August Bebel. Woman and Socialism
Woman at the Present Day

Chapter XI.
The Chances of Matrimony.

1. – The Numerical Proportion of the Sexes.

The usual advice to women to seek their salvation in marriage, this being their true profession, is thoughtlessly approved of by the vast majority of men. But it seems like mockery, that many of those who give such advice and of those who applaud it, refrain from marrying themselves. Schopenhauer, the philosopher, has only the conception of a philistine concerning woman and her position. He says: “woman is not called upon to perform great tasks. Her characteristic is not doing but suffering. She pays her debt to life by the throes of child-birth, care of her child and submissiveness to her husband. The supreme expressions of vitality and perception are denied her. Her life should be more tranquil and insignificant than man’s life. Woman is called upon to be the nurse and educator of childhood because she is childish herself; because throughout life she remains a big child, a sort of intermediary stage between child and man the true human being. ... Girls should be reared to be domestic and submissive. ... Women are the most thoroughgoing, incurable philistines.”

The work by Lombroso and Ferrero, “Woman as a Criminal and Prostitute,” is also written in the spirit of Schopenhauer. We have never met with an equally extensive scientific book, – it consists of 590 pages, – that contains so little convincing material in regard to the subject it deals with. The statistics from which the most daring conclusions are drawn, are very inadequate. Sometimes a dozen cases have sufficed the author to form a weighty opinion. It is a noteworthy fact that the material contained in the book which may be regarded as the most trustworthy has been furnished by a woman, Dr. Mrs. Tarnowskaya. The influences of social conditions and social development are almost entirely disregarded. All phenomena are judged from a narrow physiological and psychological point of view and much ethnological information concerning various peoples – is interwoven with the argumentation, without any attempt being made to investigate the nature of this information. According to the authors, as according to Schopenhauer, woman is a big child, an incarnate liar, weak in her judgment, fickle in love, incapable of any heroic deed. The inferiority of woman, – so they claim, – has been proven by a great many physical differences and characteristics. “Woman’s love is, at the bottom, nothing but a secondary character of motherhood. All the sentiments of affection that bind a woman to a man are not derived from the sexual impulse but from instincts of devotion and submission acquired by adaptation.” But how these instincts were acquired the authors fail to examine. If they did, it would imply an investigation of the social position of woman during thousands of years which has made her what she is to-day. The authors describe the dependence and enslavement of woman among different nations and during various periods of civilization, but being blinded by a narrow conception of the Darwinian theory, they trace everything to physiological causes, and disregard the social and economic causes that have had the strongest influence on woman’s physiological and psychological development.

Among other things the authors discuss the vanity of woman and express the view that among people at a low stage of development men are the vain sex, which may be observed even to-day on the Hebrides, Madagascar and among the tribes about the Orinoco river, as also on many islands of the Polynesian Archipelago and among a number of African and South Sea Island tribes; while among nations of high stage of development, women are the vain sex. But why is this so? The answer is simple. Among peoples at a low stage of development. matriarchal conditions prevail or have been abandoned but recently. Here woman’s position is such that she is relieved of the necessity of wooing man. The man woos her, and for this purpose he adorns himself, he becomes vain. Among peoples at a higher stage of development, especially among all civilized nations, man does not woo woman, but woman woos man. It rarely occurs that woman takes the initiative and literally offers herself to a man; modesty forbids that. But the offer nevertheless is made by manner and dress, the luxury of her personal adornment and her coquetry. Such conduct is forced upon her by the fact that there are more women that men and by the social necessity of regarding marriage as a means of support and as the only institution by means of which she may satisfy her sexual impulse and obtain social recognition. Here again we find purely economic and social causes bringing forth qualities, now in the man and now in the woman, that we are accustomed to regard as quite independent of social and economic causes. From this we may draw the conclusion that when society has reached a state of development in which every form of dependence of one sex upon the other will cease, vanity and the follies of fashion will disappear as will many other vices that we deem ineradicable to-day, because we believe them to be inherent in human nature.

In regard to Schopenhauer it must be said that he, as a philosopher, is as biased in his judgment of women as the majority of our anthropologists and medical men who regard her only as a sex being, never as a social being. Schopenhauer had never been married. He failed to contribute his share that one more woman might fulfill the purpose in life that he prescribed to women. This leads us to another, no more pleasant phase of the question.

