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The Woman's Journal & Education, Law and Depression... - History's Newsstand Blog : History's Newsstand Blog

The Woman’s Journal & Education, Law and Depression…

January 28, 2021 by  
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On the front page of a late 1800’s issue (Vol. XVII) of The Woman’s Journal three different topics caught my eye — and studying those prevented me from even opening up the issue.  Not included in my collection is the second entry of the column on the far right, entitled “Concerning Women”.  It reads, “Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe has just passed her seventy-fifth birthday.”  One of the most appealing things about old newspapers is that they put human details on the outline sketches of history, as with President Lincoln’s “little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

Of the more substantive things reported on June 26, 1886, a third of a column is devoted to the passage of legislation in Massachusetts that made it illegal for a man to seduce a woman, even if he was under 21 years of age.  With a bit of research I found that the crime described, “the making of a false promise of marriage as a way of luring a previously chaste unmarried woman into having sex.”  It baffles me that senators argued to keep this form of fraud legal for younger men since, “they did not think it is wise to punish a minor who might commit an offense in a moment of indiscretion.”

In the medical arena, Dr. John B. Gray addressed a group at Utica and focused on the malady we currently term postpartum depression.  He classifies this as a “preventable cause of insanity”, and urges the organization of private support for women after they have delivered babies, to take the form of home and personal care.  He claims that the burdens of “toil and worry” overwhelm a new mother, in some cases to the point of losing their sense of reason.  The article concludes with his plea, “I have heard the wail of sorrow come up from too many households to keep silent.  I have looked into the meaningless eyes of too many, lost by neglect, to stay my voice.”

Finally, I will let the first editorial note speak to the frustration that fueled the fire to grant women the right to vote in this country.  And, as always, I calculate the length of time over which this energy had to be sustained until the final passage in 1919 of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

College degrees are just now being given to men and women without any public outcry against the fair sex, or even a hint that they are out of their sphere or usurping the rights of the other sex.  So much is gained.  But these young women, who in the world of letters hold B.A. and M. A. and even LL.D., are under the law held as equals of lunatics and idiots, and of male felons in prison.  Such men and such women are alike denied the right to vote!

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