Massachusetts Magazine:

Monthly Museum
Knowledge and rational Entertainment

No. III. 1789-03March, 1789.— Vol. I.

Printed at Boston,
By Isaiah Thomasand Company.
Sold at their Bookstore, No. 45, Newbury Street, by said Thomas at his
Bookstore in Worcester, and by the several Gentlemen who receive Subscriptions
for this Work.


To the Editors of the Massachusetts Magazine,

The following Essay is yielded to the patronage of Candour.—If it hath been anticipated,
the testimony of many respectable persons, who saw it in manuscript as early
as the year 17791779, can obviate the imputation of plagiarism.

On the Equality of the Sexes,

That minds are not alike, full well I know,

This truth each day’s experience will show;

To heights surprising some great spirits soar,

With inborn strength mysterious depths explore;

Their eager gaze surveys the path of light,

Confest it stood to Newton’s piercing sight.

Deep science, like a bashful maid retires,

And but the ardent breast her worth inspires;

By perseverance the coy fair is won.

And Genius, led by Study, wears the crown.

But some there are who wish not to improve,

Who never can the path of knowledge love,

Whose souls almost with the dull body one,

With anxious care each mental pleasure shun;

Weak is the level’d, enervated mind,

And but while here to vegetate design’d.

The torpid spirit mingling with its clod,

Can scarcely boast its origin from God;

Stupidly dull—they move progressing on—

They eat, and drink, and all their work is done.

While others, emulous of sweet applause,

Industrious seek for each event a cause,

Tracing the hidden springs whence knowledge flows,

Which nature all in beauteous order shows.

Yet cannot I their sentiments imbibe,

Who this distinction to the sex ascribe,

As if a woman’s form must needs enrol,

A weak, a servile, an inferiour soul;

And that the guise of man must still proclaim,

Greatness of mind, and him, to be the same:

Yet as the hours revolve fair proofs arise,

Which the bright wreath of growing fame supplies;

And in past times some men have sunk so low,

That female records nothing less can show.

But imbecility is still confin’d,

And by the lordly sex to us consign’d;

They rob us of the power t’ improve,

And then declare we only trifles love;

Yet haste the era, when the world shall know,

That such distinctions only dwell below;

The soul unfetter’d, to no sex confin’d,

Was for the abodes of cloudless day design’d.

Mean time we emulate their manly fires,

Though erudition all their thoughts inspires,

Yet nature with equality imparts,

And noble passions, swell e’en female hearts.

