Sunday, May 30, 2010

1913 Newspaper: A Warning From the Past

An article in the New York Times printed May 12, 1913, warns that the women's movement is a sign of decadence.* A leading lady of the time asserts that the  movement is born of  "a striving for artificial happiness, indicative of an unsettled state of mind." 

 Mrs. Dodge listened to a young woman telling how the manners and morals of men could be improved if women had a greater say in politics. Later that day, she saw this same woman with her friends dressed in revealing and suggestive clothing.  She suggested that women were ludicrous to insist that politics could right the evils of society, and at the same time, dress and behave provocatively.

"We are in the the midst of a remarkable period in our history," she said. "There is more immodesty in dress, more looseness in conversation, and more impropriety in dancing than has ever been known to the American people..." She called it "the lowering of women's ideals in conduct," and went on to say that women have used their liberty as license, and have forgotten their main purpose of guarding the home.

"The suffragist wants to busy herself in the affairs of men, to such an extent that she will make of home only a name.

"We wish to preserve in the home that which is really home--an atmosphere of tenderness and sweetness and gentleness.

"The moment they outrage or destroy or deny the purpose for which they were created, they become shirkers and drones. Mis-directed government is a bad thing...but misdirected sex is a national tragedy, which, if it is not checked, will degenerate the race."

One of the things that stood out to me in this old article was her reference to daughters wanting to get out from under the watchful eye of authorities at home, and what it had led to.  She also mentioned that the reason so many women had gotten away with so much, is that the men were too chivalrous to deny them anything.  In his famous sermon of 1943, "Keeper of the Springs,"  Peter Marshall implored women to rise to the high calling of Biblical womanhood.

The way to make a mass of people believe a lie, is to spin something differently than it is, by the use of what I call word-ology.  A God-given privilege, such as being keepers of the home, is spun as though it is oppression. Women have been led to the trap of the work place by being told that home is a prison where they have no freedom. There is much more freedom in the home, when a woman approaches it as her God-given duty and privilege.

*Decadence: the state of being degenerate in mental or moral qualities; decay or decline marked by unrestrained gratification; self indulgence; deterioration in art, literature, music, conduct and civility with no sense of responsibility.


Anonymous said...


Almost a century on from the writing of this article, the fruits of that era have been fully realized; how does one put such a demon-genii back in its bottle? How do we undo the bonds of this movement that has strangled women, far from giving us liberty.

What was once commonplace is now an almost microscopic minority within a minority. how can this terrible wrong be righted? can indeed what has been done, be eventually undone, and a new, truly liberating way for womankind be the new norm once again? Must we wait till the boomer generation eventually loses its destructive grip on power , its infectious degredation dying with it? and by then, will it be too late? I believe the world in which we live is unsustainable, and cannot perpetuate itself for much longer. I pray the world of our baby nieces, daughters and granddaughters will be one in which they are able to take charge of their own homes and families without the state, ecconomics, ideology and politics trying to sabotage their efforts every step of the way, I pray it can be a world in which family - true, extended family - can support one another and carry the load together. Husband wife and children trying to manage without support from wider family is a symptom of the industrial revolution, and, in all but Anglosphere and Northern European nations, has been to a greater extent avoided; mediteranian, Eastern European, Asian, South American and Indigenous family structures worldwide have been based on the wider family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, all pitching in.

'Anglican Plain' discusses similar concepts over on her blog and echoes many of the thoughts you so passionately champion; you are not alone; women everywhere are tired of the rat-race.

In closing, a resultant tragedy wrought by the shifting spheres of influence over the past 100 years has been that of men becoming all too glad to relinquish their own responsibilities, relieved of the perceived burden, free to let womankind haul the load while they live increasingly 'Peter Pan' style lives, never having to grow up, in the same way their grandfathers did.


Just a few thoughts,


Wendy said...

I bought a box of books at an auction. A surprise find was a book full of all kinds of wisdom, on many things, written in 1890. As I read the descriptions of the duties of a wife and a husband I was struck by how much more they understood human nature. We think we have evolved! No as your wonderful writing points out we have bought a lie and have become less than we once were.

Becky said...