It is generally known that many women remain unmarried because they are given no opportunity to become married. Custom forbids the woman to offer herself. She must allow herself to be chosen; she may not choose. If she s not chosen she must join that great army of unfortunate women who have missed their purpose in life and who are frequently subjected to a life of poverty and want, sometimes made more bitter still by ridicule. But what causes the numerical disproportion of the sexes? Many are quick to reply too many girls are born. The persons who make this statement are misinformed, as we shall see. Others draw the conclusion that if women are in the majority in most civilized countries, polygamy ought to be permitted. But polygamy is not only averse to our customs, it also entails the degradation of woman; although that did not prevent Schopenhauer from asserting that “to the female sex, general polygamy is a boon.” Many men do not marry because they believe that they are unable to support one woman and the children who are likely to be born according to their station in life. Only few men are able to support two women, and among these, many do have two or several wives: one legitimate wife, and one or several illegitimate wives. Those privileged by wealth allow nothing to prevent them from doing as they choose.

Even in the orient where custom and law have suffered polygamy to exist for thousands of years, relatively few men have more than one wife. We speak of the degrading influence of life in Turkish harems. But we overlook the fact that only very few men belonging to the ruling class can afford to maintain a harem, while the great mass of men live in monogamic marriage. In the city of Algiers at the close of the sixties of the last century, there were among 18,282 marriages no less than 17,319 with only one wife; there were 888 marriages with two wives, and only 75 with more than two. In Constantinople, the capital of the Turkish empire, conditions are probably quite similar. Among the rural population in the orient the conditions favoring monogamic marriage are still more striking. In the orient, as with us, material conditions come into consideration that compel the majority of men to content themselves with one wife.[1] But if conditions were equally favorable to all men polygamy could still not be generally maintained because there are not enough women. Under normal conditions the numbers of persons of both sexes, are almost equal, which everywhere points to monogamic marriage. The following table which has been published by Buecher in the “General Statistic Records,” proves this assertion.[2]

Number of male persons Number of female person Entire population Number of women for every 1000 men
Europe 170,818,561 174,914,119 345,732,680 1,024
America 41,643,389 40,540,386 82,183,775 973
Asia 177,648,044 170,269,179 347,917,223 958
Australia 2,197,799 1,871,821 4,069,620 852
Africa 6,994,064 6,771,360 13,765,425 968
399,301,857 394,366,865 793,668,722 988

The result of this compilation may, to many people, be a surprising one. With the exception of Europe where there are, on an average, 1,024 female inhabitants for every 1,000 male inhabitants, the male population predominates. Even if we may assume that the information is incomplete, especially in regard to the female sex, and that especially in countries with a Mohammedan population the female population surpasses the given figures, the fact remains that, except in a few European countries, the female population nowhere considerably exceeds the male population. In the meantime the imperial bureau of statistics in Berlin has published a new compilation of the census in European and non-European countries which includes 883,000,000 people. “When we take into consideration the census, not included in this compilation, of Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Argentine Republic, the Transvaal, Orange River Colony, Cyprus, Formosa and Pescadores, the number of enumerated inhabitants of the earth attains 882,000,000 with a general average of 991 female persons for every 1000 male persons. For the enumerated population of the earth we may therefore assume an almost equal representation of both sexes with a slight preponderance of the male.[3]

In Europe the conditions are different. With the exception of the countries of South Eastern Europe, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Servia, Bulgaria, Rumania and Greece, the female population predominates. The proportion is least unfavorable in Hungary and Italy where there are respectively 1,009 and 1,010 female inhabitants for every 1000 male inhabitants. Belgium comes next with 1013 female for every 1000 male inhabitants. Portugal and Norway show the most unfavorable proportion; next to these Great Britain with 1063 female for every 1000 male inhabitants. France, Germany, Austria and Russia lie in the middle having for every 1000 male inhabitants respectively 1,033, 1,032, 1,035 and 1,029 female inhabitants.[4]

