What’s Wrong with the World as seen in 1910

The woman beside the man, Frances Chesterton
GKC with his wife Frances

This is from What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton in 1910. Not all that much seems to have changed. This is from Part III: “Feminism, or the Mistake about Women”, Chapter VII: “The Modern Surrender of Women”. And just what was it they surrendered. They capitulated in accepting that work outside the home was better than work inside, and the things boys did were better than the things girls did, which until then they had denied

But in this corner called England, at this end of the century, there has happened a strange and startling thing. Openly and to all appearance, this ancestral conflict has silently and abruptly ended; one of the two sexes has suddenly surrendered to the other. By the beginning of the twentieth century, within the last few years, the woman has in public surrendered to the man. She has seriously and officially owned that the man has been right all along; that the public house (or Parliament) is really more important than the private house; that politics are not (as woman had always maintained) an excuse for pots of beer, but are a sacred solemnity to which new female worshipers may kneel; that the talkative patriots in the tavern are not only admirable but enviable; that talk is not a waste of time, and therefore (as a consequence, surely) that taverns are not a waste of money. All we men had grown used to our wives and mothers, and grandmothers, and great aunts all pouring a chorus of contempt upon our hobbies of sport, drink and party politics. And now comes Miss Pankhurst with tears in her eyes, owning that all the women were wrong and all the men were right; humbly imploring to be admitted into so much as an outer court, from which she may catch a glimpse of those masculine merits which her erring sisters had so thoughtlessly scorned….

For the truth is that they go mainly by precedent; by the mere fact that men have votes already. So far from being a mutinous movement, it is really a very Conservative one; it is in the narrowest rut of the British Constitution. 

And that, let me remind you, was written in 1910. Women, he wrote, sought the vote because men had the vote. As for drink, we have seen how well they hold up on a night out with some chap but that is still the ambition. And we know how well they withstand the pressures of politics. As for sport, we now have this:

A girl can do anything, once a guy does it first and then shows her how after she has “glimpsed those masculine merits” as Chesterton has put it.

1 thought on “What’s Wrong with the World as seen in 1910

  1. Pingback: What’s Wrong with the World as seen in 1910 - The Rabbit Hole

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