The following is a Gaslight etext....
A message to you about copyright and permissions
from the Atlantic
THE first year of the war was nearing its close when a middle-aged American woman, visiting in my home, said to me, "Nowhere will the war bring about a more radical change, more unexpected changes, than in the relations between the sexes. What way out will be found by the millions of women who more than ever must give up all hope of realizing their longing for love and children?" A few months later I had with me another American woman, this time a young girl, who put the same question, only with the alteration natural to her age. "What will become of all us young girls who formerly could reasonably expect to marry, but who now see our chances infinitely diminished?" The answer can only be this: After the war, woman's prospects, from the point of view of her natural duty motherhood will be dark indeed. The number of women who will have to dismiss all thought of marriage already far too large is destined to become much larger still. The number of those who lead immoral lives and are childless, or who bear illegitimate children, will therefore increase. Others, from a sense of patriotic duty to which appeal has already been made, may marry invalids. How many of these will be disappointed in their most justified wishes for happiness! Those women who have chosen among the men who are rejected from military service quite often have defective children. The possibilities for millions of women who are now at the most favorable age for marriage decrease steadily, for with every day that goes by the number of young men who might return from the war without severe bodily or mental injuries grows less and less not to mention the millions who will never return. And, lastly, the higher the development of women, the more they chafe under the "patriotic" mandate to bear many children to replace the nation's losses. For they know that, from the point of view of their personal development as well as that of the race, fewer but better children are to be preferred. II A considerable number of plans have already been suggested in Europe to relieve the abnormal sex-conditions, which have, of course, met with much formidable opposition. Some one in London has conceived the idea of founding a "society for the marrying of wounded heroes" an appeal to woman's self-sacrifice and patriotism to make the lives of these men bearable and to propagate children who will inherit their fathers' qualities of heroism. These wives, who would, in most cases, have to become the supporters of their families, would, therefore, be paid a man's wages and would, in many cases, also be given a stipend to facilitate their marriage. Moreover, in order to insure suitable mating, it is suggested that recourse be had to selective committees of clergymen and physicians; it is evidently not proposed to let the parties themselves choose. Women who are physically strong will be expected to marry men who need to be carried or pushed in a chair. Blind men, who can still at least enjoy good food, will be married to good cooks, and so forth. It seems impossible to believe the statement that the society already has hundreds of thousands of female members. In Germany some one has suggested that the government give invalids an opportunity to own their homes. This would enable the heroes of the war to found families for it is to be expected that thousands of heroic women who are widowed by the war will remarry these invalids. Another thoughtful German has suggested that the government open a marriage department, partly to further early marriages. The fact that the battlefields swallow up millions of lives makes the birth-rate a national question and revolutionizes ideas of sexual morality. What was formerly considered a sinó loveless marriages contracted simply for the purpose of having offspring will perhaps, from the national point of view, come to be considered a duty hereafter. The bearing of children outside of marriage, and perhaps other deviations from the ideal of monogamy, will be practiced openly after the war to a far greater extent than was done secretly by people of Europe before the war. Twenty months of war have already dealt heavier blows to the foundations of "Holy Marriage" than all the "apostles of immorality" were able to compass. That all new forms of sex-relation will not be officially sanctioned is self-evident, but they may have the sanction of custom; and this, in some cases, means more than the approval of the State. Another moral question that was previously discussed that of birth-prevention has come up again during the war. In East Prussia the question has been discussed as to whether the law against abortion should be suspended for those women who fell victims to the Russian soldiers. And in France, where many women have, with great suffering, borne the children of their enemies, some people still advocate preventive measures; some one even suggested killing these children in order to ensure the purity of the race. Surely one cannot go further from the ideals of Christian morality! And though these suggestions have been rejected, the mere fact that they have been discussed proved what this whole war has so clearly shown: that the religion of Europe is no longer that of Christianity but that of nationalism, and that everything that is considered good for the nation is assumed to be right. Among the nations so heavily oppressed by the war, it will inevitably be necessary to count on a far greater number of women having to become self-supporting than formerly. This will bring about very radical changes in the community, in economic conditions, in family life, and in the increase of population. Family life, during the next generations, will be more sober, more prosaic. The death of so many men will, to a certain extent, do away with competition between the sexes, but also with marriage. The number of illegitimate children will increase, but they will be better cared for. On the whole, the increase of population will be hindered by woman's inability both to bear and provide for children, and to those who look upon woman as the producer of soldiers, this will seem a misfortune. To those, however, who look upon the matter in a more human way, it will, on the contrary, become a condition for future development that women resolutely refuse mass production of children, and more consistently seek to improve the quality of humanity, while they, at the same time, try more energetically to procure the right to have a share in dictating the politics on which the lives of their sons and daughters are so dependent.