The following is a booklet by Katharine Bushnell. We received a
copy from her great-nephew John Bushnell who wrote to tell us that he
had a few of her works. The article was written while Katharine
was working with the W.C.T.U. (Women's Christian Temperance Union).
Her interest was in promoting morality. She believed that the
problems created by drink were symptoms of a deeper problem.
In The Woman Condemned Bushnell finds in the actions of a superstition
based Chinese practice a remarkable analogy to the common method of
civilized nations in dealing with sexual crime? We thank John
Bushnell for adding to our collection of Katherine's works.
By KATE C. BUSHNELL, M.D.,
NATIONAL EVANGELIST TO THE DEPARTMENT FOR THE
OF SOCIAL PURITY, W.C.T.U.
Price, single copy 5 cents, 10 or more copies,
each 3 cents, per 100 $2.50.
WOMAN’S TEMPERANCE PUBLICATION ASSOCIATION.
THE WOMAN CONDEMNED.
By KATE C.
“I saw a most
shocking thing tonight!” exclaimed a fellow missionary to the writer, one
evening several years ago, as she entered our home in far-away China. “I was
going down the street that leads to the south city gate, and came upon the dead
body of a girl by the roadside! It was a ghastly encounter, blackened and
bloated as the body was, and liable, in its exposed condition, to be devoured by
a jackal or some other animal during the night. I judged they were the remains
of some poor creature who had been struck by lightning during this afternoon’s
“You know, I suppose,” she
continued, “the Chinese superstition? Every murderer is in danger of being
killed by lightning as a judgment from Heaven, and none but murderers ever die
in that shocking manner.”
I had not heard of this
superstition, and was so interested to learn more about the case, that early the
following day we sought out the scene of the shocking accident.
The storm-clouds had
disappeared, leaving the sky beautifully clear and the air bracingly pure. But
it was midsummer in an almost tropical climate, and the sun’s rays were
There lay the corpse as it had
been seen the night before, draggled and bloated and rapidly decomposing in the
sun’s fierce heat. A Large crowd had gathered about it, and they were coming and
going and earnestly discussing the crimes of which the dead one was suspected,
and relating the incidents of the terrible catastrophe.
We were told that our
supposition as to the cause of death was correct. The lightning had selected the
little mud hut across the way as the object upon which to display its wrath.
Burning a hole through the roof, it had darted into the family circle and
smitten the eldest daughter with instant death, revealing, to the thought of the
people, the indignation of God against a family who had secretly committed
murder, and exposing the daughter as chief instigator of the crime.
And now the reputation of the
whole family was hopelessly ruined, unless the surviving members should be able
to show by proper demeanor an utter abhorrence of the criminal daughter.
In hopes of reinstating
themselves in the good opinions of their neighbors and of saving themselves from
possible riotous persecution, immediately after the mishap the parents had
lifted the lifeless corpse of their child, and bearing it through the door, laid
it down by the muddy roadside, all exposed to the pelting rain. And then
returning, they had locked themselves in their home, giving no response to the
many who came seeking entrance.
To have dared mourn for their
dead or to have performed any offices to render the body more decent in
appearance would have been equal to admitting that they were not only in
sympathy with the girl in her misfortune, but in league with her crime. All this
we learned from those about us as we stood listening to the sentiments they
expressed and analyzing their moods.
Mild-faced women came and
gazed thoughtfully upon the distorted features, and then turned away with sighs
that betokened their inability to reconcile their pleasant memory of the young
woman with the disgraceful termination of her brief career.
Reckless, gossipy women stood
about and drew copiously on their imagination for material with which to paint
up the supposed crimes of the stricken one. Every little fault that had ever
been detected in her was distorted and exaggerated into proof that she had
always been hopelessly bad.
Children were playing about,
and inventing new games full of murders, and deaths by lightning.