In Germany during the last two decades each census has shown a more favorable proportion. On Dec. 1, 1885, the female population exceeded the male population by 988,376 persons. The census of Dec. 1, 1890, still showed an excess of the female population of 966,806 persons. 1895 – 957,401; 1900 – 892,684, and according to the census of Dec. 1, 1905 the excess of the female population had sunken to 871,916 persons (1029 female for every 1000 male inhabitants). The decline of this difference may be chiefly accounted for by the decline of emigration in which the male sex is mainly concerned. This may be clearly seen from the proportion of the sexes in the United States, into which the stream of emigration is mainly directed, and where the dearth of women is almost as great as the excess of women in Germany. In 1900 for every 1000 men there. were only 953 women. This emigration from Germany decreased from 220,902 persons in 1881 to 22,073 persons in 1901 and to 19,883 persons in 1908. The fact, that more men than women emigrate, accounts in the first place then for the difference between the numbers of persons of both sexes. Italy furnishes a good example; for there the male population still predominated at the beginning of the forties of the last century, while at present the female population predominates, owing to the large emigration.

Furthermore, more men than women meet with accidents in agriculture, industry, commerce and traffic. Also more men are temporarily absent abroad as merchants, sailors, marines, etc. Another fact that has been statistically proven and that constitutes an important factor is that women on an average attain a higher age than men and that therefore there are more old women than old men. According to the census of 1900 the proportion of the sexes according to age in Germany was the following:

AGE Male female More male More female Excess of female population
Under 10 years 6,904,732 6,871,599 33,133 - -
From 10 to 15 years 2,925,918 2,012,571 13,345 - -
From 15 to 21 years 3,179,813 3,162,448 17,365 - -
From 21 to 30 years 4,251,204 4,293,775 - 42,571 -
From 30 to 40 years 3,669,656 3,731,556 - 61,900 -
From 40 to 50 years 2,770,451 2,923,228 - 152,777 -
From 50 to 60 years 2,053,085 2 320,273 267,188 -
From 60 to 70 years 300,637 1,545,808 245,171 -
From 70 years up 681,751 868,671 186,920 -
27,737,247 28,629,931 63,845 956,527 892,684

This table shows that up to the twenty-first year the number of boys exceeds the number of girls.[5] This excess of boys is due to the fact that everywhere more boys than girls are born. The following number of boys and girls, for instance, were born in the German empire:

During the year 1872 for 100 girls 106.2 boys
During the year 1884 100 “ 106.2 “
During the year 1900 100 “ 106.0 “
During the year 1905 100 “ 106.3 “
During the year 1907 100 “ 106.3 “

But the male sex dies younger than the female sex; especially during infancy more boys than girls die. Our table shows that from the twenty-first year on the female population exceeds the male. The following figures show the death-rate of male and female inhabitants in Germany:

During the years During the years
Male Female Male Female
1872-1875 29.5 26.3 1891-1895 24.6 22.1
1876-1880 27.8 24.5 1896-1900 22.6 20.0
1881-1885 27.3 24.2 1901-1905 21.0 18.8
1886-1890 25.8 23.1[6]

The table on page 159 furthermore shows that at the true marriageable age, between the twenty-first and fiftieth year the female sex exceeds the male sex by 257,248 persons (in the year 1890 by 422,519) and between the fiftieth and seventieth year by 699,279 (in the year 1890 by 566,400). In Germany as in England the number of old women increases each year. A great disproportion, that constantly increases, is furthermore met with among widowed and divorced persons.

According to the census of 1890 and 1900 there were the following numbers of widowed persons in Germany:

1890 1900
Men 774,967 809,238
Women 2,157,870 2,352,921
More women than men 1,382,903 1,543,683

These widowed persons were of the following ages:

1890 1900
Men Women Men Women
40 to 60 years 222,286 842,920 225,191 900,357
60 years and older 506,319 1,158,712 537,116 1,299,905

The number of divorced persons were during 1890, 25,271 men and 49,601 women. During 1900, 31,279 men and 60,738 women. These were of the following ages:

1890 1900
Men Women Men Women
40 to 60 years 13,825 24,842 16,976 30,385
60 years and older 4,917 7,244 5,713 8,452

These figures show us that widowed and divorced women are excluded from remarriage, even during the age best suited to marriage. For during the years 1890 and 1900 there were respectively 46,362 and 46,931 widowed men up to the fortieth year of age, while during the same years there were respectively 156,235 and 152,689 widowed women. There were divorced men in 1890 and 1900 respectively 651g and 8590 and divorced women 17,515 and 21,901. Here the disadvantage of divorce to the women is proved by figures.

