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Women as World Builders Studies in Modern Feminism

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The feminist movement can be dealt with in two ways: it can be treated as a sociological abstraction, and discussed at length in heavy monographs; or it can be taken as the sum of the action of a lot of women, and taken account of in the lives of individual women. The latter way would be called "journalistic," had not the late William James used it in his "Varieties of Religious Experience." It is a method which preserves the individual flavor, the personal tone and color, which, after all, are the life of any movement. It is, therefore, the method I have chosen for this book.

The ten women whom I have chosen are representative: they give the quality of the woman's movement of today. Charlotte Perkins Gilman—Jane Addams—Emmeline Pankhurst—Olive Schreiner—Isadora Duncan—Beatrice Webb—Emma Goldman—Margaret Dreier Robins—Ellen Key: surely in these women, [see also the chapter "Freewomen and Dora Marsden."] if anywhere, is to be found the soul of modern feminism!

One may inquire why certain other names are not included. There is Maria Montessori, for instance. Her ideas on the education of children are of the utmost importance, and their difference from those of Froebel is another illustration of the difference between the practical minds of women and the idealistic minds of men. But Madame Montessori's relation to the feminist movement is, after all, ancillary. A tremendous lot remains to be done in the way of cooperation for the management of households and the education of children before women who are wives and mothers will be set free to take their part in the work of the outside world. But it is the setting of mothers free, and not the specific kind of education which their children are to receive, which is of interest to us here.

Again, one may inquire why, since I have not blinked the fact that the feminist movement is making for a revolution of values in sex—why I have not included any woman who has distinguished herself by defying antiquated conventions which are supposed to rule the relations of the sexes. This requires a serious answer. The adjustment of one's social and personal relations, so far as may be, to accord with one's own convictions—that is not feminism, in my opinion: it is only common sense. The attempt to discover how far social laws and traditions must be changed to accord with the new position of women in society—that is a different thing, and I have dealt with it in the paper on Ellen Key.

Another reason is my belief that it is with woman as producer that we are concerned in a study of feminism, rather than with woman as lover. The woman who finds her work will find her love—and I do not doubt will cherish it bravely. But the woman who sets her love above everything else I would gently dismiss from our present consideration as belonging to the courtesan type.

It is not very well understood what the courtesan really is, and so I pause to describe her briefly. It is not necessary to transgress certain moral customs to be a courtesan; on the other hand, the term may accurately be applied to women of irreproachable morals....