The degree to which the human soul has been lifted out of the bondage of individualism and rescued from the atmosphere of selfishness, is yet more sharply illustrated by the recent efforts made, both by individuals and associations, to transcend the limit set upon the human, and to enable him to enter sympathetically into the life of the lower animals. Humane societies, bands of mercy, Audubon societies, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, anti-vivisection societies, hospital for cats, dogs, horses, and other sick animals — all suggest the effort of the human soul to relate itself to these humble creatures. The change in our thought of animals has compelled a change in the pronoun by which we refer to them. They are no longer called, “dumb beasts which,” but “our little brothers of the air whom,” “our playmates of the wood whom.” This humane work, originating in individual initiative, has effected its social reforms largely through organized effort.
But one step, it would seem, remains to be taken, viz., the step which will enable the class of women who have learned cooperation through labor in laundries, factories, and shops, and the different class of women whose conception of cooperation has been gained through the educational union, social club, and the society fair, to see that there are large interests for which these two hitherto distinct classes of women may easily combine. Thus far cooperation has enabled the consciousness of women to expand from that of the individual to that of the class. Further evolution will enable woman’s consciousness to expand from that of the class to that of the whole, of the mass, wherein women of all classes will realize that all women everywhere have common interests, such as the universal sanctity of life, the exaction of the highest purity, and of equal purity in the social standards for men and women, and the inviolate preservation of peace.
The degree to which this growing capacity in women to identify themselves, first, with the members of their own social class, for the advancement of the interests of that class; second, with members of their own social class for the promotion of the interests of the so-called lower classes; third, with the so-called lower classes for the promotion of interests common to all classes, and, fourth, with all classes for the protection of dependent animals, is a condensed statement of sublime evolutionary cycle.
All, however, that has heretofore been said applies to the growth of cooperative capacity in the people of a common country. The consciousness of native differences in the inhabitants of different lands is probably stronger among women than among men; since in their commercial and military enterprises men more frequently cross the boundaries of their native countries than do women. One of the great social reformative influences of the closing of this century has been its increased facilities for transportation. The improvement in such facilities, and the changes in social life which has made it safe for woman to travel, have resulted in giving to the women of this century a larger sense of community with the whole world than the women of any preceding century have enjoyed.
Up to date the last advance in organization is that begun a decade ago, through which women in different countries have sought to unite and to cooperate for common human interests. This culminating agency of social reform known as the International Council of Women is composed of fourteen National Councils of Women, each of which represents a distinct country, and its work is but begun.
There are individual names which, as one looks backward across the path of the vanishing century, are like flashes of illumination. These names, however, belong in chapters dealing with specific lines of development. Perhaps one of the highest expressions of the consciousness that the time has come for competition to cease and for cooperation to have its free course to run and be glorified, may be found in the fact that the workers are too entirely absorbed in the prosecution of their great work to clamor for applause or to languish for the echo of their own names.
It is a far call from the feeling which characterized the beginning of the century, when the emphasis was put upon family relationship, and that which distinguishes the end of the century, where life is made the common platform upon which all creatures, human and so-called “dumb,” may meet; the former, at least, possessing a dim consciousness of a common origin and a vague perception of a possible common destiny.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.