The people, with one voice,
were declaring their utter inability to comprehend how anyone ever could be
tempted to commit murder; all of which would have sounded better from some other
people whose reputation for infanticides was not so well known and whose laws
did not, as Chinese laws do, look upon the murder of wives and children as
Some sought notoriety for a
peculiar abhorrence of crime by heaping contempt upon the helpless, lifeless
But there was one man of
different mind from the other natives, and with the courage born of deep
conviction, he shouted, “For shame! I don’t think this poor girl is much worse
than the rest of us! I don’t believe we would all be alive if the lightning
struck every murderer! I don’t know of any good reason for believing that the
worst criminals get killed!” But his brave defense was met by the cowardly
retort, “Oh, how does it happen that this man has such a peculiar sympathy for a
murderer? He must have a secret history which would account for it!”
We could not exclaim to each
other the harm that this false belief had upon those who had accepted it. The
more charitable and thoughtful had received an ineffaceable impression that
God’s mercy was limited and His punishment for sin attended with cruelty. The
thoughtless had found new food for gossip and new temptation to exaggerate and
vilify. Children who had seen the victim and heard the scandal had taken lessons
in cruelty, and were fast obliterating their former horror for sin by the
pleasurable excitement of introducing its features into their games. The
hypocrite had become more brazenly false, and was reveling in a cowardly triumph
over the disgraces. The people, all unconscious of the real nature of the crime
in question, and forgetting their own secret murders, because neither criminal
law nor judgment from Heaven had as yet punished them, were sadly confusing
misfortune with immorality and mistaking a calamity for a crime. And the only
one who had dared to raise his voice in defense of the good there might have
been in the lifeless victim and in condemnation of the evil there was in the
living people – a much more practical act than any others had thought of – had
been rewarded for his courageous conduct by mistrust and derision.
Leaving the babbling company,
we picked our way across the muddy street to the little hut. So soon as the
family understood that it was the “foreign teachers” who sought admittance, the
door was unbolted.
As we attempted to glide
quietly through the half-opened door someone saw the act, and in an instant the
whole rabble were at our backs, in hopes of forcing their way in after us. But
we bolted the door against them, and thus disappointed their desire to gratify a
heartless curiosity and heap contempt upon the relatives of the deceased.
We gazed about the room. Upon
a couch in the corner sat a little girl of eight or ten summers, and by her side
stood the mother, in tearless, stolid bereavement. The father was busily
occupied in another part of the room nailing a few rough boards together for a
box in which to stow away the polluted remains. According to custom, he was to
go alone, and without ceremony hide the disgraced thing under the ground.
For several moments the family
was disinclined to converse, so we went about the house examining the marks that
indicated the course of the lightning, and commenting on them. We explained to
the family the nature of electricity and its preference for metals, pointing to
the old scythe hanging on the wall which had attracted the lightning, and from
which a shaft had been diverted to the head of the young woman.
Soon we were gratified by
seeing the mother give vent to a copious flood of tears; and the old father’s
voice trembled as he thanked us for our kindness in thinking better of them than
others did. Then the poor little girl uttered a complaint, and, to our
astonishment, we learned, for the first time, that one entire lower extremity of
the little form had been turned to a blister by the cruel lightning. With the
remarkable tenacity of purpose exhibited by one determined not to lose her
reputation, she had endured the pain hour after hour in stoical silence, lest a
tear or groan would betray her disgrace. Nothing had been done to mitigate her
suffering, the mother deeming it a greater impropriety to dress the wound of
disgrace than to ignore its existence.
Once again we could not but
remark on the injury wrought by false doctrine. For in the home we found that
sorrow for the dead was forbidden, care for the suffering prevented, and every
inmate embittered by becoming an object of heartless suspicion and unmerited
According to Chinese
superstition, the victim of a lightning-stroke is a murderer. Therefore the
“lightning-struck” is to the Chinese synonymous with murderer; so that, in view
of the looseness of Chinese criminal law in its dealings with the most flagrant
forms of murder, we are justified in saying that the above-described case
represents fairly one of the most important Chinese methods that have for its
object the suppression of the crime of murder.
You smile at its obtuse
impracticality. You characterize it as heathenish, barbarous. But may we not
find here a remarkable analogy to the common method of civilized nations in
dealing with sexual crime?
