JF Ptak Science Books Post 1587
"That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes — the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other."--On the Subjugation of Women, John Stuart Mill, 1861.
Perhaps one of the most devastating logical displays in the history of the struggle for equality for women was that of John Stuart Mill. He makes a powerful and inescapable argument on what he considered the basic enslavement of women in his The Subjugation of Women in 1861--that, and of course a complementary argument for the recognition of women as moral/ethical/legal equals of men.
If Mill was the doctor of the state of England, he would have said that his patient was suffering a necrosis, that women as slaves would be the eventual death of the United Kingdom, and that equal freedoms and individual rights needed to be granted to them to ensure the survival of the state. Women needed to be added to the equality register so far as the law was concerned, to be equal beneficiaries of everything that society had to offer. and that equality extended to the family unit, where the married partners would share the domestic scene, and that the husband would live more of his social life within the family rather than without, changing the basic structure of the family for the better. It was to this political end that as a Member of Parliament Mill--on 20 March 1867--introduced the idea of female suffrage to the House of Commons as a stipulation to the Representation of the People Bill, which would lead to the Reform Bill of 1867. Mill suggested changing the word "man" to "person". It was not a success, of coure, and women would not get the vote for another 50 years.
Punch, or the London Charivari, the leading satirical and social-commentating periodical of Great Britain, took a relatively neutral position on Mill a week later (30 March 1867) with a full-page cartoon (above). Mill is daintily bu8t forcefully trying to clear a path for the women at his right hand, trying to open a way through a crowd of men being anchored by John Bull. I'm no authority on any of these matters, but it seems to me that if Punch had decided to take a hard line against the vote for women they might've made the group of women depicted here more tawdry or "manish" or un-ladylike or something, anything, than the relatively benign group that was depicted.
A few weeks later another cartoon appears (on 1 June 1867) with Mrs. (John) Bull greeting Mill with some level of amusement, this time the editors carrying more of a challenge to the whole idea. Mrs. Bull says "I hadn't the slightest notion that we were such miserable creatures", with a good smile and crinkling eyes, looking down at the diminutive Mr. Mill, whose head is bowed and eyes downcast in defeat of the bill.
I've not studied Punch but I have sat down with a few decades of it, and I've gotta say that I don't see very much there at all regarding the vote for women--and even here, when it does, twice, the rebuke--if any--for thinking such thoughts as Mill is surprisingly mild.
Mill's closing paragraph of his Subjugation, summing up:
"When we consider the positive evil caused to the disqualified half of the human race by their disqualification — first in the loss of the most inspiriting and elevating kind of personal enjoyment, and next in the weariness, disappointment, and profound dissatisfaction with life, which are so often the substitute for it; one feels that among all the lessons which men require for carrying on the struggle against the inevitable imperfections of their lot on earth, there is no lesson which they more need, than not to add to the evils which nature inflicts, by their jealous and prejudiced restrictions on one another. Their vain fears only substitute other and worse evils for those which they are idly apprehensive of: while every restraint on the freedom of conduct of any of their human fellow-creatures (otherwise than by making them responsible for any evil actually caused by it), dries up pro tanto the principal fountain of human happiness, and leaves the species less rich, to an inappreciable degree, in all that makes life valuable to the individual human being."