This roused the wrath of Gail Hamilton. Having seized him by the ears and beaten him about the head right lustily, she devotes the major part of the book to a very judicious and sensible discussion of the subject, and arrives at the same conclusions for which she had so berated Dr. Todd. A few passages will give the drift of her argument, and the racy way in which she puts it.

There are so many things to be taken into the account, that one has need to great caution in forming opinions; but it seems to me that the great and simple cause of the low wages paid to women is the low work they produce. They are equal only to the coarse, common labor; they get only the coarse, common pay, and there are such multitudes of them that their employer has everything his own way. The moment they rise to a higher grade of work, the crowd thins, and they become masters of the situation. It may not be their fault that they are not skilled artisans, but I suppose trade takes into account only facts, not causes. I am not now exculpating or inculpating those who grind the faces of the poor. I am not speaking of them at all. I desire and design to look at the question solely from the woman’s point of view. The laws of supply and demand are just as rigorous as if the brutal and profane head-shopman were a wooden automaton. There are a few employers who modify them by moral laws but to the great mass work is worth just what it can be got for, and so long as work can be got at starving prices, living prices will not be paid. What can the ballot do here? Nothing but mischief. The relations between employer and employed the law seldom touches but to disturb. “Hands off” is all we want of government,—its own hands and all others. Freedom, not fostering, is its aim,—or fostering only through freedom. Only so far as government continually tends to non-government, continually tends to relegate its power to the individual, to decrease itself and to increas the citizen, is it performing the true function of government.

But if women are prevented from establishing themselves in business through want of means, they need not on that account work at starving prices. I suspect that every one of those forty thousand women could find a comfortable home in New York,—a home in which she would have plenty of wholesome food and sufficient shelter, and in which she could earn besides two or three dollars a week, if she would accept the home. The work would be more healthful and far less exhaustive than the starvation sewing. Household service is always in demand. A woman needs no capital to enter upon it. Even skill is not indispensable. There are thousands of families to which, if an intelligent, virtuous, and ordinarily healthful woman should go and say, “I have been starving with my needle, and I desire now to try housework. I know very little about it, but I have determined to devote myself to it, and am resolved to become mistress of it,” she would be welcomed. Here, by exercising those virtues and graces which every human being ought to exercise,—by being faithful, good-humored, and efficient,—she could speedily become an honored and valued member of the family, and secure herself a home that would last as long as the family held together. She could make herself as useful to the family as the family is to her. Where is the sense in a woman’s starving because she has no food in her hands, when a woman is starving by her side because she has no hands for her food? I feel indignant when I hear these multiplied stories of wholesale destitution. I am disposed to say tho these women: If you choose to stay at home and perish, rather than go into your neighbor’s kitchen and supply your wants, do so; but do not appeal to those for pity from whom you refuse employment. I know there are many who are tied to their own wretched homes; but if those who are unencumbered would resort to the kitchens of the rich, it would relieve the stress of competition, those who remain would command a better price for their labor, and starvation would be permanently stopped. I do not say this because housework is woman’s sphere, but because it is honest work that calls her, and any honest work in her power is better than starvation, and more dignified than complaint and outcry. If it were picking apples, or gathering huckleberries, instead of housework, I should recommend that just the same. The case of the woman is precisely the case of the man. If a man had palpable artistic genius, we should earnestly desire for him artistic employment; but if he could by no means succeed in securing it, we should certainly advise him to chop wood, however disagreeable wood-chopping be to him, rather than die; and if he chose to shiver and starve at his home, rather than come and cut my wood, for want of which I stand shivering, I should take his starvation with great equanimity. So with women. No one has a right to tell women what they ought to do, to dictate to them their sphere. But when women cry out that they are dying for want of the ballot, we have a right to say: Not so. Unquestionably you are dying, and unquestionably you have not the ballot; but the two do not stand in the relation of effect and cause. Equally without question you ought to have the ballot; but it is not the ballot which will raise you up from this sickness.

“I admit that there are serious drawbacks to household service,—some drawbacks of an honest self-respect, some of a foolish self-disrespect, calling itself pride. It is often said, that, if a woman could be taken into a family on a footing of equality,—meaning chiefly, I find, if she could sit at the family table,—there would be less reluctance to domestic service. It is not reasonable to expect that an intelligent American woman should be willing to consort with low and ignorant foreigners. But it would scarcely be hazardous to predict, that, if intelligent American women would go into American kitchens, they would quickly drive out the unintelligent foreigners; and for the rest, the matter of equality is simply trivial. Social position adjusts itself where there is social worth. The servant in the kitchen may be wholly superior to the mistress in the parlor, or she may be inferior; but sitting together at table affects the question not at all. It may be requiring more insight than we have a right to expect, to ask the mass of women to see this. But any one can see that the table is often the only place where the family can meet, and a stranger’s presence destroys the confidence and freedom which make the charm of family life. The family do not object to the servant’s presence necessarily because she is not equal to themselves, but because she is not one of themselves. They are quite right. Family seclusion can scarcely be too sacredly guarded; and the woman who wishes to encroach upon it—who is so blind that she cannot see that there is anything to be encroached upon—shows by that token her unfitness to share it. There is, too, much less danger of clashing when mistress and maid have their orbits on different planes. Duties are far more clearly defined, and relations far less complicated; and if the maid have ability, she will gradually assume an almost commanding position in the household. She will be less its servant than its friend, its care-taken, honored and prized beyond what money can express.


Review. American Literary Gazette and Publishers’ Circular 10 (1 February 1868): 201.

Woman’s Wrongs; a Counter-Irritant. By Gail Hamilton. pp. 212. Boston: Ticknor & Feilds.