I emphatically think we do;
for while in Christian countries the severest penalties that society can inflict
are visited upon disgraced girls, this sin, per se, is neither dealt with
by forceful laws nor high moral sentiment. Houses of prostitution are permitted
to exist everywhere, and men are allowed, without fear of molestation from the
officers of the law, to visit them and to boast openly of their exploits as
libertines in houses of ill-fame or as seducers in the homes of Christian
families. Think of it! Such liberty is not allowed to any other criminal. And of
how serious a nature is the crime they commit! The vast majority of our murders
and suicides have their provocation in illicit love, and thousands of times
every year young innocent girls are brutally outraged – a crime by the side of
which murder pales into meanest insignificance. Worse than all, this crime of
all crimes has to do with the ushering into existence of thousands of children
yearly, of basest inherent tendencies – a vast horde who crowd our pauper
institutions and blacken our criminal records.
This evil is so common that
every sixth child in one county in Scotland is officially recorded as
illegitimate. If thus common there – and only cases are recorded as illegitimate
where parents do not try to hide their shame by falsehood – what may it not be
in our country? According to Noeggerath, of New York, and Ricord, of France,
eight tenths of all men are diseased from one form only of disease resulting
from early indiscretions, and their wives are almost universally infected also.
(Ziemssen’s Cyclopedia of the Practice of Medicine, vol. x., page 446.)
Shall we speak of the crime of
murder in connection with such iniquity? It belongs in decenter company.
Supposing I tell you that in
heathen China, across the sea, the walls of some of the large cities are
reinforced by hollow pillars, the object of which is to find a place for the
deposition of living female babes! And mothers and fathers come to these
“baby-towers,” as they are called, and drop their living children down into the
pit on the squirming mass of corruption below. It is said that the stench of the
lower stratum of the dead is sickening, while the moans of the upper living
stratum are horrible.
Why, that is nothing to
shudder over! It merely expresses the light estimate that heathens put on female
life. Let me rather turn your attention to the light estimate modern
civilization puts on female virtue. Let us go to the city of Chicago and see the
houses if ill-fame, the veritable “maiden-towers,” for the destruction of young
womanhood’s chastity that have been erected all over that city. And innocent
girls are dropped into these pits almost daily. Our papers have recently
described how girls are being allured from their homes in Canada to be
incarcerated in these “maiden-towers.” Within a month or six weeks the Woman’s
Reading-Room of Chicago helped to fish out five girls who had been deposited
there. On Dearborn Street you will see the upper stratum of these victims, and
their cries for escape, if not deadened by padded walls, would rend your heart
with horror. On Pacific Avenue you can see the lower stratum of the writhing,
dying mass. The stench of the vileness is horrible. Most of them are past
struggling any longer – they are hopelessly waiting to rot.
A moment ago, when describing
Chinese “baby-towers,” you wished to ask, “Why, in the name of humanity, if
missionaries see such wholesale murder of babes, do they not go out and riddle
the towers to pieces?” But missionaries have not yet, so far as I know, done so.
Had I ever seen one, I judge that I should have let it alone. I think I should,
though you might detest me for my cowardice. And my reason for thinking so is
because I have always calmly tolerated the house of prostitution of America.
A considerable number of girls
of innate base propensities may seek the yawning mouths of these
“maiden-towers.” A large number are driven to the dangerous neighborhood by
hunger and poor health. But while the woman’s part is base and weak enough, in
all candor we must admit, that owing to the nature of this dual soul murder
which is committed, no woman ever yet went down into the cavern except a man
dropped her over the brink.
“Baby-towers” in China, after
all, rest upon God’s clean earth, so that when these babes of the lower stratum
die they gradually return to the peaceful dust of which they were made. But the
“maiden-tower” of America is but a mouth to the bottomless pit, and girls are
dropped into them, and resting a moment at the very gates of hell, their
decaying debris is made the soil into which is planted the seed of human life.
