’An excellent governess, a perfect hospital nurse, do work which is invaluable; but for our cause of emancipation they are no good— nay, they are harmful. Men point to them, and say, Imitate these, keep to your proper world. Our proper world is the world of intelligence, of honest effort, of moral strength. The old types of womanly perfection are no longer helpful to us. Like the Church service, which to all but one person in a thousand has become meaningless gabble by dint of repetition, these types have lost their effect. They are no longer educational. We have to ask ourselves, What course of training will wake women up, make them conscious of their souls, startle them into healthy activity?
’It must be something new, something free from the reproach of womanliness. I don’t care whether we crowd out the men or not. I don’t care what results, if only women are made strong and self-reliant and nobly independent! The world must look to its concerns. Most likely we shall have a revolution in the social order greater than any that yet seems possible. Let it come, and let us help its coming. When I think of the contemptible wretchedness of women enslaved by custom, by their weakness, by their desires, I am ready to cry, Let the world perish in tumult rather than things go on in this way!’
For a moment her voice failed. There were tears in her eyes. The hearers, most of them, understood what made her so passionate; they exchanged grave looks.
’Our abusive correspondent shall do as best he can. He suffers for the folly of men in all ages. We can’t help it. It is very far from our wish to cause hardship to any one, but we ourselves are escaping from a hardship that has become intolerable. We are educating ourselves. There must be a new type of woman, active in every sphere of life: a new worker out in the world, a new ruler of the home. Of the old ideal virtues we can retain many, but we have to add to them those which have been thought appropriate only in men. Let a woman be gentle, but at the same time let her be strong; let her be pure of heart, but none the less wise and instructed. Because we have to set an example to the sleepy of our sex, we must carry on an active warfare—must be invaders. Whether woman is the equal of man I neither know nor care. We are not his equal in size, in weight, in muscle, and, for all I can say, we may have less power of brain. That has nothing to do with it.