American women have passed a long way to the social, economic, and political status they have these days. Throughout the previous centuries American women repeatedly reminded the government that changing life conditions transformed women’s role in the society, and new laws were required to reflect the new situation. Protection of women rights has become the core idea of feminist ideas and movements of the previous centuries. In order to illustrate the alterations of outlooks concerning women’s role in the society we shall arrange a kind of an “in absentia” (virtual) dialogue between two great feminists of the past times, i. e. : Anne Hutchinson and Margaret Fuller.
We shall also use positions of two women and their original beliefs as a fundamental for this imaginable conversation. THE IMAGINABLE DIALOGUE: Hutchinson: So, Mrs. Fuller, how did the role of women changed within these two centuries? Are my original beliefs supported now by women or do we still feel this terrible inferiority complex and are to be second-class social group? Fuller: Unfortunately, Mrs. Hutchinson only several aspects were changed by this time though some positive changes to better are also evident.
Of course we are not now as conservative as puritans in Massachusetts, nevertheless, we still possess many prejudices concerning the roles of women in the society. Your personal ideas are still shared only be few enlightened women while the rest of the weaker sex still believe that men are superior to the women. We still didn’t get the right to vote, we don’t have any social status and position, most professions are inaccessible for us. I strongly believe that American society of my time is fair only on words and voting for our social rights we still waste our breath.
However, I believe that more and more women start sharing the idea of social rights and fair society. Could you for instance imagine a women editor or women writer in your times? Nowadays it gradually becomes quite a normal practice. The fundamentals of Domesticity are also changing slow-by-slow in our times. Though women are still believed to be first good wives and mothers they have more social rights, education, a right to express own ideas and feelings that was prohibited in your times as far as I know. In a word, women have become more determinate now; much more than two centuries ago I’m sure.
There are, however, many aspects that didn’t change in our society. Let’s take the Biblical doctrine that “All men are created equal”. It has been reconsidered in our male-orientated society where women treated the same way with slaves. I strongly believe that we shall reconsider that orthodox Natural Law determining women’s inferiority and furthermore engage in social and political spheres. Hutchinson: That’s quite what I was voting for in XVI century, I mean equality between men and women that were created much the same by the God.
A believe that the God is responsible for our social roles and he doesn’t want men to be superior to the women. It’s moreover a crime to oppress femininity and countermeasure their social achievements and aspirations. That’s the quintessence of my feminists’ outlooks you know. I not at all share the idea that women should live according to the lockstep law that elder women must instruct the younger about their business, how to keep the house, to love their husbands and raise children. That idea is right only partially as far as women should be more active, more socially independent and open-minded.
Instead, we will have a one-way road where the social system, its general premises would be impaired due to women’s inequality. In my times, you know, women were completely repressed and disregarded for intellectual value by the Puritan church in Massachusetts. The only acceptable belief was that all intelligence and understanding was Cod-given to the men while women only have to be devoted to their husbands and children. You know women are always considered to be morally weak because Eve was the first to sin in the Garden of Eden.
I believe that all these idea need their reconsideration! If I have a God’s gift to forecast future it may mean that all the other women could also be gifted by the God and, hence, appear equal to the men. And what’s your idea of women in the society. Do you share the beliefs of the past time and has something changed in the issue? Fuller: Though I share many of your ideas concerning women’s role in the society, particularly their equality with men etc. I have many ideas of my own concerning the feminist problems and changing of women’s roles in the society.
I believe that within these two centuries we still have changed our perception of femininity and our present ideas lie not only in religious but also in a general social context. In a word, we don’t rely solely on Biblical definitions of masculinity and femininity and the rights of men and women respectively. Instead, we also rely on the science and progress that are gradually becoming more important in XIX century. The science has changed people’s mentality and therewith people’s perception of men and women’s social roles.
That’s the difference between our epochs, I reckon. I strongly believe that woman are to be regarded and treated as independent and intelligent, rational being, entitled to an equal voice with the men in all the aspects and I’m glad that many other women support this idea. That was impossible in your times where mass meetings of women were strongly prohibited. In some questions, looking from XIX century perspective, I believe, women are even superior to the men: we are more sensitive and tolerant, devoted and kind-hearted.
Women may be better teachers, doctors, writers and journalist. My example will not be an exception within several decades I believe. The issue we are struggling for now will be easily achieved in the coming XX century. I put these ideas of mine in the premises of my book “The Great Lawsuit: MAN versus MEN. WOMAN versus WOMEN” and its later revision called “Woman in the Nineteenth Century”. And I also have a question to the first feminist leader of America concerning yours, Mrs. Hutchinson, social perspectives of women. What are your ideas of the women roles in the society?
They are very difficult to gather now because you didn’t leave any written record of your outlooks and many of the documents reflect the bias of your conservative times! Hutchinson: Well, that’s not an easy question to answer I believe. The role of women to my mind is rather controversial and difficult to explain in a single sentence. On the one hand I strongly believe that women are equal to the men in most aspects. The fact that we are prohibited to speak in churches is a disdainful phenomenon that needs to be eliminated.
Women’s predestination to my mind is not only to raise children and provide good housekeeping as believed according to the fundamentals of Domesticity. At the same time I believe that women should vote for their greater rights in a free society we were trying to built here in America of XVII century. Unfortunately, my own efforts were in vain in New England puritans’ society where I advocated women’s right to pray as well as men. I believe that our external appearance doesn’t determine our social and religious relationships.
Orthodox outlooks of Puritans are necessary only to maintain the principles of Domesticity and support women’s inferiority in the society. This religion to my mind is to be changed. There are, of course, many aspects where women are not necessary to compete with the men; I mean first of all military sphere, trade, hunting etc. In church, however, I think that all are equal. And what are your ideas of the women’s roles; are they equal to the men and do we have to fight furthermore?