Although the agitation against foot binding is undoubtedly making itself felt to a certain extent in the coast provinces, in Yuen-nan the horrible practice continues unabated. During the year in which we traveled through a large part of the province, wherever there were Chinese we saw bound feet. And the fact that virtually every girl over eight years old was mutilated in this way is satisfactory evidence that reform ideas have not penetrated to this remote part of the Republic.
I know of nothing which so rouses one’s indignation because of its senselessness and brutality, and China can never hope to take her place among civilized nations until she has abandoned this barbarous custom and liberated her women from their infamous subjection.
There has been much criticism of foreign education because the girls who have had its advantages absorb western ideas so completely that they dislike to return to their homes where the ordinary conditions of a Chinese household exist. Nevertheless, if the women of China are ever to be emancipated it must come through their own education as well as that of the men.
One of the first results of foreign influence is to delay marriage, and in some instances the early betrothal with its attendant miseries. The evil which results from this custom can hardly be overestimated. It happens not infrequently that two children are betrothed in infancy, the respective families being in like circumstances at the time. The opportunity perhaps is offered to the girl to attend school and she may even go through college, but an inexorable custom brings her back to her parents’ home, forces her to submit to the engagement made in babyhood and perhaps ruins her life through marriage with a man of no higher social status or intelligence than a coolie.
Among the few girls imbued with western civilization a spirit of revolt is slowly growing, and while it is impossible for them to break down the barriers of ages, yet in many instances they waive aside what would seem an unsurmountable precedent and insist upon having some voice in the choosing of their husbands.
While in Yen-ping we were invited to attend the semi-foreign wedding of a girl who had been brought up in the Woman’s School and who was qualified to be a “Bible Woman” or native Christian teacher. It was whispered that she had actually met her betrothed on several occasions, but on their wedding day no trace of recognition was visible, and the marriage was performed with all the punctilious Chinese observances compatible with a Christian ceremony.
Precedent required of this little bride, although she might have been radiantly happy at heart, and undoubtedly was, to appear tearful and shrinking and as she was escorted up the aisle by her bridesmaid one might have thought she was being led to slaughter. White is not becoming to the Chinese and besides it is a sign of mourning, so she had chosen pink for her wedding gown and had a brilliant pink veil over her carefully oiled hair.