The girl falls into perdition, but this fungoid growth of illegitimate offspring
lives and flourishes to pollute the earth.
I have heard heathen women
relate with considerable gusto the circumstances of their murder of female
offspring. But there is greater wrong on the earth than this. And men are
standing on our street-corners, sitting on our judicial benches, even kneeling
among the worshippers in the house of God, who, when alone with men, find no
richer theme of discussion than the stealing of the forbidden fruit of lust, and
the memory of its flavor causes their vile mouths to water.
They boast, not of babes
against whom they have lifted the hand with such violence that the innocent soul
took its flight to heaven while the helpless body returned to the earth of which
it was made – no, they boast of the soul they have sent to perdition, and the
bodies they have turned to living corruption, and of the illegitimate offspring
they have ushered into the world, to add a double measure to its crime and
What does the law of our
boasted civilization do to stamp out of existence this nameless crime? Does it
hush the libertine’s boast? No. Does it punish his crime? No. Does it seek
information upon which to punish the adulterer’s infamy? Rather, it shields his
secrets by the perversion of the blackmail law. Does it tear down the house of
ill-fame? No; it rather struggles to license the “maiden-tower” as a necessary
evil, and disinfect it by Contagious Diseases Acts.
Has it even attempted to stay
the hand the demon of lust lifts against innocent, unprotected girlhood? Hardly;
for if a bad man can betray an ignorant girl into going to the edge of the
dangerous pit, he may drop her over, saying, “She is twelve years old; she is
responsible. I am a shrewd fellow, she is a fool; punish her for her silliness,
and let me go free, so that I may find more foolish girls. I like my occupation.
I like public sentiment which permits men to be bolder than women, in
consequence of which I can be aggressive enough to find out the moral stamina of
any woman or girl with whom I associate, and can make the most of my
opportunities. I like the teaching that woman holds the moral character of her
male associates in her own hand, and can mould it to her own lofty sentiment,
for then when I lead a girl away with me, the blame is put on her for my action.
I suffer no penalty. I like moral teachers who say that ‘when woman falls she
falls so much lower than a low man,’ for this doctrine, which makes me so much
better than my victims, frees me from condemnation to their society only, and
allows me to mingle freely with the innocent, thus affording the opportunity of
selecting more foolish girls of weak character past twelve years of age, to fit
them for the ‘maiden-tower.’”
Half-civilized China furnishes
an example of how heathen superstition may confuse the moral perception of a
people in regard to even such glaring crimes as murder. Natives sometimes recite
on the street details of their destruction of female infants; “baby-towers”
exist in some places for the convenience of the child-slayer, and parents of
girls and husbands of women, too cowardly to openly slay, very commonly harass
daughters and wives by hunger and hardship to the suicide’s death, just as
libertines in America worry the unprotected working-girl to moral death. All
this evil is wrought under the impression that female life is not so valuable as
male, and with the thought that as these kinds of crime have never yet been
avenged by thunderbolts from Heaven, therefore they are trivial in nature. Let
China sink lower in moral degradation as to the crime of murder, while at the
same time she catches a reflection of the polish of western civilization. Then
she will say, “These ‘baby-towers’ are a necessity of our advanced civilization.
Let us disinfect their corrupting contents by the enforcement of Contagious
Diseases Acts. Let us also reap some benefit from them as a nation as well as
individuals. We will license them.” Then shall have dawned a day for China when
moral teacher and philosopher alike will be saying, “It is natural and not
necessarily sinful for man to have murderous impulses toward wife, and parents
toward female children.” And murderous men with garments all spattered with the
blood of wives will enter the best of native homes, to be fawned over and
flattered by the sisters of their victims.
And when this day of blood
shall have dawned upon China, America and England will be furnished with a
parallel to their present day of lust – a parallel fainter indeed in outline by
so much as a profligate waste of female life is less horrible than a profligate
waste of female virtue.
