Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Man and Woman
Havelock Ellis (1859–1939)
Man and Woman, ‘A Study of Human Secondary Sexual Characters,’ by Havelock Ellis, was first published in 1894, in the ‘Contemporary Science Series,’ of which he is the editor. This impartial, detailed, and accurate comparison of the physical and mental qualities of the two sexes is of high value to all who are interested in the social and economic problems connected with the position of woman. After tracing the history of woman from savage days when she was a slave and a chattel, through mediæval times, when she was regarded as a necessary evil, down to the modern period of relative social equality the author proceeds to inquire what are the permanent distinctions between the sexes, confining himself to the secondary sexual characteristics (i.e., those not directly connected with sexual reproduction). Taking the child and the ape as standards of comparison he points out that women develop more rapidly than men but stop at an earlier stage, resembling that of the infant. This is no disparagement, however, as man’s growth approximates him more closely to the ape. Though man is larger and stronger than woman, the formation of his skeleton is not markedly different from hers except in the case of the thigh-bone and, to some extent, of the pelvis. Man’s brain is not relatively heavier than woman’s. Contrary to the usual view woman’s senses are less keen than man’s, and women can endure a greater amount of pain. The popular mistake is due to the fact that sensibility is confused with affectability. Women perceive less quickly but react more strongly to perceptions and suggestions. Hence they are more emotional, more subject to hypnotism and nervous affections than men. As manual workers men surpass women in rapidity and perhaps in dexterity. Intellectually, women are more precocious and quicker than men, who are slower but more logical, and more capable of abstract thought. In business women are more docile and industrious than men. Woman’s proverbial tendency to concealment and deception is, according to Mr. Ellis, a fact attributable to her restricted social position, to her comparative physical weakness, to her sense of modesty, and to the maternal instinct of protection. “The artistic impulse is vastly more spontaneous, more pronounced, and more widely spread among men than among women” although the latter excel in the less creative and more interpretative forms of art, as novel-writing and acting. Man, finally, is more variable than woman, producing more abnormalities, both geniuses and idiots; woman is more affectible than man, and hence more emotional and sensitive. “Woman is not undeveloped man, but diverse.” Her different organization must be recognized as equally valuable with man’s and equally entitled to development. The book is eminently fair and reasonable and free from arbitrary conclusions. Evidence is given in support of direct assertions, and where testimony is weak or conflicting that fact is noted.  1

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