The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas - Vol. 1

By Edward Westermarck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVI
THE SUBJECTION OF WIVES

AMONG the lower races, as a rule, a woman is always more or less in a state of dependence. When she is emancipated by marriage from the power of her father, she generally passes into the power of her husband. But the authority which the latter possesses over his wife varies extremely among different peoples.

Frequently the wife is said to be the property or slave of her husband. In Fiji "the women are kept in great subjection. . . . Like other property, wives may be sold at pleasure, and the usual price is a musket."1 "The Carib woman is always in bondage to her male relations. To her father, brother, or husband she is ever a slave, and seldom has any power in the disposal of herself."2 Many North American Indians are said to treat their wives much as they treat their dogs.3 Among the Shoshones "the man is the sole proprietor of his wives and daughters, and can barter them away, or dispose of them in any manner he may think proper."4 Among the East African Wanika a woman "is a toy, a tool, a slave in the very worst sense; indeed she is treated as though she were a

____________________
1
Wilkes, U.S. Exploring Expedi­tion, iii. 332.
2
Brett, Indian Tribes of Guiana, p. 353.
3
Harmon, Journal of Voyages in the Interior of North America, p. 344.
4
Lewis and Clarke, Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, p. 307.

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