The following shows the proportion of unmarried persons during 1900:

Men Women
15 to 40 years 6,700,352 5,824,464
40 to 60 years 426,388 503,406
60 years and older 141,416 252,134[7]

Among the unmarried persons between the fifteenth and fortieth year there are, as above table shows, 875,888 more men than women, which appears to be very favorable to women. But men between the fifteenth and twenty-first year of age, – at which age there are 3,175,453 men to 3,064,567 women, – are, with very few exceptions, unable to marry. The same may be said of men between the twenty-first and twenty-fifth year of age, the great majority of whom are unable to support a family, while women of this age are all marriageable. When we furthermore consider the fact that for diverse reasons a great many men do not marry at all, – the number of unmarried men over 40 years were 567,804, – We find that the position of women in regard to marriage is a highly unfavorable one. A great many women then, under present-day conditions, are compelled to deny themselves the legitimate satisfaction of the sexual impulse, while men seek and find satisfaction in prostitution. The position of women would become a far more favorable one, as soon as a transformation of social conditions would abolish the obstacles that at present prevent hundreds of thousands of men from becoming married.

As already mentioned the disproportion in the numbers of the sexes is due to a great extent to emigration. Obligatory service in the army also drives many young men, frequently the strongest, to seek their fortune abroad. According to official reports of the army, 135,168 men were convicted of illicit emigration, and 13,055 more cases were being investigated. These figures include men up to the forty-fifth year. This illicit emigration of men from Germany causes a considerable loss. Emigration is especially large in the years following great wars; that was seen after 1866 and during the years 1871 to 1874.

We furthermore have great losses of life among men by accidents. In Prussia during the period from 1883 to 1905 no less than 297,983 persons were killed by accidents; of these there were, during the one year 1905, 11,792 men and 2,922 women. From 1886 to 1907, 150,719 persons were killed by accidents in industry, agriculture and state or municipal employment; only a small fraction of these were women. Another considerable portion of persons employed in these occupations become maimed or crippled for life and therefore unable to maintain a family. (There were 40,744 of these from 1886 to 1907.)

Others die young leaving their families in the neediest circumstances. Much loss of life among men is also connected with navigation From 1882 to 1907, 2,848 seagoing vessels were sunk, entailing a loss of life of 4,913 members of the crew, – almost all men, – and 1,275 passengers.

Only when the highest valuation of human life has been established, – which will be the case in a Socialistic community, – will society be enabled to prevent a great majority of accidents on land and sea. At present many persons are killed or maimed as a result of ill-applied economy of employers. In many other cases accidents are due to excessive speed or over-fatigue of workers. Human life is cheap. When one workingman has been killed there are many others to take his place.

Especially in navigation many preventable accidents occur. By the revelations of Plimsoll in the English parliament during the seventies, the fact became generally known that many owners of unseaworthy vessels, impelled by criminal greed, insured these vessels at a high rate and then sent them with their crew to almost certain destruction, in order to obtain the amount of insurance. These are the so-called death-ships that are not unknown in Germany either. Every year the marine bureaus are called upon to pronounce their verdicts in connection with a number of marine accidents, and those verdicts usually show the accidents to be due to advanced age or overloading or improper condition of the vessel or insufficient equipment, or a number of these causes combined. In the cases of many sunken ships the causes of their sinking can never be determined, because the disasters occur in mid-ocean and no one survives to tell the tale. Many crimes are committed in this way. The stations for saving ship-wrecked persons established at the coasts, are also very insufficient because they are chiefly maintained by private charity. An organized society that will regard it as its highest duty to provide equally for all its members, will succeed in making all these accidents of extremely rare occurrence. But under the present predatory system, where human lives are regarded as mere ciphers and the sole aim is to attain the highest possible profit, a human life is sometimes sacrificed in order that a dollar may be gained.

2. – Obstacles to Marriage. The Excess of Women.

