While making some researches in the evolution of women's rights, I was
impressed by the fact that no one had ever, as far as I could discover,
attempted to give a succinct account of the matter for English-speaking
nations. Indeed, I do not believe that any writer in any country has
essayed such a task except Laboulaye; and his _Recherches sur la
Condition Civile et Politique des Femmes_, published in 1843, leaves
much to be desired to one who is interested in the subject to-day.
I have, therefore, made an effort to fill a lack. This purpose has been
strengthened as I have reflected on the great amount of confused
information which is absorbed by those who have no time to make
investigations for themselves. Accordingly, in order to present an
accurate historical review, I have cited my authorities for all
statements regarding which any question could be raised.
particularly so in the chapters which deal with the condition of women
under Roman Law, under the early Christian Church, and under Canon Law.
In all these instances I have gone directly to primary sources, have
investigated them myself, and have admitted no secondhand evidence. In
connection with Women's rights in England and in the United States I
have either consulted the statutes or studied the commentaries of
jurists, like Messrs. Pollock and Maitland, whose authority cannot be
doubted. To such I have given the exact references whenever they have
been used. In preparing the chapter on the progress of women's lights in
the United States I derived great assistance from the very exhaustive
_History of Woman Suffrage_, edited by Miss Susan B.
Anthony, Mrs. Ida
H. Harper, and others to whose unselfish labours we are for ever
indebted. From their volumes I have drawn freely; but I have not given
each specific reference.
The tabulation of the laws of the several States which I have given
naturally cannot be entirely adequate, because the laws are being
changed constantly. It is often difficult to procure the latest revised
statutes. However, these laws are recent enough to illustrate the
evolution of women's rights.
Finally, this volume was written in no hope that all readers would agree
with the author, who is zealous in his cause. His purpose will be gained
if he induces the reader to reflect for himself on the problem in the
light of its historical development.
CAMBRIDGE, MASS., 1910.