Still Learning…Womankind & Celibacy v. Matrimony

August 24, 2020 by  
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As Womankind is less serious, less political, than its contemporary publications it seems the perfect thing to pick up on a sunny morning when the deepest thoughts I want to have concern the temperature of my morning cup of coffee.  In this frame of mind I turned pages until the following words caught my eye:

Nature has planted deep in the constitution of either sex an impulse toward one another.  Around this impulse, which nature simply bestows as part of her economy of self preservation, we have thrown a great deal of romantic drapery and pretty sentiment; have buried it in thickness of roses and lilies; have drowned its voice in songs and nightingales and tinkle of lutes and mandolins; have called upon the stars to witness to its loftiness…in fact, we have deified ourselves and our natural desires into some sort of impossible creation quite unfit for this mundane sphere.

Well, this unexpected phrasing led me to further examine the article, which spills into most of a fourth column on page 6 of the January 1893 issue.  The heading was even more startling, “Mrs. Frank Leslie Says Sensible Marriages Lead to Atrophy, Romantic Marriages to Murder and Suicide, Single Blessedness to Melancholy Madness.”

Collectors of newspapers will know the name “Frank Leslie“, many better than I do. As it turns out, this was indeed authored by the second wife of Frank Leslie, subsequent heir to his publishing enterprises.  She was a noted feminist and suffragist, editor and author.  According to Wikipedia, Miriam Squier received a business with $300,000 debt upon Leslie’s death, and turned it into a profitable enterprise.

Based on further commentary within the article that led me to this little discovery, I cannot imagine that Frank and Miriam knew great joy with one another.  But whatever the level of bliss, the impact that they made on the world of publishing cannot be denied.  In case you never have the opportunity to peruse this diatribe yourself, the following conclusion summarizes the whole:

Which then is better–or to put it a little more cynically, which is the lesser evil–the Scylla of matrimony or the Charybdis of single loneliness?  And if one decides for matrimony, which is the blacker gulf–that of a marriage de convenance, which we have styled a sensible marriage, or that of a marriage of romance and delusion, sure to end in bitter disillusion? I do not pretend to answer.  Like the sphinx, I only ask and wait for a reply.


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