There are still other causes that make marriage difficult or prevent it entirely. A considerable number of men are prevented from marrying by the state. People condemn the enforced celibacy of the Catholic clergy, but they do not mention the fact that a far greater number of soldiers are doomed to celibacy likewise. When an officer of the army wishes to marry, he not only requires the consent of his superiors, he is also denied the free choice of a wife, since it is prescribed that he must possess a certain amount of wealth. In Austria a captain of the army seeking to marry, must give a security of 30,000 florins if he is under thirty years of age, 30,000 florins if he is over thirty; minor officers must give a security of 16,000 florins. In all cases the fiancée of an army officer must have lead an immaculate life, and her standard of living must be suited to his rank. In Germany, officers of the army may seek permission to marry only when they can prove that they have an additional income. The required size of this additional income varies with the different ranks. These are striking proofs of the materialistic conception of marriage maintained by the state.

Public opinion in general maintains, that men should not marry until they have attained their twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth year of life. This opinion is founded on the fact that few men are, able to support a family before they have reached this age. Only persons who are fortunate enough not to be obliged to win an independent position, – persons of princely rank, for instance, – form an exception. In their case we regard it as quite proper that a man should become married at eighteen or nineteen, and a maiden at fifteen or sixteen years of age. Princes come of age when they are eighteen years old, and are considered competent to rule the most numerous people. Common mortals do not come of age until they are twenty-one years old.

This difference of opinion in regard to the age at which marriage is desirable, shows that only social considerations are taken into account, that have no bearing upon man as a sex being. But nature will not be fettered by definite social conditions and the views that have sprung from these conditions. As soon as a human being has attained maturity, the sexual impulse manifests itself with all its vigor.

The advent of puberty with the female sex differs according to the individual, the climate and the mode of life. In the torrid zones it sets in as early as the ninth or tenth year, and sometimes one meets women of that age with their first babes in their arms; but they are faded when they have attained their twenty-fifth or thirtieth year.[8] In the temperate zones girls usually attain puberty at fourteen or sixteen years of age, in some cases later still. The age of puberty also differs with girls living in the country from those living in cities. Among the healthy, robust country girls who work hard, as a rule menstruation sets in later than among our poorly nourished, effeminate, ethereal young ladies in the cities, who suffer from over-excitement of the nerves. In the country puberty usually developes in the normal way. In the city its normal development is an exception, and not infrequently it is accompanied by various symptoms of disease that drive physicians to despair. Often physicians are obliged to say that the only certain cure would be marriage. But in many cases this cure cannot be applied, owing to the unsurmountable obstacles.

All these factors show where we must seek a change. To begin with, we need a complete revolution in our educational methods. We need a system of education that takes both the physical and intellectual qualities into consideration. Furthermore, we need an entirely different mode of living and working. But both cannot be brought about except by a complete transformation of social conditions.

Our social conditions have created a profound contradiction between man as a sex being and man as a social being. This contradiction has never been so noticeable as in the present age, and it leads to many evils and diseases to which women especially are subjected. In the first place the woman’s organism is far more influenced by her sex mission than man’s organism (for instance, the regular recurrence of menstruation) ; in the second place she is confronted by the greatest number of obstacles that prevent her from satisfying her strongest natural impulse in a natural way. This contradiction between natural impulse and social constraint leads to anomalies, to secret vices and excesses that are bound to undermine even strong constitutions. Unnatural satisfaction is frequently aided in a most shameless manner. In the advertisements of newspapers and periodicals, certain manufactures are recommended in a more or less veiled manner. These advertisements appeal to the wealthy classes of society, because the price of the manufactures are so high that a person of moderate means could not buy them. Besides we find advertisements of obscene pictures, entire series of photographs, and poetry and prose of a similar character, whose very titles are intended to produce sensual excitement. These matters ought to claim the attention of the police and public prosecutors. But these gentlemen are too busy persecuting Socialism, “that will destroy the home and the family,” to give their full attention to such doings. A part of our novels influence the sentiments of the reading public in the same direction. It is really not to be wondered at if sexual debauchery, artificially stimulated, gradually becomes a social disease.

Many women of the wealthy classes lead an idle, self-indulgent life. They stimulate their nerves by the most extraordinary means, and indulge in a certain enjoyment of art that creates an exaggerated sentimentality and heightens their nervous irritability. All this increases the sensual passions and naturally leads to excesses. Among poor people sexual irritability is frequently heightened by certain kinds of hard work, especially such work that compels people to lead a sedentary life which creates congestion of the blood in the abdominal organs. One of the most dangerous occupations in this respect is constant work at the sewing machine, an occupation in which a great many women are employed at present. This work is so detrimental to the health of women that ten to twelve hours of it daily will shatter the strongest constitution in a few years. Excessive sexual irritability is also brought about by long hours of work in a high temperature, for instance in sugar refineries, laundries, printing establishments, etc. The same may be said of night work with artificial light in overcrowded work-shops, especially where members of both sexes work together.

