Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Blaming 1920s Style

These are my summary of an article, with quotes in apostrophes, printed in the 1920s in Ireland on women's rights within marriage, suggesting that perhaps our blaming has not moved as far forward as we imagine. Sorry for not copying it word for word, but that's time-consuming, and I'm lazy. Now, you also get to see what I get to do all day...

The Great Unpaid: State Endowment of Motherhood,
from the Irish Times 28/11/1922

This article is replying to something written by Evelyn Grogan (a man) who attacks the idea that wife and mother's have economic status. He says 'Most people consider a home and a husband of one's one worth something.' The article replies : 'Agreed. But unfortunately in its actual working the marriage contract means that a woman must consider these appendages worth everything- worth her leisure, her economic independence, her interests; all in fact that goes to the composition of the individual and differentiates it in some degree from the herd.' Before marriage, woman (who do not live in poverty), had friends, interests, ideals and leisure- a personality that made her desirable in marriage to at least one man. After marriage any quality not necessary to the maintenance '(not economic maintenance- the other more arduous kind)' of a home is crowded out and atrophied, excepting of course patience, endurance, self-sacrifice, which neither attracted your husband in the first place, nor will keep him.

'"Few husbands" (we are told) "deny something spent on amusement or special desires." (Oh, beyond praise these beneficent ones and blest their handmaidens who have found favour in their sight!.) Imagine the sensations of a man confronted with the privilege of "something to spend on special desires and amusements!" Imagine the temerity of her who would suggest that men could exist without clubs, hobbies, drinks or tobacco! 'No the money and leisure to spend on special desires are not a man's privileges- they are his inalienable rights; and by all the standards of an outworn convention the more "special desires" a man has and the more he cultivates their gratification, the more manly he is.' It is curious and instructive to realise that it is by the diametrically opposed process we get the conventional 'womanly woman' - 'one who has no interest apart from the care of her husband, her home and her children.'

The writer [Grogan] also comments that it costs a pretty to keep a wife, when what he means is a home, and this is true, but it costs more to keep a housekeeper.

There are exceptions- women who are not unduly handicapped by marriage- they are the well to do women, the women without children, endowed with a talent, that like murder, will out '(and incidentally command an economic market).' But nothing can redeem the majority of woman who depend on another's bounty, which marriage inevitably means. The contributor's suggestion that a financial agreement should be arrived at before marriage is fair but does not go far enough- it is not possible for those in straitened households. The only solution is the state endowment of motherhood- not 'a miserable dole like maternity benefit', but something that would prove of substantial assistance, not only to parents but the child- that "most valuable asset to the state", about whom so much is talked and so criminally little is done. KM. [Note: we have received several other articles on this subject and they will be published in due course.]


Anonymous said...

Hmmm,The Irish Times obviously have nothing better to be writing about again - check this article http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0225/1224241774267.html

Feminist Avatar said...

Fucking Hell. You kind of new it was coming, but can almost not believe it.