Some writers claim that the small number of women in penal institutions shows that women are better than men; but this is a hasty conclusion arrived at from insufficient facts. There are fewer female prisoners because women have lived a more protected life; they have not been engaged so generally in business; they have not been so constantly obliged to fight their way in the world; their lives have been more quiet and smooth; they have been surrounded by strong conventions and closely watched. Especially is this true with regard to the girl as compared with the boy. Such protection naturally keeps them from the commission of crime. The great consideration shown to them by prosecuting witnesses, prosecuting officers, judges and juries, supplements the protected life and is an added reason for the showing made by statistics. It is notorious that a woman is seldom convicted of murder. This has been the subject of much complaint on the part of the public; still a man may condemn such acquittals and when placed on a jury will himself vote for acquittal.
After all, the juries are right. Most of the cases of murder against women involve sex relations. Nature has made the bearing and rearing of children first of all the woman’s part, and this fact so dominates her life that nothing else seems important to her in comparison. She is not able to judge in a broad and scientific way matters so clearly affecting life. It may even be possible that in the evolution and preservation of life, her judgments are right. At least they are the natural judgments for a large number of women, or these tragedies would not occur. No doubt as woman enters the field of industry formerly monopolized by man, and as she takes her part in politics and sits on juries, the percentage of female criminals will rapidly increase. In fact, the percentage of women prisoners has been climbing for many years. As she takes her place with men she will be more and more judged as men are judged, and will commit the crimes that men commit, and perhaps furnish her fair quota to the penitentiaries and jails.
Whether this will be better or worse for the race is no part of the discussion, and can only be told by long experience. Women must accept the facts and make their choice of activities in view of these facts. Quite apart from any sentiment, I think that it is a mistake to believe that men and women should be judged alike. The structure and nervous system of women cause physical and mental disturbances which affect their judgment and life. If there were any justice in human judgment and civilization, then each human being would be judged according to his make-up, his tendencies, his inclinations and his capacities, and no two would be judged alike.
Any sudden change in the treatment of women in the courts will work a great injustice that will leave its effect on both women and men, and still more on the life of the race.