Here again we are confronted by a number of evils that clearly show the unhealthful and irrational character of present-day conditions. But these evils that are deeply rooted in our social conditions, cannot be removed by moralizing or by resorting to palliative measures, such as social and religious quacks always have in readiness. It is necessary to strike the root of the evil. The only redemption will be to bring about social conditions that shall enable all persons to obtain a natural education, to lead a healthful mode of life and work, and to find normal satisfaction of all natural and healthy desires.

Many obstacles do not exist for the man that do exist for the woman. Owing to his position of rulership, his free choice of a mate is in no wise hampered, except by the social considerations enumerated above. But the nature of marriage as a means of support, the numerical superiority of women, and custom, – all prevent the woman from asserting her wishes. She is obliged to wait until someone seeks her. As a rule she gladly avails herself of the first opportunity of finding a husband who will save her from the social disregard and indifference that are the usual portion of that unfortunate being, the old maid. Many women look down with disdain upon those of their sisters who are possessed of sufficient human dignity not to sell themselves into the prostitution of marriage to the first man who comes along, but prefer to walk on life’s thorny path alone. Nevertheless the man who wishes to marry for love has social obstacles to consider. He must ask himself: can I support a wife and the children who are likely to come, without being weighed down by financial cares? If the man has an ideal conception of marriage, if he is determined to let his choice be influenced by love only, this question becomes all the more important. At present conditions of earning and property are such, that many men must answer this question in the negative, and they accordingly prefer to remain unmarried. Many men do not acquire an independent position, suited to their demands, until late in life, and are not able to support a wife according to her station in life unless she has a considerable fortune of her own. It must be admitted of course, that many young men have an exaggerated idea of what constitutes living according to their station; but owing to the false education of many women and their social habits, these young men must indeed be prepared that their wives will make demands upon them that will exceed their means. They frequently do not make the acquaintance of the good, modest women who are simple in their tastes, because they are modest in their manners also and are not met with in society where men have accustomed themselves to seek wives, while the women they do meet often are the kind who seek to fascinate a man by outward appearances and to deceive him in regard to their personal qualities and their material position. When this type of woman has attained an age at which marriage becomes urgent., lures of all sorts are resorted to all the more eagerly. When such a woman has succeeded in capturing a man, she has become so accustomed to outward show, extravagance in dress and costly enjoyments that she wishes to maintain them in her married life. Here men find themselves on the verge of an abyss, and many prefer to leave the flowers that bloom at this abyss unplucked. They prefer to pursue their path alone and seek entertainment and enjoyment while maintaining their freedom. Deception and fraud are common practices in bourgeois society. It is not surprising that they also play a part in the contracting of marriages and entail severe suffering of both parties.

Statistics show that the educated and wealthy classes as a rule marry later in life than the lower classes. According to Westergaard the average age of marriage in Copenhagen was: among professional people, merchants, manufacturers and bankers, 32.2 years; among mechanics and small dealers, 31.2 years; among clerks and commercial employees, 29.7 years; among waiters and domestic servants, 28, and among factory workers, sailors and day-laborers, 27.5 years. In Prussia from 1881 to 1886 the average ages at which men married were: miners, 27.6; factory workers, 27.7; metal workers, 28; stone-masons, 28.2; building trades, 28.6; workers in wood, 28.7 machinists, 29; teaching, 29.1; agriculture, 29.6; railway service, 30; commerce, 30.9; physicians, clergymen and officials, 31.8 to 33.4. According to Ansell the average age at which the well-to-do and educated classes married in England from 1840 to 1871, was 29.95 years; but since then it has been raised. From 1880 to 1885, the average ages at which men of different professions married, were as follows:

years years
Miners 23.56 Clerks 25.75
Textile workers 23.88 Merchants 26.17
Clothing trades 24.42 Farmers 28.73
Mechanics 24.85 Professional men and capitalists 30.72
Day-laborers 25.06

These figures show how marriage is influenced by social position. The fact that the average age of marriage in most European states has been somewhat lowered during the last decades, is due to the general growth of industrialism. This may be seen in Germany, Austria and Sweden where the increase of early marriages is in connection with the growing number of persons employed in industry. In older industrial countries, as France and England, the average age of marriage has been raised. Russia forms an exception; here the rise in the average age of marriage is due to the abolition of communal property.

