The 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the [u]nited States Constitution is upon us, and there has been plenty of chatter about this supposed positive achievement for women’s rights. Even those who call themselves conservatives have been celebrating women’s suffrage.
But the Southern view of this matter is just the opposite of that from the northern and the western States, where women’s suffrage found its greatest support. Not only is women’s suffrage a loss for the dignity of women, it has also opened the door for further civil rights innovations (for the LGBTQ ‘community’ and for abortion) that have degraded life within the union.
We take as our Southern spokeswoman on this issue the formidable South Carolina writer, Louisa McCord (1810-79), at once a poet, playwright, translator, and essayist. She is not against the improvement of the condition of women; she only asks that women, in so doing, not seek to become something they are not - i.e., men - that they seek to perfect themselves in the role given them by God to fulfill:
In womanhood is her strength and her triumph. Class both as woman, and the man again becomes inferior, inasmuch as he is incapable of fulfilling her functions. A male woman could as ill assume the place and duties of womanhood, as a female-man could those of manhood. Each is strong in his own nature. They are neither inferior, nor superior, nor equal. They are different. The air has its uses, and the fire has its uses, but these are neither equal nor unequal—they are different.
Many women (we have already said we will even grant an unfortunately large proportion of women) are degraded, not because they have submitted themselves to the position which nature assigns them, but because, like Mrs. Smith, they cannot be content with the exercise of the duties and virtues called forth by that, and in that, position. They forget the woman’s duty-fulfilling ambition, to covet man’s fame-grasping ambition. Woman was made for duty, not for fame; and so soon as she forgets this great law of her being, which consigns her to a life of heroism if she will—but quiet, unobtrusive heroism—she throws herself from her position, and thus, of necessity, degrades herself. This mistaken hungering for the forbidden fruit, this grasping at the notoriety belonging (if indeed it properly belongs to any) by nature to man, is at the root of all her debasement.
And that ‘true position’ wherein women are elevated Mrs McCord describes beautifully in other passages:
Her mission is, to our seeming, even nobler than man’s, and she is, in the true fulfilment of that mission, certainly the higher being. Passion governed, suffering conquered, self forgotten, how often is she called upon, as daughter, wife, sister, and mother, to breath, in her half-broken but loving heart, the whispered prayer, that greatest, most beautiful, most self-forgetting of all prayers ever uttered, “Father, forgive them, [for] they know not what they do.” Woman’s duty, woman’s nature, is to love, to sway by love; to govern by love, to teach by love, to civilize by love! Our reviewer may sneer—already does sneer—about “animal functions” and the “maternity argument.” . . . true woman’s love is too beautiful a thing to be blurred by such sneers. It is a love such as man knoweth not, and Worcester Conventionists cannot imagine. Pure and holy, self-devoted and suffering, woman’s love is the breath of that God of love, who, loving and pitying, has bid her learn to love and to suffer, implanting in her bosom the one single comfort that she is the watching spirit, the guardian angel of those she loves. . . . such is the type of woman, such her moral formation, such her perfection, and in so far as she comes not up to this perfection, she falls short of the model type of her nature. Only in aiming at this type, is there any use for her in this world, and only in proportion as she nears it, each according to the talent which God has given her, can she contribute to bring forward the world in that glorious career of progress which Omniscience has marked out for it. . . . she has no need to make her influence felt by a stump speech, or a vote at the polls; she has no need for the exercise of her intellect . . . to be gratified with a seat in Congress, or a scuffle for the ambiguous honour of the Presidency. Even at her own fireside may she find duties enough, cares enough, troubles enough, thought enough, wisdom enough, to fit a martyr for the stake, a philosopher for life, or a saint for heaven. There are, there have been, and there will be, in every age, great hero-souls in woman’s form, as well as man’s. It imports little whether history notes them. The hero-soul aims at its certain duty, heroically meeting it, whether glory or shame, worship or contumely, follow its accomplishment. Laud and merit is due to such performance. Fulfil thy destiny; oppose it not. Herein lies thy track. Keep it. Nature’s sign-posts are within thee, and it were well for thee to learn to read them. Poor fool! canst though not spell out thy lesson, that ever thus thou fightest against Nature? Not there! not there! Nothing is done by that track. Never; from the creation of the world, never. Hero-souls will not try it. It is the mock-hero, the dissatisfied, the grasping, the selfish, the low-aspiring, who tries that track. Turn aside from it, dear friends—there is no heaven-fruit there; only hell-fruit and sorrow.