We have here another spicy contribution to the discussion of woman’s rights, or woman’s wrong, whichever expression the reader may prefer. It seems that the Rev. Dr. John Todd wrote some articles in a newspaper on this vexed subject, and thereupon Gail, in the spirit of a true Gael, delivers battle to the Doctor in this counter-irritant. That she writes with vehemence, if not with taste, is evident from her opening pages, where she tells us, among many other like things, that in the mode of treatment adopted by her opponent, “pious fatuity did the work of infernal cleverness.”


“Woman’s Wrongs.” New York Evangelist 39 (20 February 1868): 6.

Such is the title of a recent book by Gail Hamilton, in which the right of women to vote is very earnestly advocated. But unlike some of her sex, she does not believe that voting would prove a panacea for all the ills that women at present endure—she holds that they must qualify themselves for filling responsible positions before they can obtain them, and if these are not within their reach, they must be willing to engage, as do men, in any honest employment that will afford them a competent support. This is the way she talks to those young women who crowd into our cities and try to keep body and soul together by stitching, stitching from morning to night, rather than accept situates in families where they could make themselves useful and be happy and respected;—

But if women are prevented from establishing themselves in business through want of means, they need not on that account work at starving prices. I suspect that every one of those forty thousand women could find a comfortable home in New York,—a home in which she would have plenty of wholesome food and sufficient shelter, and in which she could earn besides two or three dollars a week, if she would accept the home. The work would be more healthful and far less exhaustive than the starvation sewing. Household service is always in demand. A woman needs no capital to enter upon it. Even skill is not indispensable. There are thousands of families to which, if an intelligent, virtuous, and ordinarily healthful woman should go and say, “I have been starving with my needle, and I desire now to try housework. I know very little about it, but I have determined to devote myself to it, and am resolved to become mistress of it,” she would be welcomed. Here, by exercising those virtues and graces which every human being ought to exercise,—by being faithful, good-humored, and efficient,—she could speedily become an honored and valued member of the family, and secure herself a home that would last as long as the family held together. She could make herself as useful to the family as the family is to her. Where is the sense in a woman’s starving because she has no food in her hands, when a woman is starving by her side because she has no hands for her food? I feel indignant when I hear these multiplied stories of wholesale destitution. I am disposed to say to these women: If you choose to stay at home and perish, rather than go into your neighbor’s kitchen and supply your wants, do so; but do not appeal to those for pity from whom you refuse employment.

I know there are many who are tied to their own wretched homes; but if those who are unencumbered would resort to the kitchens of the rich, it would relieve the stress of competition, those who remain would command a better price for their labor, and starvation would be permanently stopped. I do not say this because housework is woman’s sphere, but because it is honest work that calls her, and any honest work in her power is better than starvation, and more dignified than complaint and outcry. If it were picking apples, or gathering huckleberries, instead of housework, I should recommend that just the same. The case of the woman is precisely the case of the man. If a man had palpable artistic genius, we should earnestly desire for him artistic employment; but if he could by no means succeed in securing it, we should certainly advise him to chop wood, however disagreeable wood-chopping be to him, rather than die; and if he chose to shiver and starve at his home, rather than come and cut my wood, for want of which I stand shivering, I should take his starvation with great equanimity. So with women.


Review. New York Times 24 February 1868: 2.

Woman’s Wrongs. By Gail Hamilton; (Boston: Ticknor & Fields.) Rev. Dr. John Todd having published in a paper, and republished in a book, a series of essays on “Woman’s Rights,” Gail Hamilton brings out “a counter-irritant” in this little brochure upon “Woman’s Wrongs.” Whether she has demolished the Doctor, we could not undertake to say without reading his original “irritant,” which we should be loth to undertake to do. But we will say at a venture, thaat if she does not pulverize him with the mace of logic, she at least galls him with the barbs of wit, and unless he be pitiably pachydermatous, he must at this moment be painfully transfixed with this dexterous champion’s arrows. After letting fly a full quiver of shafts into the divine, Gail Hamilton turns to the great social question of the day—the rights, claims and needs of woman, and discusses it with earnestness and good sense. Perhaps the most noticeable part of the essay is that relating to the suffrage question. She holds that “the right of suffrage belongs to woman in precisely the same measure as to man—no more and no less,” and that it will benefit woman precisely as it benefits man. And yet, she says, were the alternative presented to her of changing the basis of suffrage, either by extending the franchise indiscriminately to woman, or by still further restricting it among men, “I think I should unhesitatingly choose the latter.” We may conclude, therefore, that Gail Hamilton is not in favor of “universal suffrage.” It is noticeable, too, that Gail Hamilton holds that the ballot is not the true remedy for “woman’s wrongs,” but is comparatively an insignificant matter. “Without question,” she says to all women, “you ought to have the ballot; but it is not the ballot which will raise you up from this sickness.” All of which, and much more in this little essay, is not only true but worth the saying.


Review. The Ladies’ Repository 28 (April 1868): 314.

Woman’s Wrongs: A Counter-irritant. By Gail Hamilton. 12mo. Pp. 212. $1.50. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co.