We have, in actuality, no
adequate laws except moral sentiment to restrain anyone from prostituting his
body to the service of sin. And this law operates almost wholly against the
female, in restraining her from planning the ruin of the male. Just as in China
design against male is a greater crime than design against female life, so has
tradition handed down to us the maxim, that for a woman to harbor bases impulses
toward a man is a more disgustful, criminal matter than the reverse. The sin of
the woman is loathsome enough to be painted in blackest dye, but man’s base
impulses toward the woman have been treated too often as a trivial matter by
both men and women.
This larger value of the man’s
purity, when he cares to keep it, as compared with the woman’s has been one of
the important links in the chain of public sentiment that has ever bound the
woman to virtue. Another link, and doubtless the first one, we will express in
the words of Miss Frances Willard: “Having dominated a tribe during his
lifetime, the chieftain wished a son to inherit his prowess and the prerogatives
he could no longer grasp. But in order to satisfy the chieftain’s sense of
ownership and gain the tribe’s submission, this son must be undoubtedly his own.
Hence, to assure this fact, the most cruel expedients were resorted to.” One
more important link is the heathen superstition, from which modern civilization
can scarcely rid itself – that the sinner upon whom misfortune falls is the
worst sinner of all. Fallen woman is the “lightning struck” sinner. She is an
exposed criminal; she cannot keep her crime hid as man can. It tells too
painfully on her health; it lies too weightily on her conscience; or the
offspring of lust enters the world through her bed-chamber. So that in some way
or other, either by haggard look or confession or enforced motherhood, the
lightning-shaft of God’s seeming judgment descends, and she becomes a castaway.
A young girl of hitherto
unblemished reputation comes to disgrace. Immediately all society is stunned by
the horrible revelation. But men had sat around street-corners week in and week
out, entertaining each other with full details of their sensual exploits, and
none thought of horror then. Chinese mothers confess to killing their female
babies, and it does not horrify the native listeners. But how they are shocked
over the crimes of one struck by lightning! What is the difference between the
one kind of sexual sin and the other? The one kind of Chinese murder and the
other? Both the sexual sin and the murder in their two forms are measured by the
same heathenish rule, and the verdict is that the girl’s sin and the lightning
victim’s sin, in that they are attended by a seeming judgment from Heaven, are
worse in nature than the libertine’s and the infanticide’s. Therefore the
woman’s sin, which brings open disgrace, is regarded by society as worse than
the man’s, which can be hidden at pleasure.
Down through the ages has ever
rung that saying, which has been looked upon as so complimentary to female
chastity, “Woman stands so much higher than man, that when she falls she falls
lower than he,” but it there any higher elevation upon which woman can plant her
feet than the Rock of Ages? And can man stand securely on any other plane of
Has woman ever found a more
perfect ideal of purity than the Son of God? Dare man pretend to be Christian at
all and pattern his life after a less perfect model?
Minister never uttered more
daring heresy nor philosopher more mischievous sophistry than this.
Separate all bad men from the
good, and then the fall of a good man from his elect company into the society of
the wicked ones would be as painful a thing to witness as ever woman’s fall.
Allow bad women to pass as freely as bad men do from Christian home to brothel,
and then a oman’s fall would be no more noted than a man’s.
The fall of a woman is not so
painful because so great, as shocking because so conspicuous.
But are we right in regarding
the conspicuous sinner as the greater one? No; because no sin ever met such
scathing rebuke from Divine lips as hypocrisy. Are we right in believing that
those sins which seem to bring immediate judgment upon the transgressor are the
blackest sins? Christ has emphatically said, No. “Suppose ye that these
Galileans were sinners above all Galileans, because they suffered such things? I
tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:
Society regards with
comparative indifference the sensuality of the men, therefore mothers are not
disgraced by wicked sons; but when a daughter’s fall is known, public sentiment
demands that she be thrust out of the home to save it from disgrace.
