Dora B. Montefiore, New Age November 1903
Source: New Age, p. 747, 19 November 1903;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The Congrès de l'Humanité, recently held in Paris, gave a very generous share of its time and its talent to the discussion of questions appertaining to what in France is known as “Fémini,” and in England as the Woman question. The general opinion of the readers of papers and of those who joined in the discussion seemed to be that until women in general, and mothers in particular, were directly consulted on questions dealing with the health and morals of the community, with the causes of depopulation, and the best means of promoting, when necessary, re-population, the progress of humanity would never proceed on the truest and wisest lines. As a specimen of medievalism still imposed on some Royal mothers in Europe, a passage was read from a contemporary newspaper describing how Queen Helène of Italy, after giving birth to her first child, was compelled, according to the custom of Montenegro, to ask pardon of her husband and of her mother-in-law for having ventured to present a daughter instead of a son to the House of Savoy! Monsieur Julien Hersant chivalrously suggested sending congratulations to the poor humiliated young Queen on the occasion of her having brought into the world a daughter, and this suggestion was accepted by the Congress with great empressement. Does not the whole performance denote a striking want of humour on the part of the Montenegrin nation, or of that part of it which arranges its regal ceremonies? I could understand the TWO delinquent parents apologising to the royal lady who was the mother to one and mother-in-law to the other offender; but for it to be considered necessary for the Queen to apologise to the King .... seems a little hard on the King.
Dr. Toulouse, a French scientist and homme de lettres, is about to edit and publish a Bibliothèque Biologique et Sociologique de la Femme. The work will consist of 20 volumes of three or four hundred pages each, and the price will be four francs a volume. Specialists in the various subjects are preparing volumes on Anthropology, Psychology, Pedagogy, Sociology, etc., as they relate specially to woman, to her physical and moral characteristics, and to the improvement of the conditions of her activities in the family and in society. As is always the case, our friends on the Continent are Working at the theory whilst we in England are stumbling about and getting many a fall whilst working at the practice. Both methods have much to recommend them, and our wisdom as advanced workers will lie in gleaning the best we can from both methods. It is certain that one cannot take up a paper or a review without reading some random or prejudiced opinion on sociological or kindred questions in which women are equally interested with men. Where the woman’s side of the question is concerned it seems generally quite sufficient for the man to say, “I am of opinion,” or “I hold,” in order to exalt such opinion or such bidding into a dogma. Until lately it has been specially difficult for thinking women to present any evidence “bien documenté” in reply to these ready made dogmas; for the majority of writings on these subjects have been compiled from the purely masculine point of view. Now, thanks to Dr. Toulouse, we hope to have a library of really scientific works in which women will be treated, not merely as a “rib” or as an adjunct of man, but as human beings for whom no apology is needed.
This does not mean, dear readers, a stool of repentance in a corner of the schoolroom, but a legally constituted juvenile court in Adelaide, South Australia, in which all boys or girls under 18, whether criminal or neglected, are dealt with! It would seem that Boston and Chicago have had juvenile courts for some years; that Philadelphia has just opened one; and that recently New York, that city of extremes, of desperate tenement poverty and boundless wealth, has assigned a separate building for the hearing of all cases involving children under sixteen. A woman writer describes in the columns of an Australian paper how “on a recent visit to Adelaide she attended three sittings of the children’s court.... At one end is the table where the magistrate sits; at one side the witness-box, and opposite a similar box for the the prisoner. Some officer of the State Children’s department is always present to watch the case on behalf of the accused. ... Among the advantages of the children’s court are its privacy, the absence of loaferdom, and of all the associations of criminality and dissipation, from which every decent mother would pray to have her children kept. Even the worst among the children, who may have already been tainted with crime, are not made any worse by their visit to the court, or their sojourn in the lockup.” Surely this is a common-sense and humanitarian way of treating youthful offenders, which should commend itself even to such a conservative community as is the centre of the British Empire.
Dora B. Montefiore.