Dora Montefiore Justice 1910

The Present-Day Psychological Influence of Women

Source: Justice, Our Women’s Circle, p. 5, February 5, 1910;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

A comrade living in the East End of London writes me that at a meeting of the third Congress held by Russian psychiatrists last year a paper was read by A.N. Kremler on “The present domestic and social position of women as a source of psychical disease.” In the course of his remarks he said: “The relation of women to their child-bearing function demands special attention in order to ensure the well-being of both mother and child. Yet our legislation, as far as women’s questions are concerned, is very conservative. In the sphere of political rights women posses, only one — the right of capital punishment.” The following resolution was moved by A.N. Kremler and carried unanimously and enthusiastically: “Recognising that the unjust domestic and social position of women interferes with their well-being, and recognising that the duties of women, as mothers, educators and members of society are so important that they demand special protection and care, this third congress of Russian psychiatrists declares itself in favour of grunting complete suffrage and equality of women and men in the sphere of citizen, social, and political rights.” This appears to me to be a very remarkable resolution as corning from a body of scientific men met together to compare and interchange the results of their psychological studies. The human race, they realise, is not getting its fair share of the expression of the freed woman-soul and in proportion to the extent that it is deprived of that expression it is delayed and stultified on the path of human progress. As mothers, as educators, and as members of society, women, if they are to be true to the best within themselves, must be politically, economically, and socially free, so that they may courageously mould and expand the ductile mind of youth instead of, as they too often do now, cramp and distort that mind in order to bring it into the slavery in which they themselves have their being.

From Finland also comes the voice of a woman comrade, a member of the Finnish Diet, asking me to inform her what is attitude of English legislation towards the mother found guilty of child-murder? She takes it, no doubt, for granted that English criminologists have made a special study of this phase of psychical disease, which occasionally develops in women soon after child-birth. Unmarried mothers, more especially, who, after nine months of mental torture, bring into the world children who will have no name, no home, no standing in the world, no welcome from the community, are frequently driven by the promptings or sudden impulses of a certain pathological state to destroy their offspring, even while feeling real affection for it. But our most unscientific and mediaeval laws take no account of any such special pathological state. The girl-mother who murders her child before she herself has regained normal health and balance after child-bearing is tried by a male judge and jury, and with the same forms and procedure as is the hardened criminal who, for the sake of robbery or revenge, has planned and plotted to destroy his victim. The Finnish women legislators are turning their attention to subjects that specially affect the interests of women; among others, they are striving to improve the social and economic condition of children born outside the pale of marriage; and they are collecting information from other countries about the special legislative treatment of mothers who, under pressure of special circumstances, destroy their offspring.

Kichi-Kaneko, Citizen of the World

The cause of Socialist women has suffered a keen loss in the death of Kichi-Kaneko, the founder of the American newspaper, “The Progressive Woman.” He was born in October, 1876, at Sasage, near Yokohama, Japan, was educated at the mission school and college of his country, and at an early age chose literature as his profession. At twenty-one he was editing a monthly magazine in Tokio. Later on, his travels took him to America, and “it was in his struggles with conditions in New York and other cities of the East, together with his investigations as a student, that he finally carne to know and accept Socialism.” Theresa Malkiel writes of him in the “Chicago Daily Socialist: “Born in the Far East, where women are still kept in abject slavery .... He felt deeply for womanhood at large. The world will never knowall the struggles he had to undergo while championing woman’s cause. The work he and his good comrade wife have started will live for ever .... An alien in a strange land, he was the first among our Socialist men comrades to devote his life to sex emancipation, never deviating from the Socialist point of view, but at the same time proclaiming openly and fearlessly that human freedom cannot be achieved as long as one half of humanity is still enslaved. “The Progressive Woman,” which in its earlier numbers was known as “The Socialist Woman,” has found a warm welcome among English women comrades; and as we possessed no special organ over here of our own aspirations, we have made it the organ of the British Branch of the Women’s International Socialist Bureau. Our thoughts go out in fraternal sympathy to our comrade Josephine Conger-Kaneko, who is now left to carry on her own and her late husband’s life-work without the daily human intercourse and sympathy which makes the shared task so much lighter than the lonely one. The following lines, showing some of the aspirational side of the character of Kaneko, are from a poem entitled “My Country,” published in the “New York Journal”: —

“My country is where humanity is uplifted:
It is where men and women enjoy their rights.
My country is where Mazzinis might live;
It is where Bakunins could preach ....

In the geography of human progress
No one nation stands isolated;
All people are striving for one goal,
And there, too, my country I find.”