|Controversies About Women
Author: Stearns, Peter N
Document: Controversies About Women
Changes in family structure and some shifts in the economic roles of
women, plus ambivalent Protestant promptings about women that
family context but urged affection and respect between wives and
touched off new gender tensions in Western society by the 17th
of these tensions showed in witchcraft trials, so disproportionately
against women. Other tensions showed in open debate about women's
to men, in which new male hostility toward women not content with a
wifeliness vied with new claims of virtue and prowess by some women.
the debate centered in the upper class of Protestant nations such as
it may have had wider ramifications; some of these ramifications,
quieter during the 18th century, would burst forth again in
inequality and family confinement in the 19th century, when a more
feminist movement took shape in the West. In the selections below,
antiwoman position is set forth in a 1615 pamphlet by Joseph Swetnam;
favorable view implicitly urging new rights is in a 1640 pamphlet
pseudonymously authored by "Mary Tattle-well and Ioane Hit-him-home,
Swetnam's "Arraignment Of Women"
Men, I say, may live without women, but women cannot live without
for Venus, whose beauty was excellent fair, yet when she needed
she took Vulcan, a clubfooted Smith. . . .
For women have a thousand ways to entice thee and ten thousand ways
deceive thee and all such fools as are suitors unto them: some they
hand with promises, and some they feed with flattery, and some they
dalliances, and some they please with kisses. They lay out the folds
hair to entangle men into their love; betwixt their breasts is the
destruction; and in their beds there is hell, sorrow, and
eat not men till they are dead, but women devour them alive. . . .
It is said of men that they have that one fault, but of women it is
that they have two faults: that is to say, they can neither say well
well. There is a saying that goeth thus: that things far fetched and
bought are of us most dearly beloved. The like may be said of women;
many of them are not far fetched, yet they are dear bought, yea and
that many a man curseth his hard pennyworths and bans his own heart.
pleasure of the fairest woman in the world lasteth but a honeymoon;
while a man hath glutted his affections and reaped the first fruit,
pleasure being past, sorrow and repentance remaineth still with him.
Tattle-Well And Hit-Him-Home's "Women's Sharp Revenge"
But it hath been the policy of all parents, even from the beginning,
curb us of that benefit by striving to keep us under and to make us
Vassals even unto all posterity. How else comes it to pass that when
hath a numerous issue of Sons and Daughters, the sons forsooth they
first put to the Grammar school, and after perchance sent to the
and trained up in the Liberal Arts and Sciences, and there (if they
Blockheads) they may in time be book-learned? . . .
When we, whom they style by the name of weaker Vessels, though of a
delicate, fine, soft, and more pliant flesh therefore of a temper
of the best Impression, have not that generous and liberal
Education, lest we
should be made able to vindicate our own injuries, we are set only
Needle, to prick our fingers, or else to the Wheel to spin a fair
our own undoing, or perchance to some more dirty and debased
drudgery. If we
be taught to read, they then confine us within the compass of our
Tongue, and that limit we are not suffered to pass; or if (which
happeneth) we be brought up to Music, to singing, and to dancing, it
for any benefit that thereby we can engross unto ourselves, but for
particular ends, the better to please and content their licentious
when we come to our maturity and ripeness. And thus if we be weak by
they strive to make us more weak by our Nurture; and if in degree of
low, they strive by their policy to keep us more under.
Now to show we are no such despised matter as you would seem to make
come to our first Creation, when man was made of the mere dust of
The woman had her being from the best part of his body, the Rib next
heart, which difference even in our complexions may be easily
decided. Man is
of a dull, earthy, and melancholy aspect, having shallows in his
face and a
very forest upon his Chin, when our soft and smooth Cheeks are a
representation of a delectable garden of intermixed Roses and
Lilies. . . .
Man might consider that women were not created to be their slaves or
vassals; for as they had not their Original out of his head (thereby
command him), so it was not out of his foot to be trod upon, but in
out of his side to be his fellow feeler, his equal, and companion. .
Thus have I truly and impartially proved that for Chastity, Charity,
Constancy, Magnanimity, Valor, Wisdom, Piety, or any Grace or Virtue
whatsoever, women have always been more than equal with men, and
Luxury, Surquidant obscenity, profanity, Ebriety, Impiety, and all
that may be
called bad we do come far short of them.
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