I just taught a lesson about this at church yesterday. What a spot-on analysis from the Times article. Thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I lived and grew up with these "depressed" homemakers and I saw no depression!!! Or opression. I saw joy and a peace of spirit and a feeling of worthinness in what they were doing. I never heard any of them even wish to be different. Also they had the other women on their streets feeling the same about their lives. Being home was accepted and endeared. They had them to depend on and share tips with. They may wish for a new washer when the family could afford it...but always seemed willing to work within their income. They all knew no one got everything they wanted...especially that instant. Their husbands proudly went off to work and felt pride in their accomplishments for their families. I know how I feel as a homemaker and in no way do I ever feel opressed. This is My choice!

Lauren Christine said...

Wow! Isn't it sad to see how many of her predictions came true? What a Tragedy. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I can't afford to buy that many magazines and the modern ones that I do buy on occasion are usually Victoria, and Somerset Life, or Somerset Home. I subscribe to MaryJane's Farm as a gift from my husband for the rural living lifestyle part but even that magazine is more modern day feminist than I truly care for. I do buy old magazines though I have two Peterson's from before the Civil War, a few Mother's Companions from the early 1900's and several Women's Day and Better Homes and Garden's from World War II. I like them because for the most part they were more womanly, Christian and true family values as well as practical. Even the few early forms of modern feminist writing in some of the older magazines I have are much more commonsense and realistic than today's drivel and were always fairly small in number in content in those magazines. They also seemed to be included to educate people what the other people were up to in a much nicer way than how people today portray groups -almost a warning like we think we should prepare you for whats going on sigh-to be fair. It's a total different flavor of fairness than either our political correctness or warning stories of today but with much more true politeness included. I find I get much more out of the old magazines than most of todays magazines.

I'm not just afraid for future generations I'm also getting afraid for our country and being able to continue to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. My husband thus far is for it but I've witnessed my Grandfather and my father go from prefering to see women to stay home to hearing them prefer to work-out of the home. My brother stayed at home with my nephew after being laid-off and all he did all day besides diaper and feed my nephew was play with him was look for new jobs online. He didn't lift a finger to cook or clean my sister-in-law had to work fulltime and come home and do the lions share of cooking and cleaning. Now, the roles are reversed and shes at home strictly because of daycare costs for two children and he complains and screams at her if the house is too messy for his standards and whines constanly about how they can't become school age fast enough so she can go back to work. These men in my life have been some of the fairest, most Christian men and hardworking but lately they are scaring me to the point of my actually loosing respect for them as men. I still love them and respect them for being people, and being Children of God and relatives but the admiration is completely gone. I have heard my Grandfather bitterly complain about what he couldn't have for himself because of having a large family and helping take care of my Grandmothers mother it was said with such poison that I literally was ashamed to call him kin folk. And with all of them its all about things like big screen T.V.'s and retiring early to see the world. Women seem to exist to do everything they don't want and to cater to them. It's scary to witness the character changes.

Anonymous said...

AMEN!!!! I couldnt agree more! these days people assume that if your a-stay-at-home-mom or wife then you dont have a life or that your not smart enough to pursue a career, the role for women use to be respected in that men knew they were the provider of the family and that the wife was the weaker one, men felt good to know they were the provider of the family and now as my grandma use to say ''use to you had pretty women and workin men, now you have pretty men and workin women"".i say women should get back to being women and let the men do those things God intended them to do. now im not saying all women should not work, im saying society has shoved equal rights out there too far. thank you for such an honest post. God bless

Anonymous said...

I like what she says about keeping the influences in the home sweet and gentle ones. There is really no need to go "fight" in the world if the goal is to create a beautiful home environment. Being truly at home is the central desire for most women, I think, although many have been brainwashed into thinking they really want something else (fame, money, "respect"). I know I was! Thank you for the interesting article.

Anonymous said...

To Sarah,

there is a way to change things if we'll be patient and wait on the Lord.

2 Chronicles 7:14,15

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

Jesus changed the world with just 12 men. I don't know about you, but I'm down on my knees on this one. Who will join me?

Sweet Woodruff said...

This article was amazing. I want to print it out and give it to people. I never wanted to be any where but home. I remember when our 1st grade teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up...I said and artist and a mom. :) My mother was a housewife, my grandmother's were housewives, Lord willing my daughter will be a housewife and my son will marry one.

Anonymous said...

