WOMEN AND THEIR WORK

The Saner Kinder Worship of the Race

DR. WOODS HUTCHINSON March 15 1920
WOMEN AND THEIR WORK

The Saner Kinder Worship of the Race

DR. WOODS HUTCHINSON March 15 1920

The Saner Kinder Worship of the Race

WOMEN AND THEIR WORK

DR. WOODS HUTCHINSON

MAN has tried his hand at worshipping almost everything in the universe that he can think of—including himself. His worship was a desperate attempt to anchor himself to something that would endure, to range himself in the scheme of things. He has worshipped the wind and the lightning, the sun, moon, and stars, the earth and the sea, his ancestors and the phantoms of his dreams; always something behind him, ever something in the past. The time has come for a worship of the future. Why not worship our posterity instead of our ancestry, our children instead of our grandparents?

To worship our children would give the best possible guarantee that they will worship our memory, which is what we desire above all things. Our deepest dread is of being forgotten ; that is the only perdition which we fear. In the race we have been alive since the beginning of time, and in the race and its memories of us, weshall endure until all eternity. If we long for immortality, here it is. If we yearn for something enduring, ever conquering, something by the side of whose antiquity the pyramids and the Sphinx are but as mushrooms, behold it!

To-day, Jew and Gentile Christian and agnostic, philosopher and scientist, all unite in holding that the highest of all laws, before which all others should bend in consideration, is the welfare of the nation, the future of the race. Brought before the bar of this tribunal, it would appear as though our modern attitude toward race fruitfulness was deserving of severe condemnation, and of little else. And in part there can be no question that it is. That a considerable and increasing element of our population is becoming unwilling to rear children cannot be seriously denied and, in so far as this unwillingness is due to a selfish shirking of the expense, labor and responsibility involved, as expressed in the familiar phrases, “Don’t want to be-bothered with children,” "Children interfere with your having a good time,” it should be visited with the severest reprobation. Any man or woman who solely, or even chiefly, upon such grounds, refuses the duties of parentage is a traitor to the race and a coward and a skulker in the battle of life, and should be branded and despised accordingly.

But while this motive unfortunately exists and assumes a most unpleasant conspicuousness in all public discussions of this question, and is avowed with distressingly cynical frankness in most private ones, it is to be doubted whether it is really responsible for more than a very small percentage of the tendency which it is alleged to explain.

As Burke long ago pointed out, “It is impossible to frame an indictment against an entire people,” least of all on such a low and discreditable ground as this; and we must look further for the real forces which chiefly underlie the tendency. In my judgment there can be little serious question that at least two-thirds of the modern unwillingness to bear children is based upon considerations affecting the welfare of the child, rather than that of the

parents. It is of course an open question whether much of this feeling is not mistaken and from a rational point of view another form of selfishness; but it is a perfectly legitimate and honorable motive and the question it raises is one which may be frankly and freely discussed upon its merits without any imputation of discredit, or making us despair of the future of the race. In fact, the only difference between the good old times of large families and the present era of smaller ones is that nowadays we face the problem squarely, while formerly it was dodged and left to settle itself.

WITHIN reasonable limits and indeed so far as the progress has ever gone hitherto, the diminished size of the family has been more than compensated for by the increased vigor, health and efficiency of the children reared, so that the net result has been to lessen the waste of life and to increase the growth of population instead of diminishing it. A high birth rate is anything but a high racial vigor or national progress. Indeed, by apparent paradox, it is a commonplace of vital statistics that a high birth rate almost invariably means high death rate and particularly a huge infant mor-

This is true not merely of different nations and of races in different regions and climates, but it is also true of superior and inferior races living side by side and of the different classes in the same nation. Our Negro and Indian populations in this country, for instance, have a higher birth rate than that of the surrounding white popu. lation, but such an enormously increased death rate and infant mortality that if more than neutralizes this, so that the Negro is increasing more slowly than the white man, if indeed he be not at a standstill; while the Indian is steadily declining in numbers. The birth rate of our slums population is high, but their death rate rises in proportion, so that the net increase is only slightly greater than that of the more fortunate classes of our population. I am unable to find any adequate basis whatever for the dread that there is any danger of the more intelligent, more efficient and more desirable elements of the population being physically swamped by the high birth rate of the weaker and less desirable classes.

The second great misconception which confuses most discussions of this problem is that this modern tendency to limit the size of families is a mark of moral degeneracy, of lack of patriotism, of unwillingness to sacrifice one’s own comfort for the good of the race. We

are told from many a pulpit that themodern woman is becoming forgetful off her chief and highest duty, to rear children in the fear of the Lord; or that, if sherecognizes this duty she is rebellious against, it. And we are pointed admiringly and regretfully to the good old days of two hundred, one hundred, even fifty years agowhen mothers saw their duty to the Church and State, then meekly performed it in theshape of families of eight, twelve, and! fifteen children.

