more thorough work visible.
It is beginning to be plain that with the Treat advance in the education of women, during the last thirty years, there is already a marked advance in the grade of their intellectual work.
At a late meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Buffalo, New York
, nearly every section offered among its scientific papers some contribution from a woman.
In the section of Anthropology, the paper that excited most interest was that of Mrs. Nuttall Pinart
inscriptions, which is described as “completely revolutionizing” the method by which these important historical memorials have hitherto been interpreted.
, who is on the whole the highest authority on this class of subjects, said that this paper was “of epoch-making importance,” and that its conclusions would probably be sustained.
In the section of Chemistry, a paper was read by Miss Helen C. De S. Abbott
on the composition of a bark from Honduras
that presents new and curious ingredients, of peculiar value to dyers.
She also read a paper on the
relation of the chemical constituents of plants to their forms and evolution, advancing the view that chemical considerations may yet have weight as a basis for botanical classification.
In the section of Economic Science, Mrs. John Lucas
, of New Jersey
, entered a paper upon Silk Culture, but was not apparently present to read it. In the section of Mathematics and Astronomy, Miss Anna Winlock
, of the Harvard Observatory
, was associated by name with Prof. Rogers
, of that institution, in presenting a paper on “The limitations in the use of Taylor
's theorem for the computation of the precessions of close polar stars.”
All this is very unlike anything that could have been reported twenty-five years ago; and though it is possible that no one of these ladies may have been a student at a woman's college, yet they stand nevertheless for that advance all along the line which the women's colleges represent.
It must be remembered also that the new American Historical Association has many women as members, and has issued among its first publications an elaborate paper by one of these-Miss Lucy M. Salmon
, of Michigan University--on the history of the appointing power in our government.
In the reports of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology, at Cambridge, Massachusetts
, an important place is always assigned to the researches of Miss Alice C. Fletcher
and Miss Cornelia Studley
At the late triennial
meeting of the intercollegiate society of Phi Beta Kappa — the only such society based on scholarship in America
, all others existing merely for social purposes --it came out incidentally that at least three out of the twenty chapters now composing the fraternity had already admitted women as members, Cornell
having a dozen.
All these signs indicate a steady progress in the admission of women to the ranks, not of thought and action alone, but of study and scholarship.
When we turn from science to literature, the advance is not quite so marked.
It is considerable and substantial; yet in view of the completeness with which literary work is now thrown open to women, and their equality as to pay, there is room for some surprise that it is not greater.
Women have engaged largely in journalism, and with much success; but it must be remembered that journalism is not literature, though it belongs to the same genus, and may be quite as important.
Journalism is to literature --to use a culinary comparison — as are the breakfast griddle-cakes to the loaf of bread.
The former are to be eaten hot or not at all, while the bread only improves by a day or two's keeping.
Tie same cook may happen to excel in both, but this is a combination of two different gifts, and cannot safely be counted on. The department in which one may next hope for an advance among the graduates of our women's colleges is in what may be called the
art of intellectual bread-making — the production of permanent literature.
It must be readily admitted that the contributions of American women to the poetry and fiction of the day are abundant and creditable.
But it must be remembered that journalism itself is hardly more ephemeral than all poetry or fiction short of the highest; and our rapid American life has already created and forgotten several generations of such short-lived celebrities.
's laborious “Female poets of America
,” published some forty years ago, there is hardly a name that is now remembered; and Poe
in those days used to place a crown of the most perishable materials on the head of every woman who flattered them or whom they wished to flatter.
Apart from their tributes, a place on Parnassus
was supposed to be securely held by the Davidson
sisters, for instance, two half-developed girls, who earned by their pathetic early deaths what really passed for fame.
It is doubtful whether a place more permanent can be assigned to the good-natured Cary
A greater loss to memory is the fame of Miss Sedgwick
, whose graphic and sensible fiction-realistic in the best sense-seems absolutely unknown to the generation now growing up. Is it so certain that the women now popular as poets and novelists are securer in their position than their predecessors?
There are really but two grounds of permanence in literature — that won by positive genius and that won by labor.
Where both are united, a book may stand by itself, like Gibbon
's “Roman Empire
,” and prove solid and indestructible as the Pyramids-nay, earthquake — proof, which they are not. But, even short of this, it is possible for an author who takes a good subject and does his work well to secure a tolerably permanent place, even without great genius.
When will our women's colleges turn out a race of graduates who will devote themselves to literature even as faithfully as many men now do, making it an object for life to do thoughtful and serious work?
I am told by editors that you may almost count on the fingers of one hand the women in America
to whom you can assign a subject for a magazine paper, requiring scholarly effort and labor, and have the work well done.
This is the gap that needs to be filled by literary women at present.
The supply of second-grade fiction-and by this is meant all fiction inferior in grade to George Eliot
's --is now tolerably well secured.
But the demand for general literary work of a solid and thoughtful nature, demanding both scholarship and a trained power of expression — this is never very well supplied among men, and is, with few exceptions, unsupplied among American women.
To meet this demand we may fairly look to our colleges.