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Educational Progress in Reference to
THE question as to whether there is any natural
reason other than prejudice why women should not exercise and carry on several of the professions and occupations hitherto regarded as more peculiarly the province of the male sex, is one admitting of a large amount of discussion, and concerning which very diverse opinions are held. The advocates of free trade in such matters argue that, until it is actually proved by the experience of a considerable period that women are, as a class, actually inferior to men in the ability requisite to carry on any particular calling, it should be open to those of them who desire so to do to qualify themselves by appropriate study, etc., for such vocations as they think proper, and to carry on those occupations without let or hindrance, and without fear or favour; that as such methods of procedure are now the exception and not the rule, it is unfair to judge of the capabilities of women generally by the success or otherwise of those few of them who en
deavour to exercise professions, and like callings, in spite of the difficulties naturally occurring to those engaged in a novel experiment, as well as the further hindrances intentionally thrown in their way by ungenerous opponents. Those who take the opposite view of the question maintain, or at least assert, that from the character of her organisation woman is less apt than man to acquire certain branches of knowledge and certain kinds of experience, and that she is necessarily deficient in nerve and presence of mind in difficult and trying circumstances, that her physical strength is not uniformly equal to the exigencies of professional life; and that there are numerous practical difficulties in the way of appropriately training her for many of the occupations requiring special kinds of instruction and experience. They further point to the circumstances that hitherto very few women have made a mark in pursuits of what is ordinarily termed a masculine character, and that in certain occupations (e.g. telegraph-offices, railway bookingoffices, and the like) the experiment has been tried of having female clerks, ete., and was found to be unsuccessful, either from the bodily strength of the employees not being equal to the demands put upon it, or from other inabilities inherent in the physical and mental constitution of the sex.
Without attempting to decide a question admitting of so much debate, it may be noticed that the desire on the part of ladies for
education of a high character is steadily growing, and that the female candidates who present themselves for examination, as a very general rule, acquit themselves in such a way as would be eminently creditable to persons of the sterner sex; that educational bodies of the highest rank, where they do not admit females to the ordinary courses of instruction originally intended for males only, frequently provide special classes for lady students; and that some of the diploma and certificate-granting bodies of the highest class have opened a few of their degrees to women, and award certificates of proficiency to both sexes alike. For example, in the University of Oxford ladies do frequently attend the regular courses of lectures of some of the professors; at Cambridge the same thing occurs, owing to the fact that the ladies' colleges (Girton College and Newnham Hall) cannot provide sufficient accommodation for the candidates who apply for admission; whilst the instruction given in these colleges is, to a large extent, imparted by the same lecturers and teachers who carry on the male classes in the University colleges. The London University and the Queen's University in Ireland have opened their degrees to women; the Edinburgh University professors have co-operated with the Ladies' Educational Association in arranging classes in Latin, English Literature, Political Economy, Moral Philosophy, Mathematics, and Physiology, these classes being under the sanction of the Senatus Academicus, and being taught exclusively by the University professors, or by extra-academical lecturers recognised by the University. Certificates of proficiency are granted to such female candidates as can pass the examinations for women instituted by the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London, and Edinburgh; at Cambridge, women have been allowed to subject themselves to examinations in the papers of the ordinary tripos, and several have distinguished themselves by obtaining such marks as would have entitled them, had they been men, to high places in the honourslists; whilst University College, London, Manchester New College, and the University College at Bristol admit lady students to many of their classes, and in some instances have instituted separate classes for ladies. King's College some years ago established a department for ladies at Kensington, at which lectures are given in all subjects of University education; and these classes are now attended by some five hundred students.
What is to be the outcome of this demand for intellectual development on the part of what we are in the habit of calling the weaker sex? Shall the course of a few years see, in addition to medical women, female barristers and parsons and lady apothecaries and judges ? Will the Army and Navy or the Engineer Corps find that lady officers can be quite as useful as, and not less ornamental than, subalterns in the Household Brigade; or that they will not cause worse shipping disasters than the loss of the Captain, the Mistletoe catastrophe, or the Vanguard disaster ? Will the leading chairs and professorships in our Universities be equally shared between the two sexes ? Or will the effect of the rapidlyincreasing tendency to over-mental excitement on the part, not only of our adults, but also of our adolescents of both sexes, be, as some pessimists endeavour to make out, to diminish the physical stamina of our cultivated classes in future generations, to shorten the average duration of their life, and to over-people our maisons de santé ? Or shall we simply see a race of refined and cultivated women springing up, able to take pleasure in reading classical authors in the original, in following the developments of philological inquiry, the discoveries of modern science, or the abstruse reasonings of our advanced mathematicians ? Ladies to whom an instrumental concert affords, not only artistic pleasures from the concord of sweet sounds, but intellectual ones, derived from the remembrance of chapters from Helmholtz' text-book of overtones, and the correlations between acoustical science and the undulatory theory of light. Ladies to whom a coloured silk dress suggests, not only what a good match that · love of a bonnet' bought yesterday would make for it, and how hideous Mrs. Jones would