Taboo and Genetics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 190 pages of information about Taboo and Genetics.

42.  Putnam, Emily James.  The Lady. 323 pp.  Sturgis & Walton Co.  N.Y., 1910.

43.  Excellent examples of this literature are Kenrick’s “The Whole Duty of a Woman, or A Guide to the Female Sex,” published some time in the eighteenth century (a copy in the Galatea Collection, Boston Public Library); and Duties of Young Women, by E.H.  Chapin. 218 pp.  G.W.  Briggs.  Boston, 1848.



The taboo and modern institutions; Survival of ideas of the uncleanness of woman; Taboo and the family; The “good” woman; The “bad” woman; Increase in the number of women who do not fit into the ancient classifications.

With the gradual accumulation of scientific knowledge and increasing tendency of mankind toward a rationalistic view of most things, it might be expected that the ancient attitude toward sex and womanhood would have been replaced by a saner feeling.  To some extent this has indeed been the case.  It is surprising, however, to note the traces which the old taboos and superstitions have left upon our twentieth century social life.  Men and women are becoming conscious that they live in a world formed out of the worlds that have passed away.  The underlying principle of this social phenomenon has been called the principle of “the persistence of institutions."[1] Institutionalized habits, mosaics of reactions to forgotten situations, fall like shadows on the life of to-day.  Memories of the woman shunned, of the remote woman goddess, and of the witch, transmit the ancient forms by which woman has been expected to shape her life.

It may seem a far cry from the savage taboo to the institutional life of the present; but the patterns of our social life, like the infantile patterns on which adult life shapes itself, go back to an immemorial past.  Back in the early life of the peoples from which we spring is the taboo, and in our own life there are customs so analogous to many of these ancient prohibitions that they must be accounted survivals of old social habits just as the vestigial structures within our bodies are the remnants of our biological past.

The modern preaching concerning woman’s sphere, for example, is an obvious descendant of the old taboos which enforced the division of labour between the sexes.  Just as it formerly was death for a woman to approach her husband’s weapons, so it has for a long time been considered a disgrace for her to attempt to compete with man in his line of work.  Only under the pressure of modern industrialism and economic necessity has this ancient taboo been broken down, and even now there is some reluctance to recognize its passing.  The exigencies of the world war have probably done more than any other one thing to accelerate the disappearance of this taboo on woman from the society of to-day.

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Taboo and Genetics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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