The Decay of American Manhood (1917)

The Decay of American Manhood (1917)

This essay by John Harvey Kellogg appeared in Association Men, the official publication for Y.M.C.A. leaders during World War I. The piece caught my eye because so many people I encounter have an almost unreasonably nostalgic view of the past that does not make sense when looking at the world through the words of people living at the time. “People are people” and that has always been true.

The Decay of American Manhood

By J.H. Kellogg, M.D.,
Battle Creek, Michigan

History records nothing so wonderful as the development and progress of this great nation in the last hundred years.

But a blight has struck us.

American manhood is decaying.

We are going morally at a terrifying rate.

We have foes at home more deadly and destructive than our European enemies.

Davenport has shown that one in every hundred men is mentally defective, insane, epileptic, habitually criminal, or feeble-minded.

Recent military examinations have brought out most appalling facts.

Major Orr, a medical officer of the regular army, tells us that two to three out of every four applicants for the army are rejected as physically unfit.

Draft examinations show more than half our young men unfit for military training.

The examinations of the Life Extension Institute show only one man in a hundred wholly free from disease and physically fit. (more…)

Alva Belmont: Women as Dictators (1922)

Alva Belmont: Women as Dictators (1922)

By Alva Belmont for
Ladies Home Journal, September 1922

TWENTY-FOUR hours after the dedication of the Woman’s Parliament in Washington a representative of THE LADIES’ HOME JOURNAL asked me what I really meant when I said that henceforth women are to be dictators. She was the fortieth or fiftieth person who had put the same question to me in that very limited space of time.

I meant then, and mean now, exactly what I said.

The end of the dictatorship of the world by men alone is in sight. We women have lived long enough in the cramped confines of a misfit social structure. We have been forced to sit still too long. We have been powerless for such an endless time that we have accumulated enough stored-up energy to shape any structure to our will.

We know we can manage the house. We can reconstruct it. We can put on a left wing and a right wing. We can add a sun porch to let in the light. We could even tear the house down if we liked-and I think men know that too.

The time has come to take this world muddle that men have created and strive to turn it into an ordered, peaceful, happy abiding place for humanity. In its present condition, the world is its own worst indictment against the sole dictatorship of men. Men have always obstructed and suppressed the intellect of one-half of the human race. They have always worked for themselves. That is not sufficient. The error lies here. (more…)

A Florida Minister on Race in 1957

A Florida Minister on Race in 1957

This excerpt from a statement to his congregation by Dr. Witty, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida on the topic of segregation appeared in the December 1957 issue of The Citizen’s Council – a pro-segregation newsletter based in Jackson, Mississippi.

This letter highlights the way anti-communist rhetoric was threaded through the thoughts and positions held by many people opposed to integration of schools and other institutions.

First, I believe God made the races as distinct human groups. Though “red, yellow, black and white are precious in his sight”, the fact also remains that God made man “red, yellow, black, and white.” When man works to destroy these God-given distinctions he opposes part of God’s plan. I am opposed to any attempted destruction of the racial differences which God established and nature has long preserved.

Bayonets build no brotherhood and rifle-butts can not knock love into the heart. To follow the pattern of normal affinity is not racial discrimination but rather normal determination.

Voluntary association of these races, while preserving their distinctions, is the normal pattern of a related world, but forced associations destroy the quality of existence, deprive the compelled of their liberties, and make their happiness impossible.

The answer to the race problem is not physical closeness but spiritual understanding and mutual respect.

As a Christian I am dedicated to good-will among men. For years, a portion of my time has been invested in improving race relations. The first negro local religious broadcast came by my efforts. With other ministers I participated in an institute for negro pastors. I preached in the local negro college and in negro churches and negro settlement works. A negro minister preached from my pulpit on one occasion and negro choirs sang before our church.

Good will and Christian concern were increasing. But these dearly bought advances have been swept aside by pressure groups and politicians. Right and understanding relationships between black and white grow only voluntarily and are destroyed into animosities by force.

These selfish, if not communist inspired pressures, forget that the answer to the race problem is not physical nearness but mutual respect and spiritual understanding.

May God give us strength to rebuild with patience what selfish politicians, with callous disregard for born races, have destroyed to satisfy their greed for power.

This soft sell for maintaining segregation was not unusual for its time. When we look at the attitudes and practices of our ancestors, I think it is important to understand that they were living inside a sort of insular culture where their own political and spiritual leaders supported ideas that seem quite radical today.

Tomorrow’s Children – Eugenics in America

Tomorrow’s Children – Eugenics in America

I have always been fascinated with pre-World War II America’s flirtation with eugenics. We were well on our way to a pretty horrific state of affairs (by today’s standards) and I strongly suspect we would still be recovering from that dark detour were it not for Nazi Germany’s actions giving the world a strong distaste for governments being that involved in the reproduction rights of their citizens.

Tomorrow's Children

Tomorrow’s Children

Many of the European ideas and approaches to the problems of society, class, and race broached by Francis Galton, Cesare Lombroso, and numerous others were exported to the United States around the turn of the twentieth century.

These concepts influenced such fields as philanthropy, sociology, and criminology; hereditarian concepts of criminality and its control were systematized by Italian psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso.

The University of Missouri’s Special Collections and Rare Books department has an excellent timeline of publications influencing the movement.

(more…)

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Cady Stanton!

Elizabeth_StantonOn November 12, 1815, the pioneering American suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in Johnstown, New York. Stanton was a leader in 19th century activism for women’s suffrage. She often worked with Susan B. Anthony as the theorist and chief writer for the movement while Anthony acted as the public spokesperson for women’s rights.

Holding fast to her belief in true equality, when Elizabeth Cady married abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton in 1840 she insist that the word obey be dropped from the ceremony.

While she is is best known for her lifelong contributions to the woman suffrage struggle, she was effective in winning property rights for married women, equal guardianship of children, and liberalized divorce laws that all helped to make it possible for women to leave marriages that were harmful to the wife, children, or economic health of the family.

Mrs. Stanton died in New York on October 26, 1902 – 20 years before American women won the right to vote.

I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.

-Elizabeth Cady Stanton

In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object.

Declaration of Sentiments,
Seneca Falls Convention (July 19-20, 1848)

Our “pathway” is straight to the ballot box, with no variableness nor shadow of turning… We demand in the Reconstruction suffrage for all the citizens of the Republic. I would not talk of Negroes or women, but of citizens.

Letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Women have crucified the Mary Wollstonecrafts, the Fanny Wrights, and the George Sands of all ages. Men mock us with the fact and say we are ever cruel to each other… If this present woman must be crucified, let men drive the spikes.

Letter to Lucretia Mott

I have endeavored to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at last that peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church.

– “The Degraded Status of Woman in the Bible”,
Free Thought Magazine, September 1896

To make laws that man cannot, and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt.

-Address to the Tenth National Women’s
Rights Convention on Marriage and Divorce,
New York City, May 11, 1860

To deny political equality is to rob the ostracised of all self-respect; of credit in the market place; of recompense in the world of work; of a voice among those who make and administer the law; a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment.

Addressing Committee of the
Judiciary, January 18, 1892

Men think that self-sacrifice is the most charming of all the cardinal virtues for women, and in order to keep it in healthy working order, they make opportunities for its illustration as often as possible. I would fain teach women that self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.

The Woman’s Bible (1898)