“Where is my wandering boy
tonight?” I heard a woman singing. But whoever thought to sing, “Where is my
Oh, it is pitiful! A vast army
of them in every large city! At night you can go out on the street and see them
everywhere, cast out of their homes, and dead, dead, dead in trespasses and
sins! Their features are blackened and bloated. They are young in everything but
suffering. They are thrown out to become the objects of contempt and to be
devoured by the jackals of society, who are old in cunning and of insatiable
There are thousands upon
thousands of homeless, disgraced girls lurking about the street-corners of our
large cities at night. There are thousands of bad men and boys with them. But
when the men and boys get tired of the streets they go reeling home to faithful
wives and patient mothers. But when the girls get tired they must go to the
brothel or else to the “black-flowing river,” for that is the only thing
charitable enough to throw a cover over their shame and hide them away from the
derision of the world.
The ruined girl, like the
victim of lightning, is cast out of her home, and there is but one road for her
to travel. At one end it leads to her mother’s heart, the other end is in hell.
The road is hedged on one side by public disgrace, on the other by her babe and
the resulting physical weakness. She cannot live without food; she cannot get
food without money; she cannot get money except by work or impurity; she cannot
get work without a reputation. Perhaps someone is bold enough to take her
without reputation, but then she has a newborn babe, and no strength to do the
Dr. Talmage says of her: “You
write beautiful poetry over her sorrows and weep over her misfortunes, but give
her practical help you never will. There is not one person out of a thousand
that will – there is not one out of five thousand that has come so near the
heart of the Lord Jesus Christ as to dare to help one of these fallen souls. But
you say, ‘Are there no ways by which the wanderer may escape?’ Oh, yes! three or
four. The one way is the sewing-girl’s garret, dingy, cold, hunger-blasted. But
you say, ‘Is there no other way for her to escape?’ Oh, yes! Another way is the
East River, at midnight, the end of the city dock, the moon shining down on the
water, making it look so smooth she wonders if it is deep enough. It is. No
boatsman near enough to hear the plunge. No watchman near enough to pick her out
before she sinks the third time. ‘No other way?’ Yes. By the curve of the Hudson
River Railroad, at the point where the engineer of the lightning express train
cannot see a hundred yards ahead to the form that lies across the track. He may
whistle ‘down brakes,’ but not soon enough to disappoint the one seeking her
death. But you say, ‘Isn’t God good, won’t he forgive?’ Yes; but man will not, woman will not, society will not, the Church of God says it will, but it will
“When a woman falls she falls
lower than a man.” Sink the plumb-line of justice down to the fallen woman’s
level; it goes no lower than the bad man’s level. But do not measure her
character now, but her reputation. Ah, in this there is an inequality between
her and man! She certainly has fallen lower than man – lower in society’s
estimate, that is all.
In many years of experience
with the fallen I have seen but one woman who sheltered her daughter after
disgrace, and I have known not one case where a woman has refused shelter
to a son because he was parent to an illegitimate child. The excuse, then, that
the child is cast out for the moral safety of the home, falls flat before such
evidence. Delinquent, unmotherly women are largely responsible for keeping in
existence the class of outcast women which libertines are interested in
creating. Mothers too often neglect their girls until disgraced, and then turn
them out to hopeless ruin. Oh, shame to faithless motherhood that sacrifices its
motherly instincts to the dictates of custom! For once it is to be found fault
But the parents of a disgraced
daughter are placed in a terrible predicament. Custom would interfere with their
desire to perform the last sad rites to the stricken one. Society even says that
for those like the little Chinese girl, injured but not killed, nothing must be
attempted. If the circumstances of one girl’s fall have endangered the moral
life of others, ignore their wounds, do not heal them! For to woman< it is a
shame, not that sexual crimes exist, but that she recognizes their existence. A
woman to be pure must be ignorant.
What injury and injustice does
society bring upon the home of the disgraced one! No effort must be made to
render the dead more decent; no service to alleviate the wound of the morally
injured; no sympathy for the bereaved household; all society is intolerant,
unjust, cruel, pharisaical, hypocritical! “For thy sister Sodom was not
mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride, before thy wickedness was
The custom that abandons the
disgraced girl to hopeless ruin is no less injurious in effect upon the morals
of the street than cruel to the members of the household. The crowd gathers
about the outcast, and the very best of them for a moment lose faith in the
boundless mercy and limitless power of the Lord Jesus. Looking upon the
blackened, distorted features that were once beautiful in innocence, they say,
“That woman can’t be saved; she’s beyond the reach of mercy. What a fearful
judgment for her sins!”