Modern medicine dispenses as much as possible with the painful method of treatment by counter-irritants, yet in serious and complicated cases, endangering the life of the patient, the blister, the sinapism, and other external irritants are still used. Gail Hamilton seems to have found a case of this kind requiring heroic treatment, and she applies the irritants without pity and with a strong hand. Dr. Todd has written a book about “woman’s rights,” in which he says many very excellent and sensible things about woman’s nature, capabilities, and highest and best interests, but in which he also opposes female suffrage and what he calls “the degradation of woman by taking her from her true womanly sphere and putting her in places and employments for which she was never intended.” Dr. Todd is the patient and his book on woman’s rights is the summary of the symptoms of the desperate disease which needs this desperate treatment. Except the rough, almost profane style in which Dr. Todd’s book is reviewed, we like this volume from the racy irrepressible Gail. It contains the best statement of the argument for female suffrage we have yet seen. After maintaining the right and expediency of female suffrage, she clearly announces herself much more in favor of limiting suffrage than of extending it, and would rather take the vote out of the hands of some who now have it, and limit the franchise by the qualifications of a certain amount of education and a certain amount of property. But the best part of the book is that in which, with her usual force, clearness, and piquancy, she shows of how little advantage to woman, or to society either, the right of voting would be if she actually possessed it, and how entirely woman’s place, work, value, and influence depend on what she is in herself, and what she qualifies herself to be and to do by education and the acquisition of skill. Like all the other productions of this author, this volume is full of good and bad, wise and unwise things; it contains many true, valuable, and beautiful thoughts; it also contains many that are weak, fallacious, and harmful.


Review by A. S. W. The Radical April 1868: 591-592.

Woman’s Wrongs: A Counter Irritant. By Gail Hami[l]ton. Ticknor & Fields.

This book is designed as a “counter irritant” to one recently published by Rev. John Todd, in which he condescends to give the weaker sex some admonition and advice, occasionally bestowing a pat and a sugar-plum to make the dear ones feel that he means their good. The Rev. Dr. Pecksniff is treated as he deserves. Let Gail Hamilton alone for such work.

Our Author has the rare merit of seeing both sides of a question, and having maintained most valiantly the right of woman to Suffrage, she has the good sense to see and the fairness to allow, that the possession of the Ballot will avail but little for the purposes which it is expected will be accomplished by it. For the admission of woman to the polls will not change the character, but only the volume of the vote upon any given question. Patrick may bring Biddy his wife to counter-balance Mrs. Percy Howard, and if there is any advantage, it will be on the side of Patrick, as the Biddies will be more easily led en masse than the more cultivated Mrs. Howards.

Nor will female suffrage affect the question of female labor. For the prices of labor must follow the laws of trade, and with these voting has nothing to do. But could legislation regulate the wages of labor, is there any reason to suppose, our author inquires, that woman would be more disposed than men to pay higher wages to women! Every one who has traded much with women will join in her “I fear not.”

Nor will the right to suffrage raise woman in the social scale. The intelligent, cultivated woman, stands no lower in her own eyes or in the eyes of men, because of her political disability. The frivolous and vain would not be elevated were the disability removed. The first does not need the ballot as an incentive to exertion and self-culture, and if the exciting questions of the times fail to arouse the apathy of the latter, it is to be feared that going to the polls would prove insufficient. “Mobs and rowdies have always voted, and are mobs and rowdies still.” The suggestion of the fat offices which the possession of the ballot would open to women, Gail repels with an indignant “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

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Our author has too much good sense to join in the hue and cry for Universal Suffrage. “I would have the ballot made a noble and desirable possession, a sign of sagacity, of ability, of work, something to be striven for, a guerdon, as well as a power.” She proposes two tests for its restriction—the ability to read and write, and the possession of some, not much, property. We fear that these restrictions will hardly meet the necessities of the case. Our Puritan Fathers made church membership a requirement for admission to the polls, but alas, that s[ie]ve proved too coarse to keep out all the chaff of humanity. But there is a certain moral earnestness, which in those days was thought to pertain to church membership, the possession of which in man or woman, black or white, old or young, can alone qualify them for the high and sacred functions of government.

The book before us has many wise and witty sayings upon matters pertaining to the woman question, which men and women will do well to read. We would especially commend it to the attention of those females, who, finding themselves in a tight place, are looking to the possession of the ballot as a means of their enlargement, in the meanwhile neglecting to make the efforts necessary thereto.

The women who aspire to stand in the places now filled by men, must be willing to pay the prices they pay, in hard, diligent, patient efforts. To them, as to men, the old law is still in force, “In the sweat of thy brow, thou shalt eat thy bread,” and Providence will no more wink at the shirking of this law in the one sex, than in the other.

It is true that women have been restricted in the choice of employments, but the restrictions have been conventional, not legal. Customs have now changed, and the doors of many offices are thrown wide open to such women as have the ability, and will use the diligence necessary to fill them. In the varrious pursuits of business, literature, science and the arts, woman is at liberty to do just what she can do, and no hindrance from without will thwart the prosecution of the steady purpose.

We do not think that our female lecturers, novelists, and others, who have ventured out of the ruts of domestic life, have any reason to complain of their reception by the public. Anna Dickinson can draw a larger audience to her harangues upon the platform, than can Mr. Emerson to his rich and thoughtful discourse, and for them she demands and receives twice the pay.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin had probably twenty readers, where the White Slave had one.

Let women then think less of their rights and wrongs, and more of their duties. It was necessary, perhaps, to call attention to these wrongs; but that has been done, and men seem disposed to do them justice. Let woman now be just to herself, and whether she throw the ballot or no, she will become a power in society and in the state.


Review. The Atlantic Monthly 21 (April 1868): 509.

Woman’s Wrongs: A Counter-Irritant. By Gail Hamilton. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.