Is it upon mature consideration we
adopt the idea, that nature is thus
partial in her distributions? Is it
indeed a fact, that she hath yielded to
one half of the human species so unquestionable
a mental superiority? I
know that to both sexes elevated understandings,
and the reverse, are common.
But, suffer me to ask, in what
the minds of females are so notoriously
deficient, or unequal. May INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to that cb is unmatched.
not the intellectual powers be ranged
under these four heads—imagination,
reason, memory and judgment. The
province of imagination hath long
since been surrendered up to us, and we
have been crowned undoubted sovereigns
of the regions of fancy. Invention
is perhaps the most arduous
effort of the mind; this branch of
imagination hath been particularly
ceded to us, and we have been time out 133
out of mind invested with that creative
faculty. Observe the variety of
fashions (here I bar the contemptuous
smile) which distinguish and adorn the
female world; how continually are
they changing, insomuch that they almost
render the wise man’s assertion
problematical, and we are ready to
say, there is something new under the sun.
Now what a playfulness, what an
exuberance of fancy, what strength of
inventine imagination, doth this continual
variation discover? Again, it
hath been observed, that if the turpitude
of the conduct of our sex, hath
been ever so enormous, so extremely
ready are we, that the very first thought
presents us with an apology, so plausible,
as to produce our actions even
in an amiable light. Another instance
of our creative powers, is our talent
for slander; how ingenious are we at
inventive scandal? what a formidable
story can we in a moment fabricate
merely from the force of a prolifick
imagination? how many reputations,
in the fertile brain of a female,
have been utterly despoiled? how industrious
are we at improving a hint?
suspicion how easily do we convert
into conviction, and conviction, embellished
by the power of eloquence,
stalks abroad to the surprise and confusion
of unsuspecting innocence.
Perhaps it will be asked if I furnish
these facts as instances of excellency
in our sex. Certainly not; but as
proofs of a creative faculty, of a
lively imagination. Assuredly great
activity of mind is thereby discovered,
and was this activity properly directed,
what beneficial effects would follow.
Is the needle and kitchen sufficient
to employ the operations of a
soul thus organized? I should conceive
not. Nay, it is a truth that
those very departments leave the intelligent
principle vacant, and at liberty
for speculation. Are we deficient
in reason? we can only reason
from what we know, and if an opportunity
of acquiring knowledge hath
been denied us, the inferiority of our
sex cannot fairly be deduced from
thence. Memory, I believe, will be
allowed us in common, since every
one’s experience must testify, that a
loquacious old woman is as frequently INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to that cb is unmatched.
met with, as a communicative old
man; their subjects are alike drawn
from the fund of other times, and the
transactions of their youth, or of maturer
life, entertain, or perhaps fatigue
you, in the evening of their lives.
“But our judgment is not so strong—
we do not distinguish so well.”
it may be questioned, from what doth
this superiority, in this determining
faculty of the soul, proceed. May
we not trace its source in the difference
of education, and continued advantages?
Will it be said that the
judgment of a male of two years old,
is more sage than that of a female’s of
the same age? I believe the reverse
is generally observed to be true. But
from that period what partiality! how
is the one exalted, and the other depressed,
by the contrary modes of education
which are adopted! the one
is taught to aspire, and the other is
early confined and limitted. As their
years increase, the sister must be
wholly domesticated, while the brother
is led by the hand through all the
flowery paths of science. Grant that
their minds are by nature equal, yet
who shall wonder at the apparent superiority,
if indeed custom becomes
second nature; nay if it taketh place of
nature, and that it doth the experience
of each day will evince. At
length arrived at womanhood, the
uncultivated fair one feels a void,
which the employments allotted her
are by no means capable of filling.
What can she do? to books she may
not apply; or if she doth, to those
only of the novel kind,
lest she merit the
appellation of a learned lady; and
what ideas have been affixed to this
term, the observation of many can
testify. Fashion, scandal, and sometimes
what is still more reprehensible,
are then called in to her relief; and
who can say to what lengths the liberties
she takes may proceed. Meantime
she herself is most unhappy; she
feels the want of a cultivated mind.
Is she single, she in vain seeks to fill
up time from sexual employments or
amusements. Is she united to a person
whose soul nature made equal to her
own, education hath set him so far
above her, that in those entertainments
which are productive of such rational felicity, 134
felicity, she is not qualified to accompany
him. She experiences a mortifying
consciousness of inferiority,
which embitters every enjoyment.
Doth the person to whom her adverse
fate hath consigned her, possess a
mind incapable of improvement, she
is equally wretched, in being so closely
connected with an individual whom
she cannot but despise. Now, was she
permitted the same instructors as her
brother, (with an eye however to their
particular departments) for the employment
of a rational mind an ample
field would be opened. In astronomy
she might catch a glimpse of the immensity
of the Deity, and thence she
would form amazing conceptions of
the august and supreme Intelligence.
In geopraphy she would admire Jehovah
in the midst of his benevolence;
thus adapting this globe to the various
wants and amusements of its inhabitants.
In natural philosophy she
would adore the infinite majesty of
heaven, clothed in condescension;
and as she traversed the reptile world,
she would hail the goodness of a creating
God. A mind, thus filled,
would have little room for the trifles
with which our sex are, with too
much justice, accused of amusing themselves,
and they would thus be rendered
fit companions for those, who
should one day wear them as their
crown. Fashions, in their variety,
would then give place to conjectures,
which might perhaps conduce to the
improvement of the literary world;
and there would be no leisure for
slander or detraction. Reputation
would not then be blasted, but serious
speculations would occupy the lively
imaginations of the sex. Unnecessary
visits would be precluded, and that
custom would only be indulged by
way of relaxation, or to answer the
demands of consanguinity and friendship.
Females would become discreet,
their judgments would be invigorated,
and their partners for life being circumspectly
chosen, an unhappy Hymen
would then be as rare, as is now
the reverse.