Others make gossip of her
terrible shame. They exaggerate and vilify and whisper and mystify, while
children listen around corners with wide-open mouths, and too often learn their
first lessons in slyness and filth from their own parent’s gossip. Scandal is
introduced into their play, and they seek books that will describe more fully
horrible details like those they hear discussed.
Pharisaical woman, seeing the
fallen woman’s sin dressed in such loathsome garb, forgets that there can be any
possible connection between her sinful thoughts and the unfortunate woman’s
deeds. And fed by such complimentary sweets as “Woman is naturally so much purer
than man,” she even forgets that she can be tempted to impurity. With bold
flirtation and immodest attire she dances on the very precipice of moral ruin.
Scores of men go over the brink from her side, but she never sees its relation
to her conduct, while all the time she is saying, “I don’t see how a woman can
ever be tempted to be impure.” Poor deceived creature! so ignorant of her
proximity to the precipice, so unwarned of the fact that hundreds of other women
have gone over the edge from the very spot upon which she stands! Fortunate for
her if her head, giddy with flattery, does not cause her to reel over after
them! And in eternity her blood will be found spattered all over the garments of
those who taught that woman was naturally pure, thus belieing the testimony of
Him who has said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately
When we study the statistics
of abortions, infanticides, diseases from excesses, and illegitimate births, it
is simply inconceivable that any considerable crowd should collect about the
outcast to heap contempt upon her without the company being made up largely of
blatant Pharisees and hypocrites, whose highest motive is the delight of mocking
a woman because she is too weak and low to retaliate.
What a pity that Christians
are so ready to relegate to the merciless rabble the task of reproving the
Magdalen of whom the Saviour said, “Let him that is without sin first cast a
stone at her!” What a shame that we are so ready to pervert intolerance of sin
into hatred for sinners! Heaven is full of those who abhor sin, but hell is
teeming with those who hate sinners. Should society become so strict in its
moral rulings as to annihilate every woman upon her first commission of an
impure act, then earth would still be gorged with libertines, and the justice of
God would record every tear, every sigh, every groan, every drop of blood of
these victims of unjust moral sentiment, and in the day of final reckoning
require them at the hand of self-righteous, pure-thinking womanhood and
intolerant, lustful manhood.
But you ask, “How dare we be
less severe with the fallen woman?” I ask in reply, “How dare we longer be so
lenient with sinful man?” but you insist, “Let a girl who sins be eternally
disgraced, and then she’ll be more careful next time.” Yes, put her down among
the most degraded, and, of course, she can never find a lower place. But what
have you accomplished? You have simply hurried into hell one whose feet had
turned in that direction. You have not done the fallen woman good, but rather
harm by your harshness.
You say, “We do not condemn
the girl to hopeless ruin for the sake of helping her, but as a warning to other
girls.” Then let me lead your daughter down to Pacific Avenue, in Chicago, and
show her the hopeless degradation of these women, so that she shall be properly
warned. You are shocked at my proposal. The knowledge would contaminate your
pure daughter, you think. You would wish to keep her as ignorant of the details
of the fallen woman’s life as she is of the life of women on yonder planet. Then
the sufferings of the woman of sin can be no more a warning to her than the
afflictions of the inhabitants of yonder celestial globe can be.
You suggest the idea that if
these abandoned creatures are made loathsome your son will shun and despise
them. Perhaps you are right. Many wicked men even thoroughly hate them because
of their loathsomeness. But do you suppose that this may be the reason why men
reject the older sinners and decoy young, innocent girls to ruin? If so, your
cruel treatment of the seduced girl has not destroyed unholy passion, but has
simply directed it to a more popular object upon which to prey. And a fresh
innocent victim for assault becomes of more value to the libertine than the
debased woman of the street.