It is the first business of the author of this sprightly little book to demolish the Rev. Dr. Todd, who some time ago printed a pamphlet on Woman’s Rights, and told woman the usual things about her sphere, and her dependence, and her divinely established inferiority, and her sovereignty of the affections, and her general wickedness in making any effort except of the sort asked of Mrs. Dombey. Dr. Todd is such an intellectual chaos, that he had to be built up before being knocked over, and he seems in the end to be superfluously trampled upon. When our author has done with him, she enters upon much better work, namely, the discussion of woman’s place in American society and polity. This topic she treats as impersonally and frankly and vigorously as any of our own clear-headed and abstractly thinking sex, and brings knowledge of social and political economy to bear upon it; while in saying that if she were a man she would not deny the right of suffrage to woman, and that being a woman she will not ask it, leaves the question in that doubt essential to the happiness of all seekers after truth. She questions whether the ballot would socially or morally elevate woman, seeing that the great mass of men are not so elevated by it; and she is sure that it would not increase or regulate wages, which are subject only to the laws of demand and supply, and cannot be reached by statute. Women, she shows, are no longer shut out from trades or professions, and they are ill-paid because they do slovenly half-work from want of skill. The author does not believe that the typical forty thousand starving seamstresses in New York would be at all filled by the ballot, but thinks they might be quite comfortable in domestic service,—which it is well to say, though the starving forty thousand will never hear to it. [sic] There is such a vast deal for women to do before they vote, that, while she believes every woman who desires to vote ought to vote now, she counsels her sex rather to strive for success in the businesses open to them than to dream of legislating themselves into well-paid employments. All this and more is urged, without favor to wise men who tell women to choose husbands and be happy, and say no more about it. The book is altogether one of the most noticeable arguments upon the subject it treats.


Review by E. The Monthly Religious Magazine 39 (April 1868): 338.

Woman’s Wrongs. A Counter Irritant. By Gail Hamilton. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. Gail Hamilton evidently does not share the admiration of ecclesiastical persons which is usually regarded as an unfailing trait of womanhood. We advise her not to go to Pittsfield next summer. The book is full of good common sense done into good strong English.


Review. The Universalist Quarterly and General Review 5 (April 1868): 260.

10. Woman’s Wrongs: A counter-Irritant. By Gail Hamilton. Ticknor & Fields.

Poor Dr. Todd! He was sailing on, so serene, so self-confident, so infallible, so sure of divine protection—when lo! this rebel torpedo exploded, and he and his frail bark were blown into fragments. The remains of the unfortunate victim have been gathered up by Ticknor & Fields, and embalmed in spices, as above.


Review. The Baptist Quarterly 2 (1 April 1868): 243.

Woman’s Rights. By Rev. John Todd, D. D. Boston: Lee & Shepard.

Under this title Dr. Todd gives in 25 pages an animated plea for woman’s right to exempted from man’s responsibilities, and also some practical hints on female education. The style is sometimes negligent, and his assertions are not all unquestionable; but the discussion as a whole is marked by good sense and good feeling.


“Woman’s Wrongs.” Arthur’s Home Magazine 31 (May 1868): 297-301.

Under this suggestive title, Ticknor & Fields bring out a spicy whiff of some two hundred pages, from that source of the spiciest of all gales—Gail Hamilton. The work is called forth by a series of articles from the pen of the celebrated Congregationalist divine, Dr. John Todd, of Massachusetts, who undertakes to define “Woman’s Rights” (which, of course, includes woman’s wrongs), in a sentimental manner, probably quite satisfactory to himself, but not at all so to our authoress. We have not seen Dr. Todd’s essays—but if the extracts and summary of the same given by Gail Hamilton are anything like fair or reasonable, certainly, we think, she has the best of the argument. Take only one point—the education of females. We must think Dr. Todd very superficial, and Gail Hamilton equally practical and sensible. Here is the way she handles her opponent on this point:

“Dr. Todd next settles the question of female education and female colleges. ‘If it ministers to variety to call a girls’ school a college, it is very harmless.’ He is willing the fair ones should amuse themselves with edge-tools to that extent. But open the knife? No, no, pet, it will cut its little hands! ‘As for training young ladies through a long intellectual course, as we do young men, it can never be done, they will die in the process. Give woman all the advantages and all the education which her organization, so tender and delicate, will bear, but don’t try to make the anemone into an oak,’ and so forth. Thus the tender and delicate organization stands in the way, not only of Herschels and Laplaces, but of ordinary college graduates. Doubtless our colleges are in many respects excellent institutions, but I have never been so impressed with the weight of learning invariably brought from them as to feel that the female brain would hopelessly stagger under it. However, Dr. Todd says it would, and it is perhaps unseemly to discuss the question. But he is willing to declare ‘deliberately that the female has mind enough, talent enough, to go through a complete college course, but her physical organization will never admit of it, as a general thing. I think the great danger of our day is forcing the intellect of women beyond what her physical organization will possibly bear. We want to put our daughters at school at six, and have their education completed at eighteen. A girl would feel mortified not to be through schooling by the time she reaches that age’ (a statement that will surprise girls, I think). ‘In these years the poor thing has her brain crowded with history, grammar, arithmetic, geography, natural history, chemistry, physiology, botany, astronomy, rhetoric, natural and moral philosophy, metaphysics, French, often German, Latin, perhaps Greek, reading, spelling, committing poetry, writing compositions, drawing, painting, &c., &c., ad infinitum. Then, out of school hours, from three to six hours of severe toil at the piano. She must be on the strain all the school hours, study in the evening till her eyes ache, her brain whirls, her spine yields and gives way, and she comes through the process of education, enervated, feeble, without courage or vigor, elasticity or strength. Alas! must we crowd education upon our daughters, and, for the sake of having them ‘intellectual,’ make them puny, nervous, and their whole earthly existence a struggle between life and death?”