Will it be urged that those acquirements
would supersede our domestick
duties. I answer that every requisite
in female economy is easily attained; INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to that cb is unmatched.
and, with truth I can add, that when
once attained, they require no further
mental attention. Nay, while we are
pursuing the needle, or the superintendency
of the family, I repeat, that our
minds are at full liberty for reflection;
that imagination may exert itself in
full vigor; and that if a just foundation
is early laid, our ideas will then
be worthy of rational beings. If we
were industrious we might easily find
time to arrange them upon paper, or
should avocations press too hard for
such an indulgence, the hours allotted
For conversation would at least become
more refined and rational. Should it
still be vociferated, “Your domestick
employments are sufficient”
—I would
calmly ask, is it reasonable, that a
candidate for immortality, for the
joys of heaven, an intelligent being,
who is to spend an eternity in contemplating
the works of Deity, should
at present be so degraded, as to be
allowed no other ideas, than those
which are suggested by the mechanism
of a pudding, or the sewing the seams
of a garment? Pity that all such censurers
of female improvement do not
go one step further, and deny their
future existence; to be consistent they
surely ought.

Yes, ye lordly, ye haughty sex, our
souls are by nature equal to yours;
the same breath of God animates, enlivens,
and invigorates us; and that
we are not fallen lower than yourselves,
let those witness who have
greatly towered above the various
discouragements by which they have
been so heavily oppressed; and though
I am unacquainted with the list of celebrated
characters on either side, yet
from the observations I have made in
the contracted circle in which I have
moved, I dare confidently believe,
that from the commencement of time
to the present day, there hath been as
many females, as males, who, by the
mere force of natural powers, have merited
the crown of applause; who,
thus unassisted, have seized the wreath of
fame. I know there are who assert,
that as the animal powers of the one
sex are superiour, of course their
mental faculties also must be stronger;
thus attributing strength of mind to
the transient organization of this earth born 135 born tenement. But if this reasoning
is just, man must be content to
yield the palm to many of the brute
creation, since by not a few of his
brethren of the field, he is far surpassed
in bodily strength. Moreover,
was this argument admitted, it would
prove too much, for occular demonstration
evinceth, that there are many
robust masculine ladies, and effeminate
gentlemen. Yet I fancy that Mr.
, though clogged with an enervated
body, and distinguished by a diminutive
stature, could nevertheless lay
claim to greatness of soul; and perhaps
there are many other instances
which might be adduced to combat
so unphilosophical an opinion. Do INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to that cb is unmatched.
we not often see, that when the clay
built tabernacle is well nigh dissolved,
when it is just ready to mingle with
the parent soil, the immortal inhabitant
aspires to, and even attaineth
heights the most sublime, and which
were before wholly unexplored. Besides,
were we to grant that animal
strength proved any thing, taking into
consideration the accustomed impartiality
of nature, we should be induced
to imagine, that she had invested
the female mind with superiour strength
as an equivalent for the bodily powers
of man. But waving this however
palpable advantage, for equality
we wish to contend.

To be concluded next month.


For the Massachusetts Magazine.

On the Equality of the Sexes.

Continued from page 135.

