The proposal of a measure for the virtual equalisation of the sexes in Russia sheds a lurid light upon the existent state of things there. The Minister of Justice has laid it before the two Chambers, and it is entitled a Bill for Extending the Personal and Property Rights of Married Women.
Maxim Gorky, in more than one of his terrible novels, has given us some insight into the frightful cruelties practised by men, chiefly of the lower classes, on their wives. When the man is of a domineering, brutal, callous, cruel nature there are no bounds to his treatment of his wife, and Russia seems to have devised - tortures for women unknown and unheard of in other countries. They are too terrible to be described here.
Until now a Russian woman's whole identity and personality have been, from a legal point of view, sunk in that of her husband. A wife cannot even have a pass-port of her own. She is forbidden to work for a livelihood.unless her husband permits. Should his cruelty force her to leave him, he can still prevent her earning her livelihood, and can force her to live with him. Until the Jackson case led to the alteration of the English law, a husband could, even here in England, force his wife to live with him by locking her up in her own rooms. Since then British legislation has led to such a beneficent change that the old state of things is almost forgotten.
A well-known proverb says, "Grattez le Russe et trouvez letartare,"and it certainly seems as though the Russian may develop into a more brutal type of man than is to be found in other civilised countries. Some years ago a young girl married a good-looking but selfish and egoistic young man.
A Russian woman of the upper classes. Recent legislation in
He turned out to be an autocratic, inconsiderate husband; and at last, partly owing to her far from submissive nature, she was forced to leave his home. But he refused to sanction this step, and instructed the police to send back the fugitive. Consequently, the authorities commanded her to return to her husband. She refused to do so. After this the police moved no further in the matter. The husband was not to be beaten, so he set in motion the authorities by demanding that his wife should be arrested like a common criminal and forwarded from one prison to another until she arrived at Moscow, where was his domicile. This was done. One can imagine the state of physical and mental excitement and exhaustion in which this unfortunate girl - she was only a girl in years - arrived at the home of her tormentor. But she still had sufficient spirit to declare to him that she would run away again at the very first opportunity she could find. His egoistic brutality found a means of still further torturing the wretched wife. On the following day he left Moscow, and made known to nobody his destination. A few weeks later, the authorities informed the wife that her husband desired her to join him in a city of Western Siberia. She refused to obey. After some time she was again arrested and sent as before, in company with the wretched criminals banished to Siberia; and, on her reaching the house in which her husband was living, he at once returned to Moscow, and repeated the cruel treatment until his victim died insane.
This extreme case proves that the marriage laws in Russia are open to modification, and it is pleasant to know that the forthcoming Bill, which is expected to become law very soon, will afford some protection to the wife. She will be allowed to earn her own living, and to transact money matters directly, instead of through the husband, as before.
In several cases on record the wife has become a servant in a family, this being a sort of protection from the persecution of the man; but the husband may refuse to allow her to receive payment for her earnings, even in the shape of necessary food and clothing, and may force her to enter another service in which the payment is made direct to him.
The upper classes in Russia are restrained by social conventions from exercising such cruelties as these, and, in fact, the educated men of that country are, as a rule, gentle, chivalrous, and tender-hearted. It would appear that ignorance, the mother of so many evils, is also the parent of cruelty, egoism, and barbarity.
If a woman found life intolerable with her husband she could apply for divorce, but the only Court to which she could apply is composed of unmarried men (monks), and the only testimony admitted by them is that of eye-witnesses, who give their evidence on oath as to having seen the acts of brutality complained of. A man seldom ill-treats his wife in the presence of witnesses. choosing the intimacy and privacy of home life. It can be seen how unjust the pronouncements of such a Court would be likely to prove.
Every Englishwoman who thinks must be relieved to hear about the forthcoming Bill and its great chances of success. It is a measure proposed and furthered by men of high standing, just as every Bill for alleviating the wrongs of British wives has been brought forward and carried by open-minded men who have been able to judge the facts from their own broad outlook.
Some of our countrywomen seem to forget this. Others know what has been done by men for us, and will always laud and appreciate the splendid efforts made by our countrymen on our behalf - efforts that at the time met with not only violent opposition but, much harder to bear, even open ridicule.
By "Madge" (Mrs. Humphry)
The native customs of Samoa are now being superseded by modern. Weddings are usually an affair of the registry office, a European official tying the knot. The old picturesqueness is rapidly disappearing. Still, there are instances of marriages after the old form of ceremonial, and many of the preliminaries remain identical.
The young Samoan deputes a friend to make the necessary proposal to the maiden of his choice. A present of food is conveyed by the wooer by proxy, and the person interviewed is the girl's father; failing him, her brother. Should the reply be favourable, the consent is signified by acceptance of the present, and the party joins in a betrothal banquet. It consists of turtle, pork, poultry, breadfruit, yams, bananas, etc. The girl is asked, as a matter of form, if she agrees to marry the candidate for her hand. This she is obliged to do, for Samoan maidens have to accept their parents' choice of husbands for them.
Setting up House
An interval of two or three months between betrothal and marriage is fully occupied by all the bride's relatives in making many varieties of beautiful mats and native cloth, the whole collection forming the girl's dowry. Meanwhile, the bridegroom and his family are busy collecting canoes, buying knives, trinkets, cloth garments, and other necessaries from passing vessels, purchasing pigs and other property. When all is ready, the wedding-day is fixed.
The bride, carrying her dowry with her, goes in procession with her friends to the home of the bridegroom, which may possibly be situated on another island. The ceremony itself takes place in an open, circular space surrounded by breadfruit-trees. When the parties are persons of position, the whole village assembles to see the doings. The spectators' wedding garment consists of a copious layer of perfumed oil, laid on from head to foot, and shining in the sun, with beads, garlands of flowers, shells, seaweed, etc. They all squat under the trees awaiting the event.
The bridegroom is seated in the middle of the open space. The bride emerges from a house close by, in bridal attire composed of beads, flowers, necklaces of woven shells, and mats hanging from her waist and made into a train that hangs five or six feet behind her. She moves slowly along a pathway carpeted with finest native cloth - woven by Samoan women - to the spot where the bridegroom awaits her. She holds a mat and is followed by a procession of girl friends, each garbed like the bride, and each holding a mat. Each fairs her mat - a wedding gift - bef ore the bridegroom. Then the party forms up in procession, and goes back to get more mats; Sometimes they pass seven or eight times between the house and the bride-groom.
This finished, the bride down facing the bridegroom, then rises, and tarns to face the assembly, whereupon loud cries and shoots arise from all quarters, and the lady's immediate relatives beat their heads with stones until they are bruised and bleeding. This is to betoken their affection for her, and sorrow at losing her. This savage of dancing, and even portion of the proceedings concluded, the injuries.
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Programme is examination the bridegroom' collection of pro perty, which then handed ove to the family his newly wife. A grea banquet follows and at its conclu sion the bride groom's distributes sents to his ow relations from bride's dowry Then the bride father follows su by presenting gift to his own rela tives from amon the presents co lected by the bridegroom.
In the evening after darkness has set in, the are dances b torchlight of weirdly fantast character. The are carried pitch of exeit ment expressed in wild shout grotesque display in self-innicte