“If any other Providence than Dr. Todd’s were concerned, one might be disposed to inquire its object in giving woman more mind than she can cultivate. ‘A little farm well tilled’ is supposed to be more profitable than ever so great a reach of waste land. Why endow woman with as much mind as man, if she is forever incapacitated from training it? But Dr. Todd’s Providence is sui generis, and we will simply meet his assertion with another,—that the female not only has mind enough, to go through a complete college course. Dr. Todd judges, from what he has seen in female schools, that it cannot be done. I judge, from what I have seen in and out of female schools, that it can be done. He laments that, between the ages of six and eighteen, the poor thing has her brain crowded with history, grammar, and the rest. I affirm that if, between the ages of six and eighteen, a girl cannot get all those things into her brain without crowding it, she is a poor thing. A girl can go to school, pursue all the studies which Dr. Todd enumerates, except ad infinitum, know them,—not as well as a chemist knows chemistry, or a botanist botany, but as well as they are known by boys of her age and training, as well indeed as they are known by many college-taught men, enough at least to be a solace and resource to her,—then graduate before she is eighteen, and come out of school as healthy, as fresh, as eager as she went in, and never through her subsequent life know a week’s, scarcely a day’s illness. I know this, for I have seen it. Nature harmonizes body and mind in woman as well as in man. Aching eyes and whirling brain and yielding spine need no more attend intellectual activity in girls than in boys. Let a girl have a strong constitution, a vigorous body, and a sound mind, to begin with,—let her be taught to work, to play, to study, and not to dawdle,—let her have plenty of fresh air, wholesome food, early sleep, active out-door exercise, and healthful dress, all of which are compatible with a long intellectual course,—and she need fear nothing that seminaries or colleges have to offer. The reason why girls in school and out of school are puny, enervated, and exhausted is not that they are girls, but that they have inherited feeble constitutions, or they have been injured by improper food, improper dress, late hours, unnatural and unwholesome excitement, or they have been committed to unskilful and incompetent teachers; and among incompetent teachers I should certainly reckon those of Dr. Todd’s acquaintance,—teachers who, besides the routine of school, require from three to six hours of severe daily toil on the piano. I do not know any such teachers. I never heard of any such practice. In all the female schools I ever knew, music was considered as a study, and was included in the regular course. It certainly does not demand such a lion’s share of time in boys’ schools or colleges, and therefore, in considering a girl’s chances of passing through a college safely, these three or six hours may be counted in her favor.”

“Study is healthful. Real study conduces to peace of mind and body. Many girls, and boys too, are incapable of it. I have known parents lament the effects of hard study on their children, when those children never knew an hour’s hard study, and never could compass it if their life depended on it. What they suffer from is inability to study, not study. Parental ignorance, vice, weakness, or mismanagement has given them bodies and souls alike nerveless and flaccid. They can go to parties, follow the fashions, lounge over books, perhaps pore and worry over them; but they are utterly incapable of concentration, energy, struggle, victory. Their minds are inane and their bodies drooping. Others have fine physical powers in which their puny souls are wellnigh lost. Others have strong souls, but chained to a body of death. By all means let such children quietly fall out of the ranks. It is only adding cruelty to cruelty to require of them what can be done only by able-bodied souls and able-souled bodies; but to make them the standard—to force healthy, jubilant beings, all thrilling and tingling with life, to keep step with them—is a device worthy of Dr. Todd. If, instead of laboring to dwarf woman’s intellect to the measure of her crippled physical powers, he had labored to raise her physical powers to the height of her uncrippled intellect,—if, instead of showing parents that they wrong their children by trying to educate them, he had shown the earlier and deeper wrong of multiplying children too feeble to be educated,—he would, I was about to say, have labored to some purpose; but remembering the manner in which he espouses a cause, I withdraw the suggestion, and only beg him to fight it out on the line which he has already taken.”

Dr. Todd has bungled over this matter very

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like a man. With her fine, clear perceptions the woman has vanquished him. She has done it in a woman-ish manner. She couldn’t let the opportunity slip for a little personal malice, which were, perhaps, better left unsaid, but she has maintained her point clearly and decidedly. The main point of the book seems to be the old topic of female suffrage. Ought women to vote?—and upon this subject, certainly, she writes with a fairness and good judgment which ought to commend her to all sensible people of either sex. She maintains stoutly that woman has every right to vote. She adds that she does not see any advantage to be gained from it. In no department of life will woman gain by the ballot more freedom for “her own sweet will” than she possesses now. Here is a good paragraph upon woman’s work which is entitled to consideration:

“Still we have not reached the masses,—the women who have no inward, irresistible bent to anything, who have no ambition for a career, but who must earn their own living, who, while the leaders are conquering all opposition, all circumstances, still remain, thirty-nine thousand and five hundred out of forty thousand, for whose sake the ballot is demanded, and whose fortunes the ballot is expected to create. We have as yet found no answer to the question, What will the ballot do for them? A thousand employments it will give them, say its advocates, but they do not specify ten. Indeed, I cannot find one. Is it, in fact, the want of the ballot that keeps them at starving prices, any more than it is the want of the ballot that keeps them back from art and science? I think not. All suffering is pitiable, but I cannot spend all my pity on these forty thousand. I pity myself. I pity the twice forty thousand women in New York who are annoyed, hindered, and injured by the incapacity of foreign servants that do not know the difference between a castor and a tureen, or between truth and falsehood; but whose lives might grow smooth and peaceful through the advent of forty thousand intelligent American servants. These forty thousand women are starving over their needles, but if a busy house-mother wants a plain dress made, she must pay ten dollars for the work, bespeak it a month beforehand at that, and submit to whatever abstraction of pieces the dress-maker or her apprentices choose to make. Not to speak of dress-making, it is no easy matter to secure really good plain sewing; and really good plain sewing, so far as I know, always commands good pay. Why then do not these women who are starving over the needle make fine dresses for twenty dollars, instead of coarse trousers for twenty cents? Why do they not become milliners and mantua-makers, and earn a fortune and an independent position, instead of remaining shop-makers, earning barely a living, and never rising above a servile and cringing dependence? It is because they have not the requisite skill or money; but of these they cannot vote themselves a supply. Here is a girl who wants some other work than sewing. She goes to a counting-room, and is offered, by way of trial, a package of letters to copy. The work is expected to occupy about a week, and she is to be paid the twenty-five dollars. She brings back the letters, copied in a clear, round hand, but so carelessly and inaccurately that her work is worthless. Here is a pretty, bright young woman, engaged with a roomful of companions in a similar work, and actually boasting that her employers ‘cannot do anything with us. They make rules that we are to be here at such times, and to leave the room only at such times, and do only such and such things; but we will do just as we like’; and I am not surprised by and by to hear that there is trouble brewing, nor do I see how the right of suffrage is to remove the trouble. There are so many things to be taken into the account, that one has need to great caution in forming opinions; but it seems to me that the great and simple cause of the low wages paid to women is the low work they produce. They are equal only to the coarse, common labor; they get only the coarse, common pay, and there are such multitudes of them that their employer has everything his own way.”