There are only two defects in this beautiful dream of the days of old when “none^ were for the party, and all for the State;” The first is that neither the fathers nor themothers of these huge families had any particular intention, or indeed idea of sacrificing themselves for the race, or doing their duty by the community. Thesecond is that, often the very large family was hard on the children themselves. We rightly denounce the modern sweat-shop, and the factory or mine crowded with child-workers, but let us remember that a larger percentage of the children of these huge families among the working and farming classes of a hundred years ago were underfed, overworked, beaten and ill-treated, stunted physically, and deformed morally, than of the children of the civilized community to-day, even in factory towns. We may mourn over the decadence of family discipline and bewail the waning sanctity of the marriage tie, but the conditions which prevailed in many and many a model family of the large and hard-working type, common a century ago, were crueller and more intolerable in their injustice than eight-tenths of what is revealed in our divorce courts to-day.

As a matter of fact very often scarcely the slightest trace of intelligence or intention, or of deliberate forethought, entered into the production of these ideal, big, old-fashioned families. How many of them, for instance, would have come into existence if the mother had been for a moment consulted about the matter? How many of the surplus children, whose lives must inevitably be wasted in the attempt to rear ten children upon means adequate for four, would vote for the continuance of such a plan if they could be consulted?

The third great misconception which befogs this question is that such tendency toward race suicide which exists is chiefly the fault of the woman in the case. This is little better than the belated echo from the Garden of Eden: “It was the woman Thou gavest me!” It is true that theheavier physica burden and penalty of child-bearing and child-rearing falls upon the mother, but this is more than offset by the depth and power of her maternal instincts. Women may shrink from and evade and postpone even indefinitely the risks and responsibilities of motherhood, but the woman who would deliberately and contentedly face the prospect of going through life without ever having a chick or a child of her own is distinctly a rata avis. And when you get down tothe real feelings and the bottommost thought of even the most blase man of the world, or the most inveterate old bachelor of clubdom, you will stumble upon a primal longing for a child of his own to carry his name and keep up the traditions of the family, or a sense of secret bitterness and disappointment if this has been denied him.

Cont, on page 73

Continued, from page 70

k The race-continuing instinct is the deepest and most primitive in our nature, and the more we strive to smother or defy it the more surely it will wreak its vengeance upon us. A man or woman without the desire for children is as rare and contemptible as a man without a country.

Í But there are many who deny themselves absolutely privileges of fatherhood and motherhood upon grounds which are not only not selfish or in any way discreditable, but are of the highest order and most unselfish. I refer to that small but rapidly increasing class who refuse to bear children because they believe themselves, rightly or wrongly, likely to transmit physical or mental defects. This attitude is one of the highest triumphs of biological morality and racial ethics, and is entitled not merely to our most profound respect and warmest encouragement, but to our deepest sympathy. Next after the deliberate laying down of his own life for his country it is the highest and hardest sacrifice of which any human being is capable. Each instance of this sort should of course be most carefully atid thoroughly studied by at least four or five medical and biological experts so as to establish most firmly and unquestionably the existence of such a defect in the blood of the individual and the probability of its transmission to offspring.

It must also be remembered that, according to the best evidence at our disposal so far, defects of all sorts, both physical and bodily, are, as their name implies, negative, not positive, récessives, not dominants in the Mendelian scheme of heredity, and that the risks of their reappearing in future generations are much smaller than we at one time supposed.

To put it very roughly: Bad qualities tend to breed out—good ones to persist; otherwise evolution would be a progress downward instead of upward.

The one danger of this .race conscience, this biological scruple, lies in the fact that it will often be active in the most desirable elements of the community—those who ought on racial grounds in every way to reproduce their kind—while it is entirely absent in those who ought most to be conscious of it—the real defective, the roue, the drunkard, and the criminal. The remedy for this is not to diminish the realm of this scruple but to increase it, to broaden the field of its operation until it includes not merely the defective parent, but the other one, usually the mother. It should be regarded as an outrage against herself, and a crime against the State for any mother to bear children to a father whom she knows to be either mentally or morally unfit to be a father. The moment that any woman discovers that she is married to a drunkard, a libertine, a brute or a criminal, that moment she ought to be set free from him, not merely for her own sake and for that of the children already born, but still more for the sake of those who never ought to be born. When this has once been accomplished, we may begin to look for a real and effective elimination of the unfit, a diminishing of crime and pauperism and a new standard of purity in the marriage relation which some people may find it difficult to live up to.

Biologic morality, while deprecating the production of children who are either likely to be born unfit or become so from lack of proper support and adequate training, glorifies and exalts, as both the highest racial duty and the most precious individual privilege, the production of children by those who are both personally fit to bear and financially competent to rear children who will be of value to the State. There is no achievement better worth living for, no more valuable legacy that can be left to the future, or more enduring claim to honorable remembrance than a family of well-born, well-reared children. And this feeling is steadily spreading among the great intelligent upper stratum of the middle class, the real aristocracy of any country. The pendulum has already started on its return swing and in the reasonably and honestly successful classes of the nation, fair-sized families are beginning to be looked upon as desirable luxuries, quite as well worth spending money upon as automobiles or fine horses or balls and dinners. We are beginning to take pride in breeding pedigreed human stock instead of confining ourselves to horses and dogs and poultry. Children are coming to be as desirable adornments as they were in the days of the Roman matron.