Friday, November 27, 2015

Gender equality, 1870 style

In 1870, Henry Parker gave a speech arguing the women should be admitted to the Massachusetts Agricultural College.  That sounds like it would be in keeping with today's view of gender equality.  But if you look at what the speech says, it's not really how we think today.

He argued that just as men were learning farming at the college, women should also learn housekeeping.  A woman should learn to handle all the housekeeping on her own, so that she would be be "helplessly dependent on Celt or Chinaman."  She should learn housekeeping so that instead of "gossiping about her neighbhors' affairs," she can think about the chemical reactions involved in baking.  She should learn housekeeping so that instead of discussing "where this or that person buys sugar...and who does like sugar in tea and who doesn't, and whose aunt does and whose doesn't" she can instead think about the chemical properties of sugar.

Guess what.  I was educated, and I don't want to think about the chemical properties of sugar.  I want to think about humans, not necessarily my neighbors' affairs and who likes sugar in the tea, but such things related to humans and are more in keeping with my interests than

It reminds me of the story about when my great-grandparents first got married.  My great-grandfather knew that my great-grandmother had studied Latin, but had not studied Greek.  He thought she would enjoy it if he taught her Greek.  Turned out she would rather go for walks and see flowers.

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