She makes an excellent point upon the indisposition among American girls to go into the kitchen:

“But if women are prevented from establishing themselves in business through want of means, they need not on that account work at starving prices. I suspect that every one of those forty thousand women could find a comfortable home in New York,—a home in which she would have plenty of wholesome food and sufficient shelter, and in which she could earn besides two or three dollars a week, if she would accept the home. The work would be more healthful and far less exhaustive than the starvation sewing. Household service is always in demand. A woman needs no capital to enter upon it. Even skill is not indispensable. There are thousands of families to which, if an intelligent, virtuous, and ordinarily

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healthful woman should go and say, ‘I have been starving with my needle, and I desire now to try housework. I know very little about it, but I have determined to devote myself to it, and am resolved to become mistress of it,’ she would be welcomed. Here, by exercising those virtues and graces which every human being ought to exercise,—by being faithful, good-humored, and efficient,—she could speedily become an honored and valued member of the family, and secure herself a home that would last as long as the family held together. She could make herself as useful to the family as the family is to her. Where is the sense in a woman’s starving because she has no food in her hands, when a woman is starving by her side because she has no hands for her food? I feel indignant when I hear these multiplied stories of wholesale destitution. I am disposed to say to these women: If you choose to stay at home and perish, rather than go into your neighbor’s kitchen and supply your wants, do so; but do not appeal to those for pity from whom you refuse employment. I know there are many who are tied to their own wretched homes; but if those who are unencumbered would resort to the kitchens of the rich, it would relieve the stress of competition, those who remain would command a better price for their labor, and starvation would be permanently stopped. I do not say this because housework is woman’s sphere, but because it is honest work that calls her, and any honest work in her power is better than starvation, and more dignified than complaint and outcry. If it were picking apples, or gathering huckleberries, instead of housework, I should recommend that just the same. The case of the woman is precisely the case of the man. If a man had palpable artistic genius, we should earnestly desire for him artistic employment; but if he could by no means succeed in securing it, we should certainly advise him to chop wood, however disagreeable wood-chopping be to him, rather than die; and if he chose to shiver and starve at his home, rather than come and cut my wood, for want of which I stand shivering, I should take his starvation with great equanimity. So with women. No one has a right to tell women what they ought to do, to dictate to them their sphere. But when women cry out that they are dying for want of the ballot, we have a right to say: Not so. Unquestionably you are dying, and unquestionably you have not the ballot; but the two do not stand in the relation of effect and cause. Equally without question you ought to have the ballot; but it is not the ballot which will raise you up from this sickness.

“I admit that there are serious drawbacks to household service,—some drawbacks of an honest self-respect, some of a foolish self-disrespect, calling itself pride. It is often said, that, if a woman could be taken into a family on a footing of equality,—meaning chiefly, I find, if she could sit at the family table,—there would be less reluctance to domestic service. It is not reasonable to expect that an intelligent American woman should be willing to consort with low and ignorant foreigners. But it would scarcely be hazardous to predict, that, if intelligent American women would go into American kitchens, they would quickly drive out the unintelligent foreigners; and for the rest, the matter of equality is simply trivial. Social position adjusts itself where there is social worth. The servant in the kitchen may be wholly superior to the mistress in the parlor, or she may be inferior; but sitting together at table affects the question not at all. It may be requiring more insight than we have a right to expect, to ask the mass of women to see this. But any one can see that the table is often the only place where the family can meet, and a stranger’s presence destroys the confidence and freedom which make the charm of family life. The family do not object to the servant’s presence necessarily because she is not equal to themselves, but because she is not one of themselves. They are quite right. Family seclusion can scarcely be too sacredly guarded; and the woman who wishes to encroach upon it—who is so blind that she cannot see that there is anything to be encroached upon—shows by that token her unfitness to share it. There is, too, much less danger of clashing when mistress and maid have their orbits on different planes. Duties are far more clearly defined, and relations far less complicated; and if the maid have ability, she will gradually assume an almost commanding position in the household. She will be less its servant than its friend, its care-taken, honored and prized beyond what money can express.