Iam aware that there are many
passages in the sacred oracles
which seem to give the advantage to
the other sex; but I consider all
these as wholly metaphorical. Thus
David was a man after God’s own
heart, yet see him enervated by his
licentious passions! behold him following
Uriah to the death, and shew
me wherein could consist the immaculate
Being’s complacency. Listen to
the curses which Job bestoweth upon
the day of his nativity, and tell me
where is his perfection, where his patience
literally it existed not. David
and Job were types of him who was
to come; and the superiority of man,
as exhibited in scripture, being also
emblematical, all arguments deduced
from thence, of course fall to the
ground. The exquisite delicacy of
the female mind proclaimeth the exactness
of its texture, while its nice
sense of honour announceth its innate,
its native grandeur. And indeed,
in one respect, the preeminence
seems to be tacitly allowed us, for
after an education which limits and
confines, and employments and recreations
which naturally tend to enervate
the body, and debilitate the
mind; after we have from early
youth been adorned with ribbons,
and other gewgaws, dressed out like
the ancient victims previous to a sacrifice,
being taught by the care of our
parents in collecting the most showy
materials that the ornamenting our
exteriour ought to be the principal
object of our attention; after, I say,
fifteen years thus spent, we are introduced
into the world, amid the united
adulation of every beholder.
Praise is sweet to the soul; we are
immediately intoxicated by large
draughts of flattery, which being INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to that cb is unmatched.
plentifully administered, is to the
pride of our hearts the most acceptable
incense. It is expected that with
the other sex we should commence
immediate war, and that we should
triumph over the machinations of
the most artful. We must be constantly
upon our guard; prudence and discretion
must be our characteristicks;
and we must rise superiour to, and
obtain a complete victory over those
who have been long adding to the
native strength of their minds, by an
unremitted study of men and books,
and who have, moreover, conceived
from the loose characters which they
have seen portrayed in the extensive
variety of their reading, a most contemptible
opinion of the sex. Thus
unequal, we are, notwithstanding,
forced to the combat, and the infamy
which is consequent upon the smallest
deviation in our conduct, proclaims
the high idea which was formed of
our native strength; and thus, indirectly
at least, is the preference acknowledged
to be our due. And if
we are allowed an equality of acquirement,
let serious studies equally
employ our minds, and we will bid
our souls arise to equal strength. We
will meet upon even ground, the despot
man; we will rush with alacrity
to the combat, and, crowned by success,
we shall then answer the exalted
expectations which are formed.
Though sensibility, soft compassion,
and gentle commiseration, are inmates
in the female bosom, yet against every
deep laid art, altogether fearless of
the event, we will set them in array;
for assuredly the wreath of victory
will encircle the spotless brow. If we
meet an equal, a sensible friend, we
will reward him with the hand of
amity, and through life we will be assiduous 224
assiduous to promote his happiness;
but from every deep laid scheme for
our ruin, retiring into ourselves, amid
the flowery paths of science, we will
indulge in all the refined and sentimental
pleasures of contemplation.
And should it still be urged, that the
studies thus insisted upon would interfere
with our more peculiar department,
I must further reply, that
early hours, and close application, will
do wonders; and to her who is from
the first dawn of reason taught to fill
up time rationally, both the requisites
will be easy. I grant that niggard
fortune is too generally unfriendly to
the mind; and that much of that
valuable treasure, time, is necessarily
expended upon the wants of the
body; but it should be remembered,
that in embarrassed circumstances our
companions have as little leisure for
literary improvement, as is afforded
to us; for most certainly their provident
care is at least as requisite as our
exertions. Nay, we have even more
leisure for sedentary pleasures, as our
avocations are more retired, much
less laborious, and, as hath been observed,
by no means require that
avidity of attention which is proper
to the employments of the other sex.
In high life, or, in other words, where
the parties are in possession of affluence,
the objection respecting time is
wholly obviated, and of course falls
to the ground; and it may also be
repeated, that many of those hours
which are at present swallowed up in
fashion and scandal, might be redeemed,
were we habituated to useful reflections.
But in one respect, O ye
arbiters of our fate! we confess that
the superiority is indubitably yours;
you are by nature formed for our
protectors; we pretend not to vie
with you in bodily strength; upon
this point we will never contend for
victory. Shield us then, we beseech
you, from external evils, and in return
we will transact your domestick
affairs. Yes, your, for are you not
equally interested in those matters
with ourselves? Is not the elegancy
of neatness as agreeable to your sight
as to ours; is not the well favoured
viand equally delightful to your taste;
and doth not your sense of hearing
suffer as much, from the discordant INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to that cb is unmatched.
sounds prevalent in an ill regulated
family, produced by the voices of
children and many et ceteras?


By way of supplement to the foregoing
pages, I subjoin the following extract
from a letter, wrote to a friend in the
December of 17801780.

