This section is from the book "Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties", by Marie Carmichael Stopes. Also available from Amazon: Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties.
While modern marriage is tending to give ever more and more freedom to each of the partners, there is at the same time a unity of work and interest growing up which brings them together on a higher plane than the purely domestic one which was so confining to the women and so dull to the men. Every year one sees a widening of the independence and the range of the pursuits of women: but still, far too often, marriage puts an end to woman's intellectual, life. Marriage can never reach its full stature until women possess as much intellectual freedom and freedom of opportunity within it as do their partners.
That at present the majority of women neither desire freedom for creative work, nor would know how to use it, is only a sign that we are still living in the shadow of the coercive and dwarfing influences of the past.
In an interesting article on woman's intellectual work, W. Thomas'(1907, " Sex and Society ") says :
The American woman, with the enjoyment of greater liberty, has made an approach toward the standards of professional scholarship, and some individuals stand at the very top in their university studies and examinations. The trouble with these eases is that they are either swept away and engulfed by the modern system of marriage, or find themselves excluded in some intangible way from association with men in the fullest sense, and no career open to their talents.
He sees clearly that this is but a passing phase in the development of our society, and he advocates a wider scope for the play of married women's powers.
' The practice of an occupational activity of her own choosing, and a generous attitude towards this on the part of the man, would contribute to relieve the strain and make marriage more frequently successful.
When woman naturally develops the powers latent within her, man will find at his side not only a mate, free and strong, but a desirable friend and an intellectual comrade.
The desire for freedom, both for physical and mental exploration and for experiences outside the sacred enclosure of the home, may at first sight appear to be conflicting and entirely incompatible with the ideal of closer and more perfect unity between the married pair. But this conflict is only apparent, though it is true that most writers have failed to realise this. Consequently in some sections of the writing and teaching of the " advanced " schools there are claims only for increased freedom--a freedom to wander at will--a freedom in which the wanderer does not return to his fixed centre.
On the other hand there are those who realise principally the beauty of married unity, and, concentrating on the demand for the unity and extremest stability on>the part of the married pair, are very apt to ignore the enriching flow of a wide life's experiences. They try to dam up the fertilising tide of life, and thus, though they are unconscious of what they are doing, they tend to reduce the richness and beauty of marriage.
It is for the young people of the new generation to realise that the two currents of longing which spring up within them--the longing for a full life-experience and the longing for a close union with a lifelong mate--are not incompatible, but are actually both essential parts of the more perfect and fuller beauty of the, future that already seeks to lind its expression in their lives.
Ellen Key (" Love and Marriage ") seems to fear the widening of the married woman's life, and she writes as though the aspiration to do professional and intellectual work of a high order must dwarf and sterilise the mother in the married woman.
She writes of a more northerly people, the Scandinavians, and it may be true of her countrywomen, I do not know. But it is not essentially and universally true. I am writing of the English, the English of to-day, and though we also have among us that dwarfed and sterilised type of woman, she forms in our community a dwindling minority. The majority of our best women enter marriage and motherhood, or else long for a marriage more beautiful than the warped mockery of it that is offered them.
As Mrs. Stetson says ("Women and Economics"):
In the primal physical functions of maternity the human female cannot show that her supposed specialisation to these uses has iiriproved her fulfilment of them, rather the opposite. The more freely the human mother mingles in the natural industries of a human creature, as in the case of the savage woman, the peasant woman, the working woman everywhere who is not overworked, the more rightly she fulfils these functions.
The more absolutely the woman is segregated to sex-functions only, cut off from all economic use and made wholly dependent on the sex-relation as means of a livelihood, the more pathological does her motherhood become. The over-development of sex caused by her economic dependence on the male reacts unfavourably on her essential duties. She is too female for the perfect motherhood!
The majority of our young women, I am convinced, have in them the potentiality of a full and perfected love. So, too, have the majority of our young men. For the best type of young man to-day is tired of polygamy; he has seen enough in his father's and friends' lives of the weariness of the sinister, secret polygamy, that hides itself and rots the race under the protecting cloak of the supposed monogamy of our social system.
But as things are at present in England, the youn" man who marries, however much he may be in love, is generally too ignorant (as has been indicated in the preceding chapters) to give his wife all her nature requires. Then, sooner or later, comes the sequence of disappointments which culminate in the Win? for a fresh adventure. b
As one young husband said to me, « A decent man can't go on having unions with his wife when she obviously does not enjoy them," and so he is forced to go elsewhere." « And they call us polygamists' We are not polygamists any longer. But marriage is a rotten failure," was his verdict.