“But there is also, it must be admitted, a well-grounded repugnance to household service because of the character of the householders. There are women who seem to have no suspicion that servants have any rights, tastes, or feelings which mistresses are bound to respect. They are exacting and petulant. They make no allowance for human nature. They take no thought for the comfort, the health, or the welfare of their servants, but expect the servant to take constant thought for theirs. It never

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occurs to them that a servant has any need of rest or recreation, of society or sunshine. They consider the servant an absolute dependant, and themselves absolute monarchs. Perhaps there is no remedy for this but to let such women alone. And yet, at the worst, are the selfishness and unreason of a mistress worse than those of a master? Possibly. More petty, constant, and irritating, perhaps, but not so brutal, so repulsive. At the worst, are the small rooms, the close kitchens, the constant calls, worse than the long monotonous days spent over the health- and heart-destroying needle? But the worst cases are comparatively few, though they bring all others into bad odor. The actually good places are not few, and the passable places are many, and will be more, just as fast as good women can be found to fill them. Let intelligence and modesty and worth go into the kitchen, and they must soon bring intelligence and modesty and worth into the parlor. There is also another advantage for young women: while all their copying or shop-keeping has no peculiar value except as a trade, housework is an apprenticeship which may be very useful to them in a different position. They are not only gaining money, comfort, and independence, but they are fitting themselves for keeping their own houses, if they shall ever have houses to keep. With their one stone they are hitting all the birds they will ever be likely to have a chance at.”

We have seldom seen a more excellent piece of advice to girls than the following:—

“[ ‘]Be content to strive for nothing less than all which a woman may become. Cease to think that pettiness and frivolity and insipidity are feminine accomplishments. Cease to think it a beautiful, a graceful, a womanly thing to be a fool. Strengthen the mind by study and the body by exercise. Store your memory with facts, and cultivate your judgment by reasoning. Fit yourself for the place which you select or accept. Be wife, mother, teacher, nurse, what you will, but be your best; and be always a woman first; be always higher than your work. Remember always that you must be before you can do. Scorn to contract your powers to the narrow circle of your personal contact, but comprehend with your interest all that touches welfare. Consider nothing human as foreign to you. Make home, so far as you have or can have power, a centre of comfort indeed, but of light, of intelligence, of humanity as well, and count the whole country your home, and the whole world your country. Disdain to affect or to cherish an ignorant innocence, but wear an aggressive and all-conquering purity. Remember that the perfect woman is nobly planned, not only to warn and comfort, but to command. Learn to think nobly, to love nobly, to live nobly, and demand and enforce by your own nobility, from all who seek your friendship or companionship, the same outreach for noble thought and love and life.’ ”

Here is a good thought:—

“Natural tact will do much, but it cannot supply the place of education. When a woman has learned to make a pudding, she has learned but the smallest and easiest part of her duty. She needs to know how to sit at the table where the pudding is served, and dispense a hospitality so cordial and enlivening that the pudding shall be forgotten. There are a thousand women who can make a pudding, where there is one who is mistress of her servants, of her children, of her husband, of her house, of her position. Granted that women need have no character on their own account,—that their glory and dignity and importance lie in being the mothers of men. All on that ground they need the most thorough intellectual education. A woman can make a dress fit well though she have little knowledge of anything else; but she cannot fashion an immortal soul for a worthy immortality without a worthy cultivation of her own soul. A woman who is not the equal of men is not fit to be the mother of men.”

There is much more in this book which we should like to bring before our readers. Good, stirring, noble thoughts—but we have no space for them here. Perhaps the book may not accomplish much. It is like all others of its class; faults are pointed out, but the practical way of remedying the evils we all mourn is not given. In God’s good time the problem will be solved. Education—which Gail Hamilton seems to think the one thing needful—will do much, doubtless, towards a better state of things. It is towards this we should all labor as far as in us lies, striving as much as possible to correct the wrong that exists within our own doors.


Review. Lippincott’s Magazine of Literature, Science and Education 1 (May 1868): 564-566.

Woman’s Wrongs. A Counter-Irritant. By Gail Hamilton. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 12mo. pp. 212.

When, several years ago, a brilliant essayist appeared in the field of literature, the reading public opened its eyes in dubious astonishment, and predicted a speedy extinguishment—arguing, probably, from the saying that “All that’s bright must fade.” But the years have thus far revealed in her too much of the glitter of the real gem for us to prophesy any very near lapse into darkness.

A writer who possesses the rare power of uttering old truths in a charming and unique way is one not easily to be relinquished by readers generally; and Gail Hamilton is peculiarly one who will be read, even by those who are diametrically opposed to her views, because of the exhilarating, champagny way in which they are presented. And her sentences usually leave behind a flavor much more enduring than that of champagne, for the effervescence of her style conceals a substance that deserves to be digested at leisure. Only the superficial reader could turn her pages and not see that they hold more than a surface sparkle.

If she scatters her seeds with a marvelously debonair air—as if she were sowing some quickly perishing blossom—she has, nevertheless, much good seed in that attractive hand of hers. Some of these germs may indeed be but those of a sort of brilliant chaff, but we can easily forgive that in one who does not pretend to a ponderous style, wherein no word shall be written lightly. If, at first sight, she sometimes seems inconsequent, she rarely is so, and triumph with her in her evident exultation over the ore she has found.

It is much to find a writer so healthful, so free from morbid tendencies, in these days of strained intensity. It is high praise to say that one can hardly rise from a perusal of any book of hers without experiencing something of the sensation caused by pure air, by the unclouded blue of country skies. She so mingles the ludicrous with the earnest that she cannot cease to be entertaining, and in Woman’s Wrongs is generally convincing.

Beneath her skillful arrows, Rev. John Todd, who has been guilty of an intensified manlike view of woman’s rights, stands transpierced from top to toe; and, unfortunately for that gentleman, his most deadly wounds are caused apparently by the effect of the passages quoted from his own pen. We have not read his essays, thus reviewed by Gail Hamilton, but she has transcribed enough of them to show plainly that he was an obvious target for any markswoman. Few, however, would have made him suffer quite so severely as this author has done, and the reader is divided between pity for him and admiration for the reviewer. The first portions of the book are devoted to talk concerning Dr. Todd’s essays, prefaced by an apology, in which she says that she should not have presumed to touch upon a topic so exhaustively discussed, had not the acclamations from religious and secular journals upon the appearance of Dr. Todd’s book incited her to argument.

