XVIII: THE GOAL
WHAT is the goal of woman's upward struggle? Is it voluntary motherhood?
Is it general freedom? Or is it the birth of a new race? For freedom is not fruitless,
but prolific of higher things. Being the most sacred aspect of woman's freedom, voluntary
motherhood is motherhood in its highest and holiest form. It is motherhood unchained
; motherhood ready to obey its own urge to remake the world.
Voluntary motherhood implies a new morality ; a vigorous, constructive,
liberated morality. That morality will, first of all, prevent the submergence of womanhood
into motherhood. It will set its face against the conversion of women into mechanical
maternity and toward the creation of a new race.
Woman's role has been that of an incubator and little more. She has
given birth to an incubated race. She has given to her children what little she was permitted
to give, but of herself, of her personality, almost nothing. In the mass, she has brought
forth quantity, not quality. The requirement of a male dominated civilization has been
numbers. She has met that requirement.
It is the essential function of voluntary motherhood to choose its own
mate, to determine the time of childbearing and to regulate strictly the number of offspring.
Natural affection upon her part, instead of selection dictated by social or economic
advantage, will give her a better fatherhood for her children. The exercise of her right
to decide how many children she will have and when she shall have them will procure for
her the time necessary to the development of other faculties than that of reproduction.
She will give play to her tastes, her talents and her ambitions. She will become a full-rounded
Thus and only thus will woman be able to transmit to her offspring those
qualities which make for a greater race.
The importance of developing these qualities in the mothers for transmission
to the children is apparent when we recall certain well-established principles of biology.
In all of the animal species below the human, motherhood has a clearly discernible superiority
over fatherhood. It is the first pulse of organic life. Fatherhood is the fertilizing
element. Its development, compared to that of the mother cell, is comparatively new.
Likewise, its influence upon the progeny is comparatively small. There are weighty authorities
who assert that through the female alone comes those modifications of form, capacity
and ability which constitute evolutionary progress. It was the mothers who first developed
cunning in chase, ingenuity in escaping enemies, skill in obtaining food, and adaptability.
It was they also who attained unfailing discretion in leadership, adaptation to environment
and boldness in attack. When the animal kingdom as a whole is surveyed, these stand out
as distinctly feminine traits. They stand out also as the characteristics by which the
progress of species is measured.
Why is all this true of the lower species yet not true of human beings?
The secret is revealed by one significant fact ; the female's functions in these animal
species are not limited to motherhood alone. Every organ and faculty is fully employed
and perfected. Through the development of the individual mother, better and higher types
of animals are produced and carried forward. In a word, natural law makes the female
the expression and the conveyor of racial efficiency.
Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law,
is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit,
of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives. So, in
compliance with nature's working plan, we must permit womanhood its full development
before we can expect of it efficient motherhood. If we are to make racial progress, this
development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman. Then and
then only can the mother cease to be an incubator and be a mother indeed. Then only can
she transmit to her sons and daughters the qualities which make strong individuals and,
collectively, a strong race.
Voluntary motherhood also implies the right of marriage without maternity.
Two utterly different functions are developed in the two relationships. In order to give
the mate relationship its full and free play, it is necessary that no woman should be
a mother against her will. There are other reasons, of course ; reasons more frequently
emphasized ; but the reason just mentioned should never be overlooked. It is as important
to the race as to the woman, for through it is developed that high love impulse which,
conveyed to the child, attunes and perfects its being.
Marriage, quite aside from parentage, also gives two people invaluable
experience. When parentage follows in its proper time, it is a better parentage because
of the mutual adjustment and development ; because of the knowledge thus gained. Few
couples are fitted to understand the sacred mystery of child life until they have solved
some of the problems arising out of their own love lives.
Maternal love, which usually follows upon a happy, satisfying mate love,
becomes a strong and urgent craving. It then exists for two powerful, creative functions.
First, for its own sake, and then for the sake of further enriching the conjugal relationship.
It is from such soil that the new life should spring. It is the inherent right of the
new life to have its inception in such physical ground, in such spiritual atmosphere.
The child thus born is indeed a flower of love and tremendous joy. It has within it the
seeds of courage and of power. This child will have the greatest strength to surmount
hardships, to withstand tyrannies, to set still higher the mark of human achievement.
Shall we pause here to speak again of the rights of womanhood, in itself
and of itself, to be absolutely free? We have talked of this right so much in these pages,
only to learn that in the end, a free womanhood turns of its own desire to a free and
happy motherhood, a motherhood which does not submerge the woman, but which is enriched
because she is unsubmerged. When we voice, then, the necessity of setting the feminine
spirit utterly and absolutely free, thought turns naturally not to rights of the woman,
nor indeed of the mother, but to the rights of the child ; of all children in the world.
For this is the miracle of free womanhood, that in its freedom it becomes the race mother
and opens its heart in fruitful affection for humanity.
How narrow, how pitifully puny has become motherhood in its chains!
The modern motherhood enfolds one or two adoring children of its own blood, and cherishes,
protects and loves them. It does not reach out to all children. When motherhood is a
high privilege, not a sordid, slavish requirement, it will encircle all. Its deep, passionate
intensity will overflow the limits of blood relationship. Its beauty will shine upon
all, for its beauty is of the soul, whose power of enfoldment is unbounded.
When motherhood becomes the fruit of a deep yearning, not the result
of ignorance or accident, its children will become the foundation of a new race. There
will be no killing of babies in the womb by abortion, nor through neglect in foundling
homes, nor will there be infanticide. Neither will children die by inches in mills and
factories. No man will dare to break a child's life upon the wheel of toil.
Voluntary motherhood will not be passive, resigned, or weak. Out of
its craving will come forth a fierceness of love for its fruits that will make such men
as remain unawakened stand aghast at its fury when offended. The tigress is less terrible
in defense of her offspring than will be the human mother. The daughters of such women
will not be given over to injustice and to prostitution; the sons will not perish in
industry nor upon the battle field. Nor could they meet these all too common fates if
an undaunted motherhood were there to defend. Childhood and youth will be too valuable
in the eyes of society to waste them in the murderous mills of blind greed and hate.
This is the dawn. Womanhood shakes off its bondage. It asserts its right
to be free. In its freedom, its thoughts turn to the race. Like begets like. We gather
perfect fruit from perfect trees. The race is but the amplification of its mother body,
the multiplication of flesh habitations ; beautified and perfected for souls akin to
the mother soul.
The relentless efforts of reactionary authority to suppress the message
of birth control and of voluntary motherhood are futile. The powers of reaction cannot
now prevent the feminine spirit from breaking its bonds. When the last fetter falls the
evils that have resulted from the suppression of woman's will to freedom will pass. Child
slavery, prostitution, feeblemindedness, physical deterioration, hunger, oppression and
war will disappear from the earth.
In their subjection women have not been brave enough, strong enough,
pure enough to bring forth great sons and daughters. Abused soil brings forth stunted
growths. An abused motherhood has brought forth a low order of humanity. Great beings
come forth at the call of high desire. Fearless motherhood goes out in love and passion
for justice to all mankind. It brings forth fruits after its own kind. When the womb
becomes fruitful through the desire of an aspiring love, another Newton will come forth
to unlock further the secrets of the earth and the stars. There will come a Plato who
will be understood, a Socrates who will drink no hemlock, and a Jesus who will not die
upon the cross. These and the race that is to be in America await upon a motherhood that
is to be sacred because it is free.
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