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Separate Spheres

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

Diverse Nature of Men and Women

Technology Dispossesses Women

Women's Rights

Separate Spheres

Unequal Wages

Final Answer to that Woman Question


Stephen Leacock, "The Woman Question," The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, ed. Alan Bowker (U of Toronto Press, 1973) 58.

"The feminists, in fact, are haunted by the idea that it is possible for the average woman to have a life patterned after that of the ordinary man. They imagine her as having a career, a profession, a vocation—something which will be her 'life work'—just as selling coal is the life work of the coal merchant. If this were so, the whole question would be solved. Women and men would become equal and independent.

It is thus indeed that the feminist sees them, through the roseate mist created by imagination. Husband and wife appear as a couple of honourable partners who share a house together. Each is off to business in the morning. The husband is, let us say, a stock broker: the wife manufactures iron and steel. The wife is a Liberal, the husband a Conservative. At their dinner they have animated discussions over the tariff till it is time for them to go to their clubs.

These two impossible creatures haunt the brain of the feminist and disport them in the pages of the up-to-date novel.

The whole thing is mere fiction. It is quite impossible for women—the average and ordinary women—to go in for having a career. Nature has forbidden it. The average woman must necessarily have—I can only give the figures roughly—about three and a quarter children. She must replace in the population herself and her husband with something over to allow for the people who never marry and for the children that do not reach maturity. If she fails to do this the population comes to an end. Any scheme of social life must allow for these three and a quarter children and for the years of care that must be devoted to them. The vacuum cleaner can take the place of the housewife. It cannot replace the mother. No man ever said his prayers at the knees of a vacuum cleaner, or drew his first lessons in manliness and worth from the sweet old-fashioned stories that a vacuum cleaner told. Feminists of the enraged kind may talk as they will of the paid attendant and the expert baby-minder. Fiddlesticks! These things are a mere supplement, useful enough but as far away from the realities of motherhood as the vacuum cleaner itself. But the point is one that need not be laboured. Sensible people understand it as soon as said. With fools it is not worth while to argue".

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