The Limitations of Women

A clergyman, John Todd, of Pittsfield, Mass., one of the founders of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, in an Old Fashioned Talk on the Women Question in 1867, said:

“Nobody pretends that the sexes are equal in weight., in height, or in bodily strength. The bodies of the two sexes seem to have been planned for different ends. As to the mind, I have no difficulty in admitting that the mind of woman is equal to ours – nay, if you please, superior. It is quicker, more flexible, more elastic. Woman’s intuitions also are far better than ours. She reads Character quicker, comes to conclusions quicker, and if I must make a decision on the moment, I had much rather have the woman’s decision than a man’s. She has intuitions given her for her own protection which we have not. She has a delicacy of taste to which we can lay no claim.

“But God never designed a woman should occupy the same sphere as a man, because He has given her a physical organization so refined and delicate that it can never bear the strain which comes upon the rougher, courser nature of man. He has hedged her in by laws which no desires or efforts can alter. We, sons of dust, move slower; we creep, where you bound to the head of the stairs at a single leap. And now bear with me, and keep good-natured [sic], while I show you, what you, dear ladies, cannot do, and God does not ask you to do.

  1. You cannot invent. There are all manners of invention in our age, steam, railroads, telegraphing, machinery of all kinds, hundreds of weekly applications for patents at the Patent Office, but among them all no female applicants. You have sewing-machines almost numberless, knitting machines, washing, ironing and churning machines – but I have never heard of one that was the emanation of a female mind.
  2. You cannot compete with men in a long course of mental labor. Your delicate organization never has and never can bear the study by which you can become Newtons, La Places, or Bowditches in mathematics or astronomy. The world never has seen and never expects to see, women excelling in architecture. Neither in ancient or modern times has she one monument of this kind, showing mastership [sic]. You do not find them in ancient Corinth, old Athens, great Rome, or in any city of the old or new world. So of painting and sculpture. You have never yet shown a Phidias, a Raphael, a Michael Angelo, or a Canova. You cannot point to a woman who can pretend to stand by the side of Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, or Milton. The world has never seen a female historian who came near the first rank. And even in cooking and millinery, men stand at the head of these occupations.

“In none of these departments can women compete with man. Not because of her immortal mind is inferior – far from it – but because her bodily organization cannot endure the pressure of continued and long labor as we can.

“The design of god in creating woman was to complete man – a onesided [sic] being without her. Together they make a complete, perfect unit. She has aa mission – no higher one could be given her – to be the mother, and the former of all the character of the human race. For the first, most important, earthly period of life, the race is committed to her for about twelve years, almost entirely. The human family is what she makes them. She is the queen of the home, its centre [sic], its light and glory. If she desires a higher, loftier, nobler trust than this, I know not where she can find it. Mother, wife, daughter, sister, are the tenderest, most endearing words in language. Our mothers train us, and we owe everything to them. Our wives perfect all that is good in us, and no man is ashamed to say he is indebted to his wife for his happiness, his influence, and his character, if there is anything noble about him. Woman is the highest, holiest, most precious gift to man.”


Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.

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