Essays and Reviews – Eliza Bert Gamble

The Sexes in Science and History


In this rather naive volume it is the amiable purpose of the author to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that woman is now and always has been man’s “superior.” Miss or Mrs. Gamble (the titles being placed in the order of apparent probability) has unfortunately neglected to furnish the term “superior” with a clear definition, and we are, therefore, unable to give any opinion as to the correctness of her main contention. If “superior” signifies a more nearly perfect adaptation to special function, it would seem to us that she is at once wrong and right; for certainly no man can be as good a mother of children as a woman, and no woman can be as good a father as a man. We may, in some transcendental sense not appreciable to the gross male, be mistaken in the matter, but so it seems to us in our present unregenerate state, and we are rather proud of what we consider our “sweet reasonableness” in the matter.

Miss or Mrs. Gamble has been bothered with this problem since [1886?]; and during the three decades since then she has plunged deeply into biology, now emerging literally reeking with primeval ooze which she displays with considerable satisfaction. She is at some pains to show that males suffer from deep seated organic defects and that the female is perfect organically. As to the apparent superiority of male beauty in the lower animals, we are told that “the female made the male beautiful so that she might endure his caresses” — which indeed shows considerable perspicacity, we should say!

But the supreme indication of male inferiority is to be found in the alleged fact that more males are born where food is scarce and poor, than where it is plentiful and nutritious. Father, it appears, is merely a phenomenon of malnutrition, a skimmed milk product, so to speak!

Having exhausted biology in defense of her thesis, Miss or Mrs. Gamble turns to history and shows (what should be patent to all) that the really supreme things have always been done by women — a very interesting piece of information which we shall cherish hereafter. Among other instances cited to prove her point, the author mentions Sappho and shows that the Lesbian lady was “the greatest poet that ever lived.” She proves this statement by quoting the opinion of an anonymous author — which ought to be absolutely convincing to even the most pigheaded male! We hope, however, that we shall not be considered impudent should we venture to ask if, by any chance, Miss or Mrs. Gamble is familiar with the Sappho fragments. We have read them, and they seem to be concerned largely with a very ardent desire for a man — which seems odd in view of our author’s main contention. Also, we have been told that upon finding that she could not procure the coveted gentleman, Sappho jumped into the sea, thus confessing that she preferred death to spinsterhood!

But all this is irreverent, and it is not seemly for an inferior to lack reverence.

What makes each individual hair on poor father’s head stand on end is the grand conclusion of the author’s work. For we are assured that man’s inferior brute constitution was necessary for the process of killing off the wild animals and making the earth habitable. But now that this task has been performed, he ceases to be necessary except as an occasional generative agency. From now on, we are informed, men shall become less and less; women more and more. No longer shall crude male reason direct human affairs; but feminine intuition is about to come into its own. Thereupon shall begin the millenium.

Eheu! Morituri salutamus!