Dora B. Montefiore, New Age August 1904
Source: New Age, p. 507-508, 11 August 1904;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
I want to call the attention of my Women readers to a book which has been already ably reviewed in THE NEW AGE, but which, it seems to me, is worthy of the special attention of women readers, and more especially of those who are engaged in educational and propaganda work amongst their fellow-women. A Vision of the Future, by Jane Hume Clapperton, is in effect a bringing up to date, and in some ways popularising, a work published by the same author some forty years ago under the title of Scientific Meliorism. That work was described by a critic, who had no knowledge of the author except through her writings, as “the Bible of Altruism”; and he says further on: “I have read and reread this book with an increasing sense of its value and importance as an exposition of the theory and practice of true Socialism. In the preface the author modestly states her purpose to be ‘the synthetic arrangement of ideas that are not original, but the common property of the age in which we live.’ .... As a guide to conduct, the book is so comprehensive and just that it may claim to stand for the Bible of Altruism. ... The spirit shown by the writer is one of intense sympathy with the needs of human nature in the various stages and conditions of modern life, and she has the art of making this sympathy contagious.” I give these extracts from a valuable criticism on the earlier book, because they apply with equal force to the volume now under consideration, and will give my readers a general idea of the scope and value of the two works. I happen to know that many women, anxious to read instructive and thoughtful works have been alarmed with the title of Scientific Meliorism, although it means nothing more than the science of improving or ameliorating social conditions, which we all acknowledge to stand sadly in need of improvement. But the title of the present work, A Vision of the Future, should prove more attractive; for, though not treating of some mechanical devised Utopia, it focuses the light of fresh knowledge which investigators of economic and social science have been collecting during the last generation for the service of mankind.”
As Jane Hume Clapperton writes “Philosophic thinkers recognise that the path of improved outward conditions and the path of inward progress for man lie parallel to each other. It is my belief that in this dawning epoch of conscious evolution man may, if he so chooses, push forward the actual life of to-day, and merge it into the ideal life of to-morrow.” It is this note of hopefulness – of making the best of present transition conditions, which are galling alike to the idealist and the realist, this insistent but firmly gentle teaching that men may rise, and are rising, on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things – that makes the book of special value to propagandists and teachers, who need a wisely-condensed text-book, which they may put into the hands of those who are seeking for knowledge and for light on the path. During the winter months many groups of women meet together weekly for mutual improvement, for reading, or for the discussion of Social and political subjects. A chapter of Miss Clapperton’s book read out loud, and afterwards discussed, at each meeting would open out many and practical fields of thought, and could not fail to be of valuable help to women in forming correct opinions on the various social and economic questions of the day. “The evils,” she writes, “that infest and corrupt our social life, and that men must deliberately uproot and eliminate before general happiness becomes possible, are poverty – i.e., a life-long struggle to obtain food, shelter, and clothing – the birth of individuals weak and unfit; disease; premature death; enforced celibacy; late marriage; drunkenness; disorganisation of family life; prostitution; war, and industrial competition; social injustice and inequality; individual tyranny; crime; barbarous treatment of criminals; disrespect of natural function, and consequent injury to health; conventional folly; social repression of innocent enjoyments; religious bigotry; the feebleness of religious guidance and confusion of religious thought.” Here is indeed, a list of subjects on which we all need to clarify our thought, and I believe women will find no better guide through the intricacies of these subjects than the able and warm-hearted fellow-woman who has made social problems the chief interest and study of her life; and who, whilst fully recognising and setting forth the low-crawling real, points us ever to the possible ideal, and, in the words of Emerson, “Hitches her wagon to a star.”
Australians are fond of speaking of their country as a white man’s country. Before long it will doubtless bear for women the proud distinction of being par excellence a white woman’s country, for there only and in the neighbouring colony of New Zealand are women really free citizens; there only can a mother boast of being the free mother of free sons and daughters. According to the latest cablegrams from New South Wales, the State election has just taken place, and women have recorded their vote in the colony for the first time in an election of that sort, though they had previously voted for candidates for the Commonwealth Parliament. It will be well for English women of all classes who are thinking of emigrating and starting homes in new lands to take these facts into consideration. Australia needs population to develop its wealth and resources, and Australia deserves the gratitude of women. It possesses a healthy climate, free from fevers and extremes of temperature – a climate where homes may be made and families reared; where education is excellent and practically free in its elementary and secondary stages; where a woman, having reared and prepared for citizenship her sons and daughters, may, if she be so minded, devote the rest of her life to public work either in the Parliament of her particular State or in that of the Commonwealth; and where the financial barrier, which too often in the old country shuts women out from a seat even in a Parish or Urban District Council, is non-existent – for payment of members assures to the woman working in the service of her country a salary of £300 a year. Canada, the Transvaal, and Cape Colony should be “out of it” as far as women are concerned; who, if they know and understand their own interests as do men, should soon be flocking to the land, where the women Uitlander has ceased to exist.
DORA B. MONTEFIORE