Saturday, May 19, 2012

1912 – Early Feminists Against Misandry Say: “Give Men Rights”

FULL TEXT: The much-abused and grossly neglected person, the American wife, is again to the fore. Now it is William Hard, magazine sociologist and author of “The Women of Tomorrow,” who submits a legislative programme in behalf of married woman to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, meeting in San Francisco.

“The wife’s earnings should belong to her,” vehemently vociferates Mr. Hard. “There is just one case in which a wife should be charged with her husband’s support – when he is infirm and unable to work.

“Husband and wife should have precisely equal rights in the custody of their children,” he adds. “They should have equal rights to the services and earnings of their children, and to the arrangement of their children’s property.”


It seems to me that most sensible men and women will agree as to the justice of this latter paragraph. But why should a wife be entitled to the whole of her earnings any more than a husband is entitled to the whole of his? Even if there are no children, a man has to give a certain percentage of his wages to the woman he marries. The courts have so decided over and over again. A man may be separated or even divorced; he has to divide his pay envelope just the same. The only exception ever made to this rule is when to rthis rule is when the wife has been guilty of gross misconduct and, presumably, will be looked after by some other man.

The “gentle grafter” has always been one of my pet aversions, the lady who believes that while it may be more blessed to give it is certainly more comfortable to receive. Suspecting that I might find a sympathizer, I asked Mrs. A. C. Hughston, chairman of the Public Demonstration Committee of the Woman’s Suffrage party, if she thought a married wage-earner should let her husband pay all the household bills.


“This is of course an abominable state of affairs. But the wife is not always the patient, uncomplaining victim. Many an American husband turns over every penny he makes to the woman he marries, receiving back from her a meager allowance for carfare and lunches. Perhaps she runs up extra bills; if she does, he struggles meekly to pay them, and consoles himself with the fact that Mary and the girls look ‘better’n any body in town.’ He breaks down from overwork in his early maturity, and nobody has anything but pity for his family.

“This isn’t the right way to do business, either.

“The only fair and square settlement of the vexed question of matrimonial finance is the three pocketbook system. That is, the husband should have his private allowance, the wife hers – as exactly equal one – and the rest of their earnings should go into the joint fund for home and children.

“A wife out to be as valuable an economic factor as her husband in the partnership of marriage,” Mrs. Hughston declared. “If, through improper education, she is not his economic equal, she should give as much as she can. Certainly if she is a wage-earner she has no more right than her husband to keep all her salary out of the common fund.

“Probably the money question is responsible for more marital unhappiness than any other thing. There are two very wrong but very common ways of solving this problem. In one case the husband has the only pocketbook. His wife works for her board and lodging and such few clothes as she can wheedle out of her lord when she is in a good temper. She becomes the household drudge, and the man of the house swaggers about loudly declaring that ‘women ain’t fit to handle money.’

“If a woman continues to go to her office after marriage her household arrangements must be on a different scale from that which they would be if she stayed at home. One or more extra servants will be required. Or perhaps it will be required. Or perhaps it will seem best to live in an apartment hotel or at a boarding house.


“Now it would be manifestly unfair for that woman to spend all her salary on her own clothes, or deposit it to her husband pay rent or servants’ wages or board for the two of them, and perhaps, later on, for the children. A woman who marries take upon herself certain obligations. She is to be her husband’s helpmate, and that most emphatically does not mean that she should sit back and let him pay the bills.”

“Then you believe in men’s rights, as well as women’s?” I suggested.

“Indeed I do!” Mrs. Hughston asserted warmly. “So do all suffragists. We have always said that things are too hard for the men. If they weren’t, Kipling never could have written his bitter bachelor’s creed –

“’Strong hearts faint by a warm hearthstone.
He travels the fastest who travels alone.’

“Everywhere nowadays you hear men saying, ‘I’d like to marry, but I simply can’t afford it.’ So they put marriage off year after year, delaying their own and some woman’s happiness until it perhaps disappears altogether. Because, other things being equal, people who marry early in life are apt to be happier than the couples who wait. The young husbands and wives are more easily adaptive and grow together with less difficulty.

“The remedy for the delayed marriage is simply the popular chorus. ‘Put Your Wife to Work.’ Only the self-respecting wife to-day doesn’t have to be ‘put’ to work. She was a wage earner before she met her husband, and she asks nothing better than to continue doing the work she has come to love.”

[Marguerite Mooers Marshall, “Give Men Rights, Is the Doctrine of Suffragists – No Wife Should Take All of Her Husband’s Wages, Says Mrs. C. A. Hughston. - Wives Ought to Help. – They Should Not Keep Their Earnings Out of the Family Fund.” The World, Evening Edition (N.Y.), Jul. 6, 1912, p. 10]


  1. Suffragists ≠ Feminists.

    They're not the same thing.

    1. True. These are not synonyms. Yet it would take a lot of text to unpack all the variants, categories and definitions associated with the concept and term "feminism." In 1912 it was common for a suffragette to be called a "feminist," just as today a "feminist for life" can bee called a feminist at the same time a female supremacist can be called a feminist (or a marxist feminist, or a libertarian feminist, or an equity feminist, or a gender feminist, etc.). The most general meaning would be a person concerned with the political needs and desires of women. That is the sense I have used here.

  2. Your citation is just a page number and a date, you didn't even mention the publication (The Evening World); took me a minute but I found the original scan, it's on a .gov TLD making a source link and epic move...

    1. Thanks for pointing out my oversight. I have corrected the error.