Woman in the Nineteenth Century

by Margaret Fuller

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Educate Men and Women as Souls

Had Christendom but been true to its standard, while accommodating its modes of operation to the calls of successive times, Woman would now have not only equal power with Man,—for of that omnipotent nature will never suffer her to be defrauded,—but a chartered power, too fully recognized to be abused. Indeed, all that is wanting is, that Man should prove his own freedom by making her free. Let him abandon conventional restriction, as a vestige of that Oriental barbarity which confined Woman to a seraglio. Let him trust her entirely, and give her every privilege already acquired for himself,—elective franchise, tenure of property, liberty to speak in public assemblies, &c.

Nature has pointed out her ordinary sphere by the circumstances of her physical existence. She cannot wander far. If here and there the gods send their missives through women as through men, let them speak without remonstrance. In no age have men been able wholly to hinder them. A Deborah must always be a spiritual mother in Israel. A Corinna may be excluded from the Olympic games, yet all men will hear her song, and a Pindar sit at her feet. It is Man's fault that there ever were Aspasias and Ninons. These exquisite forms were intended for the shrines of virtue.

Neither need men fear to lose their domestic deities. Woman is born for love, and it is impossible to turn her from seeking it. Men should deserve her love as an inheritance, rather than seize and guard it like a prey. Were they noble, they would strive rather not to be loved too much, and to turn her from idolatry to the true, the only Love. Then, children of one Father, they could not err nor misconceive one another.

Society is now so complex, that it is no longer possible to educate Woman merely as Woman; the tasks which come to her hand are so various, and so large a proportion of women are thrown entirely upon their own resources. I admit that this is not their state of perfect development; but it seems as if Heaven, having so long issued its edict in poetry and religion without securing intelligent obedience, now commanded the world in prose to take a high and rational view. The lesson reads to me thus:—

Sex, like rank, wealth, beauty, or talent, is but an accident of birth. As you would not educate a soul to be an aristocrat, so do not to be a woman. A general regard to her usual sphere is dictated in the economy of nature. You need never enforce these provisions rigorously. Achilles had long plied the distaff as a princess; yet, at first sight of a sword, he seized it. So with Woman; one hour of love would teach her more of her proper relations than all your formulas and conventions. Express your views, men, of what you seek in women; thus best do you give them laws. Learn, women, what you should demand of men; thus only can they become themselves. Turn both from the contemplation of what is merely phenomenal in your existence, to your permanent life as souls. Man, do not prescribe how the Divine shall display itself in Woman. Woman, do not expect to see all of God in Man. Fellow-pilgrims and helpmeets are ye, Apollo and Diana, twins of one heavenly birth, both beneficent, and both armed. Man, fear not to yield to Woman's hand both the quiver and the lyre; for if her urn be filled with light, she will use both to the glory of God. There is but one doctrine for ye both, and that is the doctrine of the SOUL.


Return to the Woman in the Nineteenth Century Summary Return to the Margaret Fuller Library

© 2022 AmericanLiterature.com