The number of men who are prevented from marrying for numerous reasons is constantly increasing. This applies especially to the men of the upper classes and the higher professions; firstly because they are more pretentious, and secondly because these men are best enabled to find companionship and pleasure outside of marriage. Conditions are especially unfavorable to women in places where there are many pensioners with their families, and few young men. There we find from twenty to thirty women among hundred who are unable to marry. The lack of men seeking marriage is most severely felt by those women, who have been accustomed by their social position to require a certain standard of life but who have no dowery. This is especially true of the young girls of those numerous families that depend upon a fixed salary which leaves them socially respectable but poor. These girls often become dangerous competitors to the working girls who earn their living by embroidery, making underwear, making artificial flowers, hats, gloves, etc.; that is, in all those trades in which the employers prefer to have the work done in the homes of the workers. These ladies often work for the lowest wages because they are not obliged to earn their living entirely but only wish to add to the family income or to earn enough to pay for their clothes. Employers favor the competition of these ladies, because it enables them to reduce the wages of the poor proletarian workers and to drive them to the utmost exertion of their strength. Many wives of government officials, whose husbands are poorly paid and cannot maintain them according to their standard of living, also employ their spare time in such sordid competition, which means increased exploitation among large strata of female proletarians.

The agitation carried on by the bourgeois women’s clubs to elevate women’s work and to gain admission for women into the higher professions, is especially destined to improve the position of women of the upper classes. In order to do this successfully, these clubs seek the patronage of ladies of high rank, In this respect the bourgeois women only follow the example of the bourgeois men, who also seek such patronage and become interested in such endeavors that only show small, never large results, In this way people waste a tremendous amount of effort, and deceive themselves and others in regard to the necessity of thorough-going reform. In these circles no doubt is permitted to arise as to the justice and wisdom of our present state and social order. The conservative nature of such endeavors prevent clubs of this kind from being permeated by so-called destructive tendencies. At a convention of women in Berlin during the spring of 1894, a minority expressed the thought that it might be well if the bourgeois women would co-operate with the proletarian women, that is, the Socialist women; but with a majority of the delegates this suggestion called forth a storm of protest. But the conservative tendencies of the bourgeois women will not accomplish the liberation of womankind.

How many women are excluded from marriage owing to the causes previously stated, cannot be definitely determined. The numerical superiority of women in Germany is distributed very unevenly, both in regard to the different countries and districts and in regard to age.

The following table has been compiled from the census of 1900 (Statistic of the German Empire)

Number of women for every 1000 men
under 15 15 to 40 40 to 60 over 60
Berlin 1012 1044 1191 1659
Kingdom of Saxony 1015 1030 1107 1360
Kingdom of Bavaria to the right of the Rhine 1015 1024 1083 1163
Kingdom of Bavaria to the left of the Rhine 986 997 1070 1157
Kingdom of Wurttemberg 1015 1041 1134 1179
Baden 1000 974 1079 1173
Hamburg 999 1031 1038 1454
Province of Brandenburg 993 1015 1089 1276
Province of Pomerania 989 1035 1099 1214
Province of the Rhine 991 954 1008 1120
German Empire 995 1008 1087 1218

At the true marriageable age, from 15 to 40 years, the numerical superiority of women in the entire German Empire is 8 for every 1,000 men. The number of male inhabitants between 15 and 40 years of age is 11,100,673; the number of female inhabitants between 15 and 40 years of age is 11,187,779. So we have a super-abundance of 87,106 women. In 1900 there were 11,146,833 German women of child-bearing age (18 to 45 years). Among these only 6,432,772 (57.71 percent) were married; :283,629 (2.54 percent) were widowed; 31,176 (0.28 percent) were divorced, and 4,399,286 (39.47 percent) were single. The following table shows the proportion of the sexes in other countries:

In the year Number of women for every 1000 men
under 15 15 to 40 40 to 60 over 60
Germany 1900 995 1008 1087 1218
Austria 1890 1005 1046 1079 1130
Hungary 1900 998 1029 982 1033
Servia 1896 969 952 225 804
Italy 1881 963 1021 1005 980
Switzerland 1888 999 1059 1103 1148
France 1896 998 1012 1029 1108
Louxembourg 1900 992 853 988 1063
Belgium 1890 992 984 1018 1117
Netherlands 1899 986 1031 1031 1145
Denmark 1890 978 1080 1073 1179
Sweden 1899 971 1016 1146 1252
England and Wales 1891 1006 1075 1096 1227
Scotland 1891 973 1073 1165 1389
Ireland 1901 968 1037 1103 1032
United States of America 1900 979 969 989 987
Egypt 1897 943 996 943 1015
Japan 1891 978 962 951 1146
New South Wales 1891 978 827 679 665
Queensland 1891 976 698 559 611
Tasmania 1891 977 877 898 632
New Zealand 1891 979 927 661 654
Cape of Good Hope 1891 989 008 939 1019

This table shows that in all countries having a similar economic structure, similar conditions exist in regard to the proportion of the sexes. In all these countries then a great many women, – apart from all other obstacles already mentioned, – have no prospect of becoming married. In England in 1901 among 1,000 women over 15 years only 496.4 were married; in Scotland, 442.8; in Ireland, 370.9; in Sweden, 468.2; in Norway, 469.9.

How do these facts impress those persons who oppose the struggle of women for independence and equal rights by relegating them to marriage and the home? It is not due to ill will on the part of the women if so many fail to marry.

But what becomes of these victims of our social conditions? That nature has been sinned against is expressed in the peculiar features and traits of character by which old maids and ascetic old bachelors are distinguished from other persons in all countries and climates, and goes to show the strong and harmful influence resulting from the suppression of natural instincts. Many forms of hysteria among women are due to this cause. Hysteria is also caused by dissatisfaction in marriage, which sometimes results in sterility.

These are the general characteristics of modern marriage and its results. From them we must draw the following conclusion: Present-day marriage is an institution that is closely connected with existing social conditions, with which it must stand and fall. But this marriage is in a state of decline and dissolution as bourgeois society itself. Which are the salient points that we have determined in regard to bourgeois marriage?

1. – The birth-rate is declining although the population is increasing, which shows that the economic status of the family has deteriorated.

2. – Divorces are increasing more rapidly than the population is growing, and in most cases women are the ones to seek divorce, although they suffer most in consequence of it, both economically and socially. This shows that the unfavorable factors in marriage are increasing, that marriage is in a state of dissolution.

3. – The marriage-rate is declining, notwithstanding the fact that the population is increasing; which proves that in the eyes of many persons marriage no longer accomplishes its social and moral purpose and is regarded as worthless or of doubtful value.

4. – In almost all civilized states there is a disproportion in the number of the sexes, the female sex predominating. This is not due to natural causes, – since more boys than girls are born, – but to unfavorable social and political factors that are rooted in conditions of state and society.

As all these unnatural conditions that are especially harmful to women are established by the nature of bourgeois society and increase with the duration of its existence, this society proves itself incompetent to abolish the evils and to liberate woman. To accomplish this a different social order will be necessary.


1. Throughout India polygamy exists in only a moderate form. According to the census of 1901 which includes all religions, there were for every 1000 married men, 1,011 married women. According to this the monogamic equilibrium is not seriously interfered with. D. v. Mayer.

2. Karl Buecher, on the distribution of both sexes upon the earth; lecture delivered on Tan. 6, 1892, before the Geographical and Statistical Society of Frankfort on the Main. General Statistic Records published by Dr. George v. Mayer. Vol. 11. Tubingen, 1892.

3. G. v. Mayer – Dr. G Schnapper Arndt in his book of Social Statistics arrives at the same conclusion. “Taken all in all the proportion of both sexes is approximately equal”

4. According to G. Schnapper Arndt; founded on recent census figures, around the close of the century.

5. According to the census of 1890, there was an excess of boys only up to the tenth year of age, and according to the census of 1895, up to the sixteenth year,

6. “Hygienic and ethnological conditions of the German Empire.” Berlin, 1907 – During the year 1907 for every 100 female deceased there were 109.3 male.

7. Statistics of the German Empire. Census of Dec. 1, 1900.

8. Ely Metschnikoff – “The Nature of Man.”