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Woman’s Wickedness
by [?]

Governor Fishback, of Arkansas, recently declared that “houses of ill-fame are necessary to city life,” and added: “If you close these sewers of men’s animal passions you overflow the home and spread disaster.”

This theory has been adopted by many municipalities, courtesans duly licensed, their business legitimatized and accorded the protection of the law. If houses of ill-fame be “necessary to city life”; if they prevent the overflow of the home of bestial lust and the spread of disaster, it follows as a natural sequence that the prostitute is a public benefactor, to be encouraged rather than condemned, deserving of civic honor rather than social infamy. Will Governor Fishback and his fellow utilitarians be kind enough to make a careful examination of the quasi- respectable element of society and inform us how large an army of courtesans will be necessary to enable it to pass a baking powder purity test?

Governor Fishback does not appear to have profited by Pope’s suggestion that “The proper study of mankind is man,” or he would know full well that the presence in a city of prostitutes but serves to accentuate the dangers that environ pure womanhood. He would know that they add fuel to Lust’s unholy fires, that thousands of them are procuresses as well as prostitutes, and that one bad woman can do more to corrupt her sex than can any libertine since the days of Sir Launcelot. He would likewise know that so perverse is the nature of man that he would leave a harem filled with desirous houris more beautiful than ever danced through Mohammedan dream of Paradise, to dig pitfalls for the unwary feet of some misshapen country wench who was striving to lead an honest life. As a muley cow will turn from a manger filled with new-mown hay, and wear out her thievish tongue trying to coax a wisp of rotten straw through a crack in a neighbor’s barn, so will man turn from consenting Venus’ matchless charms to solicit scornful Dian.

What is it that is railroading so large a portion of the young women to Hell? What causes so many to forsake the “straight and narrow path” that is supposed to lead to everlasting life, and seek the irremediable way of eternal death? What mad phantasy is it that leads so many wives to sacrifice the honor of their husbands and shame their children? Is it evil inherent in the daughters of Eve themselves? Is it lawless lust or force of circumstances that adds legion after legion to the cohorts of shame? Or has our boasted progress brought with it a suspicion that female chastity is, after all, an overprized bauble–that what is no crime against nature should be tolerated by this eminently practical age? We have cast behind us the myths and miracles, proven the absurdity of our ancestors’ most cherished traditions and brought their idols beneath the iconoclastic hammer. In this general social and intellectual house-cleaning have we consigned virtue to the rubbish heap–or at best relegated it to the garret with the spinning-wheel, hand-loom and other out-of-date trumpery? Time was when a woman branded as a bawd hid her face for shame, or consorted only with her kind; now, if she can but become sufficiently notorious she goes upon the stage, and men take their wives and daughters to see her play “Camille” and kindred characters. This may signify much; among other things that the courtesan is creeping into social favor–even that a new code of morals is now abuilding, in which she will be the grand exemplar. As change is the order of the day, and what one age damns its successor ofttimes deifies, who knows but an up-to-date religion may yet be evolved with Bacchic revels for sacred rites and a favorite prostitute for high priestess?

Were I called upon to diagnose the social disease; did any duly ordained committee–from the numerous “Reform” societies, Ministerial Association, secular legislatures or other bodies that are taking unto themselves great credit for assiduously making a bad matter worse– call upon me for advice anent the proper method of restoring to healthy life the world’s moribund morality, I would probably shock the souls out of them by stating a few plain facts without troubling myself to provide polite trimmings.