Stetson's Women and Economics, the translation of which we present to the reader, already appeared last year in a Russian edition, with the title Women and Economic Relations (?) If economics meant, even approximately, the same as economic relations, then we would have given our translation the same title, in order not to give Russian readers the impression that these are two different works by the same author. But economics and economic relations--are understood differently; because of this we had to give a different title to our translation, and we entitled it The Economic Slavery of Women, because throughout the book the basic idea of the author, that the economic slavery of women is the cause of many of the greatest evils burdening humankind, stands out like a red thread.
Accordingly, the economic position of women is the knot joining all the ingredients of the so called woman question: from the economic dependence of women on men flows all the negative particularities of the following--physical, psychological, and ethical; the economic slavery of one half of the human species calls forth those "gentlemen's evils," which characterizes the other half--in short, the key to the understanding and resolution of the woman question is the economic situation of women.
From that point of view, Women and Economics is one of the most outstanding works. It is a work which loses nothing when compared with Mill's recognized classic work On the Subjection of Women, and not only does not lose, but even wins, because it yields nothing in its clarity nor in the strength of its argument and it is more objective--it takes into account the real conditions of women's existence. Subjecting to a detailed analysis the position of women in society and in the family and as a severe critic--through her intelligent perspective and moral physiognomy--the author shows the actuality, that is, the economic causes of all of this, and thus very favorably differentiates herself from the vast majority of authors writing in defense of women. Providing numerous and varied evidence to advance her argument that the economic dependence of women on men is the source of many of the evils from which humanity suffers, Mrs. Stetson, thanks to her serious preparation in pamphleteering about social problems, finds it necessary to try to convince readers that the economically dependent situation of women in our times is not the result of the evil will of men, but emerged out of necessity, and coincided with a known stage in the evolution of humanity and for that reason was useful for men. But that stage has now passed, and that which was useful at one stage is now harmful in another, and for that reason the economic dependence of women on men must end, end not only naturally, but as created: people are too weak to preserve obsolete institutions. Women now are beginning to liberate themselves from their economic dependence on men and show their capabilities in practically all spheres of human labor, despite the fact that they encounter opposition. And most importantly, in whatever forms men achieve their ludicrous hostility to and opposition to the natural order of things, this may represent some slowing in the tempo of the evolution of the economic interrelation of the sexes--if only! To stop this natural process of economic liberation of women only harms those who try to block it. For this reason a sensible understanding of self-interest demands from men not a useless waste of energy in opposition to the inexorable pace of the evolution of these relationships, but instead to in assist it in every way.
But as much as the reader may be convinced of the theoretical argumentation of the author in the theoretical part of the book, so perhaps, from the beginning, the practical measures advocated by the author to achieve the economic liberation of women will seem unacceptable.
The latter demands above all, the liberation of women from all so called "domestic work," beginning with the great work of bringing up children, for which she is completely not prepared, and ending with the honorable duty of dishwashing; she demands ridding women from the coarse blend of the diverse specialties connected with the "running of a household,"--in a word she demands the centralization of "domestic work." This centralization takes away nothing from the family or the home--on the contrary, it elevates them to heights on which they never before this time stood, and the woman, engaged in the sphere of productive work, freed from the burden of "domestic work," will be a mother and wife in the best sense of that word. They did "Domestic work" to the great detriment, not only moral, but also economic, of humanity--a full half of whom with their most greedy, dilettantish, Egyptian work, which is even in the best case useless for the cause of progress.
The author emphasizes that she is not a novice in this matter. Being a staunch supporter of the home and hearth and a passionate defender of the family, Mrs. Stetson enthusiastically welcomes the coming new phase in the evolution of these institutions, demonstrating its inevitability with her impeccable logic.
Thus, this book not only awakens thought--it responds to the imminent needs of the times.
But what did the first translator of Women and Economic Relations do with this remarkable book? On the basis of this translation, a critic in one of our respected journals wrote the following:
"Read, read this book, page by page, and you will not catch the mentality, the manner, or the general idea."
And, despite such a critical judgment, appearing in a serious journal, we all the same resolve to give the Russian reader a new translation of Mrs. Stetson's book. Moreover, especially in light of such a review, a precise translation of this outstanding work, this standard work, as it has been called by English and American critics (who of course, cannot be denied in the fundamental or practical sense) becomes essential. The fact is that the previously cited critic's review is completely justified if it refers not to the original, but to the "first Russian edition" of this book. This small misunderstanding occurred because the critic, "judging by the translation," decided that "the translator knows both languages well." But, "judging by the translation," it is possible to come to only one conclusion, that is--that the translator does not know the language he is translating. How well he knows the language can be judged by the fact that in the "first Russian edition" of Mrs. Stetson's book, in the words of the critic, there is neither "the mentality nor the manner," whereas the original is distinguished, in the words of the translator of the "first Russian edition," by its "inimitable simplicity and clarity."
Habent sua fata libelli. [Latin in the Russian preface: Books have their own fate.]
Translated by Rochelle G. Ruthchild