There are in many places of her book such earnest and fervid paragraphs as go far beyond the phrases of her extravagant moods—that make us forget the mirth-provoking author of the Halicarnassus episodes, in the presence of her noble sincerity and fearlessness. A sincere protest is always to be admired. “A gospel that preaches masculine self-gratification as manly religion—the lowest woman subserviency to man as the sole womanly way of doing God service—is not the boon of every day, nor to be lightly let slip.” It is not to be wondered at that she breaks forth into such exclamations, in view of the way in which Dr. Todd handles the great subject of woman’s work and sphere. There is a supercilious air of gallantry, an almost incredible superficialness in the remarks of her opponent, that assuredly would not render him a “foeman worthy of her steel,” had it not been, as she says, that so large a proportion of periodicals admired and agreed with him.

In her own spirited way she demolishes his argument, that because women are not inventors they shall not be allowed to vote, by very pertinently asking, “What connection is there between invention and woman’s rights? Shall Dr. Todd be disfranchised because he is not an inventor?”

The absurd idea so prevalent among men,

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that “what women want is to be men,” is treated with the scorn so vapid a thought merits. The writer makes plain the sum and substance of every sensible woman’s desire—that she shall have free access to whatever occupation God and nature have fitted her for; in other words, to that work to which an overpowering instinct calls her, whether it be preaching, trading or housekeeping. The author’s idea is, that only the most superficial thinker can for a moment suppose a refined and educated woman would choose for her work anything coarse and unfitted for her, simply because she has the privilege of choice. It is the pet fear of many masculine writers on this subject that women who were everything delicate and beautiful formerly will immediately become like the wrangling rabble if they are vested with the ballot or with the independence of man in choice of work.

We cannot quote at length, but it can be very easily imagined what is Gail Hamilton’s reply to such sentences as these: “The great error of our day is that woman is to be made self-supporting.” Of course this phrase throws out of thought or question the thousands whom circumstances force to be self-supporting or to die.

Concerning woman’s voting, she asks: “So when it is said that voting is out of the womanly sphere, will any one be so good as to tell us what it is that is out of her sphere, the possession or the expression of political opinion? But possession, as we have seen, she already holds. Wives, mothers, daughters, who discharge with fidelity every domestic and social duty, are conversant with national and international affairs.” “The ballot neither elevates nor depresses. It takes its character from its possessor.”

Having proved to her own satisfaction, and certainly to that of many of her readers, that the right of suffrage belongs to woman in the same measure as to man, and that the exercising of that right is powerless to change her nature, the author goes on to say that she thinks female suffrage would not untangle the snarl of work and wages; that the “volume of the vote would be increased, but its proportion not affected,” for the reason that the men and women of a family are usually of the same political opinion. Humiliatingly true in many cases is her assertion that women are not more ready than men to do justice to women.

In consideration of such ideas, it would be her choice to “change the basis of suffrage by restricting it among men, rather than extending it indiscriminately to women.”

She acknowledges that it is easier to tear down than to build up, and the fact is evident in the feeling of dissatisfaction with which the latter half of her book is perused. Having granted so much in the preceding pages, we are led to expect and to hope that she would deem the exercising of that which she has proved to be a right would result in some improvement in the remuneration awarded to women—would at least let a ray of light into the darkness of that problem of wages.

We are not of those who believe, as the author says some do, that the ballot is a talisman that would be the open sesame to all places of emolument; but we certainly have faith enough in feminine human nature to expect from it an appreciation of the possession of such a right, and in time an approximation to a correct use of it. Herein, it appears, the writer reasons narrowly, and in striking contradiction to her liberal thoughts.

There is much justice in her restrictions upon the ballot; and she condemns in telling language the present laws, which allow the utterly ignorant the same privilege as the intelligent, and says:

“Surely in a country like ours inability to read and write is as strong presumptive evidence of incompetency to exercise the right of suffrage as the fact of being only twenty years old.”

But her suggestion regarding property suffrage is so utterly at variance with all principles of real republicanism that it has not the usual ring of its authorship. Better is this sentence, containing an idea that would go far to make a model country: “I would have the ballot made a noble and desirable possession—a sign of sagacity, of ability, of worth—something to be striven for—a guerdon as well as a power.”

But, leaving all matter of voting aside, this book presents many noble thoughts, many sentences containing power to overturn all that twaddle about “dependence,” “woman’s greatness being only in her husband,” etc., of which we hear so much. We cannot resist transcribing a few such paragraphs:

“A woman should be strong and wise and cultivated, not chiefly because she becomes thereby a better wife and mother, but because wisdom is better than folly, strength than weakness, cultivation than neglect.”

Upon the subject of marriage she is equally excellent: “Its love is founded on respect and increases self-respect at the very moment of merging self in another. Its love is mutual, equally giving and receiving at every instant of its action. There is neither dependence

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nor independence, but inter-dependence.” It seems strange that such expressions should be necessary, but we have only to look into any book for “young ladies” to find the cause for Gail Hamilton’s forcible words. When advice shall be offered to woman as an individual soul, then books like Woman’s Wrongs will find no sale—will be neither piquant nor just.

It has often been complained that this author uses “her pen too much as a lash”—that she is, in short, a scolding woman. Only those who have justly smarted under that lash would thus complain. Her style, even in its most ludicrous vein, is never undignified; her fault-finding is only the castigation of real faults; and in this, her last book, she has not fallen from the position gained by her peculiar powers of expression. Severe though her words have been, they have a weight in their severity which is never the attribute of “scolding,” and in the wielding of that strong weapon, ridicule, few have a more skillful hand.

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