Now, we contend that to be a divinity, a genial, household divinity—not in that character, at least, to worship . . . , but to be worshiped at the holiest altar of the Penates, the home hearth; to be the soul of that home, even as our great Father-God is the soul of the creation; to be the breath, the life, the love-law of that home; the mother, the wife, the sister, the daughter—such is woman’s holiest sphere, such her largest endowment. This is the natural position from which she has stepped; this the individuality which she has forgotten; these the distinctive powers which she has laid aside, to become imbecile and subservient in the exercise of others unsuited to her nature. This beautiful recognition of her unlikeness to man, is the sole mystery of her existence; the one great truth which must be evolved to make woman no longer the weak plaything of a tyrannic master, no longer the trampled thing, pleading for tolerance at the foot of her conqueror, but the life, the soul, the vital heart of society; while in her and through her thus circulates the every throb of this great living world. She does not rule, she cannot rule, by stump-speech, convention, or ballot-box; but she can rule, and she does rule, by the quiet soul-power, which, silent as the blood through the arteries of life, throbs on forever, ceasing but with the existence of the body which it vivifies.
How grotesque do the Joni Ernsts, Liz Cheneys, and the Elizabeth Warrens appear in the comely light of women who uplift mankind by their quiet devotions within the home! But it is in Mrs McCord’s highlighting of the creation of this ‘third sex’ (‘Enfranchisement of Woman’, p. 109), the manly woman, that we find another validation of the Southern view of the natures and roles of men and women. What has come to pass since these natures and roles were confused in the granting of women’s political rights, namely homosexuality and transgenderism, was predicted by Mrs McCord:
Not a little surprised have we been to see, in so long-established and respectable a periodical as the Westminster Quarterly [Review], a grave defence of such mad pranks as are being enacted by these petticoated despisers of their sex—these would-be men—these things that puzzle us to name. They should be women, but, like Macbeth’s witches, they come to us in such a questionable shape, that we hesitate so to interpret them. Moral monsters they are; things which Nature disclaims. In ceasing to be women, they yet have failed to make themselves men. Unsexed things, they are, we trust—like the poor bat in the fable, who complains, “neither mouse nor bird will play with me”—destined to flit their twilight course, alone and unimitated.
However, as Peggy Noonan has well noted, these ‘unsexed things’ know exactly what they want to be called (zie, hir, vis, tem, etc.), and they are sharpening their guillotines in order to force the rest of society to comply with their Jacobinish demands.
And while on the subject of violence, it is appropriate to dwell on the effect of women’s rights on the issue of abortion. For women in the home, children, even many children, are a gift, a joy, a blessing. But for the women who seek to compete with men for political power, anything peculiar to their sex that hinders that quest must be shed, one of the most prominent being child-bearing. Children for such women, even a single child, are a burden, a deadweight, a millstone around the neck. Thus, the quest for women’s political equality gives birth to a culture of hatred for children, which begets violence towards children, and finally the ‘right to abortion’ so women can be as maternally free as men. We would not say it is the only cause of the pro-abortion culture, but we would say that political equality (and rivalry) between men and women is withal one of the causes. Once again, therefore, we see that what passes for conservatism today (praising women’s suffrage) is really a mask and a preparation for the sort of revolutionary evils it claims it is fighting against.
If ever there were a time for Southerners to turn their collective back on the disordering and destructive ideology of Americanism, which enshrines unnatural relationships and violence towards children in its fundamental laws (the 19th Amendment, Roe v Wade, Obergefell v Hodges, etc.), and re-embrace the folkways of their forebears, this is it. As for what comes after the dark, bizarre cultural movements we are living through today, Mrs McCord did not offer any clues in the essays referenced above. However, she has shown us a way to return to Christian sexual morality if we are wise enough to follow her advice: Encourage women to stay near the home and out of political office.
Walt Garlington is a chemical engineer turned writer (and, when able, a planter). He makes his home in Louisiana and is editor of the 'Confiteri: A Southern Perspective' web site.