Her proposal, as the reader will have discerned, would be that all those evils which make appeal to the feminine emotions should be legally prohibited, and that all those which fail to make this appeal shall be tolerated.
In the former class would be included those which come directly under woman’s ken, or have been brought vividly before the eyes of her imagination by emotional description. And the specially intolerable evils will be those which, owing to the fact that they fall upon woman or her immediate belongings, induce in the female legislative reformer pangs of sympathetic discomfort.
In the class of evils which the suffragist is content to tolerate, or say nothing about, would be those which are incapable of evoking in her such sympathetic pangs, and she concerns herself very little with those evils which do not furnish her with a text for recriminations against man.
Conspicuous in this programme is the absence of any sense of proportion. One would have imagined that it would have been plain to everybody that the evils which individual women suffer at the hands of man are very far from being the most serious ills of humanity. One would have imagined that the suffering inflicted by disease and by bad social conditions—suffering which falls upon man and woman alike—deserved a first place in the thoughts of every reformer. And one might have expected it to be common knowledge that the wrongs individual men inflict upon women have a full counterpart in the wrongs which individual women inflict upon men. It may quite well be that there are mists which here “blot and fill the perspective” of the female legislative reformer. But to look only upon one’s own things, and not also upon the things of others, is not for that morally innocent.
There is further to be noted in connexion with the female legislative reformer that she has never been able to see why she should be required to put her aspirations into practical shape, or to consider ways and means, or to submit the practicability of her schemes to expert opinion. One also recognises that from a purely human point of view such tactics are judicious. For if the schemes of the female legislative reformer were once to be reviewed from the point of view of their practicability, her utility as a legislator would come into question, and the suffragist could no longer give out that there has been committed to her from on High a mission to draw water for man-kind out of the wells of salvation.
Lastly, we have to reflect in connection with the female legislative reformer that to go about proposing to reform the laws means to abandon that special field of usefulness which lies open to woman in alleviating misery and redressing those hard cases which will, under all laws and regulations of human manufacture and under all social dispositions, inevitably occur. Now when a woman leaves a social task which is commensurate with her abilities, and which asks from her personal effort and self-sacrifice, for a task which is quite beyond her abilities, but which, she thinks, will bring her personal kudos, shall we impute it to her for righteousness?