What a travesty for our future generations to deal with--the bitterness of disconsolate women and the rest of mankind egging it on. Where have all the strong Christian writers who support the Lord's ways gone? Most churches and pastors are no help either. My daughter finished school and everyone keeps asking her what she plans to do next! Haven't they ever heard of learning more at home than one can at college on the most vital issues of life--preparation for, Lord willing, becoming a fulltime homemaker for a Christian husband who shares the same values--in order to follow the best plan for women. I don't see in the Bible any place where women are to go out of the home to earn a living. I may be biased but the safest place is in the will of the Lord.

Anonymous said...

People assume, or affect to assume, that we are incredibly wealthy because I do not "have" to work and we live just on my husband's income. We get sneered at in jealousy or resentment for all kinds of things, by people who think we are apparently so well off that instead of their rat race and paycheck slavery, I am apparently able to lounge luxuriously at home every day eating bonbons.

They challenge why don't we have housekeepers and childcare to do all the homemaking for me, if we have enough money that I don't need to work. They see how they are struggling financially in today's economy, and the resentment against at home wives/mothers in general has I think grown.

They also question me unkindly about my wasted university education, or what they assume would have been my wasted education if they assume I went to college. Basically it is almost as if every resource that I have used to survive and exist all my life, from my role as my husband's wife to a seat in a classroom to the house I live in, I did not deserve to have, because I am "wasting" all of it.

There is also pressure from people when we cannot, or choose not to, afford things, as if I am being lazy and taking advantage of my husband, that he has to earn all the money. People are very quick in attempts to encourage resentment of him towards me, that we could have double the income and oh what a life, if only I would work for pay.

The world is so full of ugliness and ready to pry marriages apart, to destroy contentment and cause unhappiness, to see children set onto destructive paths, that we simply must know we are doing right because of this amount of adversity we face. We have after all been told what of the world and how it will be to us.

Anonymous said...

As a boomer, I can say that those who led our generation astray were those of the builder generation (and before): the Gloria Steinems, the Simone de Bouvours, the Benjamin Spocks, the Timothy Learys, the Margaret Sangers, the people who put the no-fault divorce laws into place, etc. My generation did not invent these things. These were pushed by people of my mother's generation, or before. Not everybody from the builder generation gave us good things. Roughly half of them gave us Ozzie and Harriet, the other half gave us feminism, easy divorce, abortion, anti-war protest, drugs, and all of the ills that our generation is blamed for (yes, we of the boomer generation who were spoiled by our builder generation parents and who listened to the aforementioned pied pipers were stupid, but "woe to him through whom temptation comes"). These things go way back, before WWI. When I was just a girl, my and many of my friends' mothers in the 50's went into the workplace. My father said women saturating the workplace started with WWII when women went to work in the factories and never went back to the home. I don't know, either,if you can get the genii back int he bottle. I do get weary of my generation being labeled as bad all the time.

candy said...

Excellent post!

Anonymous said...

If any one asks the young girls in our church what their future plans are; they always say something like "a medical doctor" or "orthodontist". This really bothered me, so I asked them why none of them wanted to stay home and be a wife and mother. Why did they want to neglect their home lives like this?

They smiled at me and told me secretly that that was what they really wanted to do, but they have to make up something dramatic or other people will not leave them alone. Other adults (like teachers) will insist that they choose an "important" career not being a mere mother and wife.

UGH! It's sad they have to resort to such tactics to get away from these horrid feminists. These are smart little girls and I know they will make excellent Moms and wives. The world hasn't deceived everyone.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article and post. Enjoyed many of the comments, too. As to when discontent with our God-given roles began, both male and female, I would say back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam abdicated his leadership role and followed Eve, who believed a lie. Women and men who desire to follow God's teachings will be challenged in all generations, but He has promised to help us, and has given us others like-minded to come alongside for encouragement, whether they are family members or neighbors, or our church family.
I also enjoy the old magazines, and have found alot of wisdom and good advice, (as well as recipes!) in them. They did seem to be more focused on encouraging women in our roles at home. It is rare to find anything of this sort in modern magazines, especially those directed toward women, rather than on the home itself, yet it doesn't take long to see that even these have the goal to make one desire what one may not have.
Thank you for encouraging women in their God given roles as wives, mothers, daughters, and homemakers.