When a participator in crime
knows that the penalty meted by society will invariably fall upon his coadjutor,
a terrible avenue for the tempter’s thrusts are opened to him. One great
injustice of the heathenish practice of visiting a double punishment upon sinful
woman, while sinful man goes free, is that it is the direct occasion for
temptation to thousands of young men. Human nature is too weak not to be moulded
largely by public sentiment, and I recognize in the White Cross Army, which
upholds the law of purity as equally binging on man and woman, and also in
legislative work for the defence of the comparatively innocent seduced girl and
the severe punishment of the seducer, causes that will bring to defenceless
manhood as much of strength and security as to degraded womanhood of hope and
Boys have been left terribly
exposed to the thrusts of Satan. They have been called to pass through
tremendous conflicts to sustain a pure life, for society would detach them that
they need not struggle to resist evil impulses, to which it is the privilege of
man to yield. Who can say that woman would have done any better under such
tuition? What wonder that when the black-hearted woman of gay exterior, whose
whole life has been embittered by injustice and cruel persecution, at last turns
like a serpent on the defensive, the youth is readily charmed by her fascinating
arts, while she darts her vengeful fangs into his very heart! It is not the part
of wisdom to torture and persecute even a serpent beyond a certain limit.
“But why have you such
an interest in these girls? What is it to you that justice is shown them?
What past experience has stimulated you to such a degree of interest in them?”
How often one is asked such questions! It reminds one of the treatment that the
Chinese man received who thought discussion of the faults of the living crowd of
more practical importance to the welfare of humanity than gossip concerning the
supposed crimes of a lifeless outcast.
Ah, yes; the sinful woman is
indeed down, and eagerly the crowd gathers about to stone her for her sin! But
wait! What voice cares to raise itself against the mobbing of a low-lived woman?
It is the merciful Son of God, and He cries, “Let him that is without sin first
cast a stone at her!” Let me, then, if He be present to witness the stoning,
protest that that man standing foremost in the crowd ought not to have the
pleasure of casting a stone. He bought a wedding-ring for his innocent bride
with harlot’s hire; but I have known a young girl very like the one standing
there to work the whole night through to earn honest money with which to pay a
debt to me, saying, “I wouldn’t offer a decent woman the price of shame.” Nor
should that man who steps forward cast a stone at her. He carried his case
through three tedious courts, in order to exhaust the scanty means of the
plaintiff, and escape the necessity of supporting his child; but I saw the
frail, childish mother plodding from daybreak until midnight at the
sewing-machine, in order that his little one might never know a want.
What! would that one stone
her? I knew him to desert a child in her hour of greatest trial, when she was
too young and ignorant to know that travail was upon her; but I knew her, when,
touched by keenest remorse, she went to a miserably sick profligate and,
voluntarily confessing the source of his disease, nursed him through his
sickness, and supported him until restored to health.
This other one who is eager to
stone – I heard him counting the ”God bless you’s” in his sister’s letter to a
scoffing company; but the girl he thinks worthy to be stoned is like one I know
who leaves her drinking, blaspheming companions every night to spend a little
while over her Bible, and when taunted for her contradictory actions, she
retorts, “I am about as low down as I can be, I know, but even yet I haven’t
forgotten my vow to mother to read my Bible every day.”
Strange it may seem, but every
one eager to stone is unfit for the purpose. The Saviour says, ‘Let the one
without sin inaugurate the act of indignation.’ Surely He Himself is the only
one without sin. Let us place the stone in His hand. Where He moves to destroy,
we can safely follow. Let Him hurl the stone at her! But, oh! did you see the
spasm of pain that marred the majestic brow? It was like when the cruel crown of
thorns was pressed there! What does it mean? Somehow, the hard, cruel stone as
we thrust it into His hand sank into the wound of His palm and opened it afresh.
How it hurts Him to grasp a cruel weapon! His wound has robbed Him of the
strength of harshness. He cannot cast a stone. He drops it to the earth, saying
in utmost tenderness to the outcast, “Neither to I condemn thee; go and sin no