And now assist me, O thou genius
of my sex, while I undertake the
arduous task of endeavouring to
combat that vulgar, that almost universal
errour, which hath, it seems,
enlisted even Mr. P—— under its
banners. The superiority of your
sex hath, I grant, been time out of
mind esteemed a truth incontrovertible;
in consequence of which persuasion,
every plan of education hath
been calculated to establish this favourite
tenet. Not long since; weak
and presuming as I was, I amused
myself with selecting some arguments
from nature, reason, and experience,
against this so generally received idea.
I confess that to sacred testimonies I
had not recourse. I held them to be
merely metaphorical, and thus regarding
them, I could not persuade
myself that there was any propriety
in bringing them to decide in this
very important debate. However, as
you, sir, confine yourself entirely to
the sacred oracles, I mean to bend
the whole of my artillery against those
supposed proofs, which you have
from thence provided, and from
which you have formed an intrenchment
apparently so invulnerable. And
first, to begin with our great progenitors;
but here, suffer me to premise,
that it is for mental strength I mean
to contend, for with respect to animal
powers, I yield them undisputed to
that sex, which enjoys them in common
with the lion, the tyger, and
many other beasts of prey; therefore
your observations respecting the rib
under the arm, at a distance from the
&c. &c. in no sort militate against
my view. Well, but the woman
was first in the transgression.
Strange how blind self love renders
you men; were you not wholly absorbed
in a partial admiration of your
own abilities, you would long since
have acknowledged the force of what
I am now going to urge. It is true some 225
some ignoramuses have absurdly enough
informed us, that the beauteous
fair of paradise, was seduced from
her obedience, by a malignant demon,
in the guise of a baleful serpent; but we,
who are better informed, know that
the fallen spirit presented himself to
her view, a shining angel still; for
thus, faith the criticks in the Hebrew
tongue, ought the word to be rendered.
Let us examine her motive—
Hark! the seraph declares that she
shall attain a perfection of knowledge;
for is there aught which is not comprehended
under one or other of the
terms good and evil. It doth not appear
that she was governed by any
one sensual appetite; but merely by
a desire of adorning her mind; a
laudable ambition fired her soul, and
a thirst for knowledge impelled the
predilection so fatal in its consequences.
Adam could not plead the
same deception; assuredly he was not
deceived; nor ought we to admire
his superiour strength, or wonder at
his sagacity, when we so often confess
that example is much more influential
than precept. His gentle partner
stood before him, a melancholy
instance of the direful effects of disobedience;
he saw her not possessed of
that wisdom which she had fondly
hoped to obtain, but he beheld the
once blooming female, disrobed of
that innocence, which had heretofore
rendered her so lovely. To him then
deception became impossible, as he
had proof positive of the fallacy of
the argument, which the deceiver had
suggested. What then could be his
inducement to burst the barriers, and
to fly directly in the face of that command,
which immediately from the
mouth of deity he had received, since,
I say, he could not plead that fascinating
stimulous, the accumulation of
knowledge, as indisputable conviction
was so visibly portrayed before him.
What mighty cause impelled him to
sacrifice myriads of beings yet unborn,
and by one impious act, which he saw
would be productive of such fatal effects,
entail undistinguished ruin upon
a race of beings, which he was yet to
produce. Blush, ye vaunters of fortitude;
ye boasters of resolution; ye
haughty lords of the creation; blush
when ye remember, that he was influenced INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to that cb is unmatched.
by no other motive than a bare
pusillanimous attachment to a woman!
by sentiments so exquisitely soft,
that all his sons have, from that period,
when they have designed to degrade
them, described as highly feminine.
Thus it should seem, that all
the arts of the grand deceiver (since
means adequate to the purpose are, I
conceive, invariably pursued) were
requisite to mislead our general mother,
while the father of mankind forfeited
his own, and relinquished the
happines of posterity, merely in compliance
with the blandishments of a
female. The subsequent subjection
the apostle Paul explains as a figure;
after enlarging upon the subject, he
adds, “This is a great mystery; but I
speak concerning Christ and the church.”

Now we know with what consummate
wisdom the unerring father of
eternity hath formed his plans; all the
types which he hath displayed, he
hath permitted materially to fail, in
the very virtue for which they were
famed. The reason for this is obvious,
we might otherwise mistake his
economy, and render that honour to
the creature, which is due only to the
creator. I know that Adam was a
figure of him who was to come. The
grace contained in this figure, is the
reason of my rejoicing, and while I
am very far from prostrating before
the shadow, I yield joyfully in all
things the preeminence to the second
federal head. Confiding faith is prefigured
by Abraham, yet he exhibits
a contrast to affiance, when he says
of his fair companion, she is my sister.
Gentleness was the characteristick of
Moses, yet he hesitated not to reply
to Jehovah himself, with unsaintlike
tongue he murmured at the waters of
strife, and with rash hands he break
the tables, which were inscribed by
the finger of divinity. David, dignified
with the title of the man after
God’s own heart, and yet how stained
was his life. Solomon was celebrated
for wisdom, but folly is wrote
in legible characters upon his almost
every action. Lastly, let us turn our
eyes to man in the aggregate. He is
manifested as the figure of strength,
but that we may not regard him as
any thing more than a figure, his soul
is formed in no sort superiour, but Vol.II. April, 1790. 2D every 226
every way equal to the mind of her,
who is the emblem of weakness, and INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to that cb is unmatched.
whom he hails the gentle companion
of his better days.