With Walt Whitman in Camden, by Horace Traubel
Copyright 1996 by Fellowship of Friends. All Rights Reserved.

On Women

Thursday, December 3, 1891

I then asked him if he had read Molly Elliot Seawell's piece in Critic, "On the Absence of the Creative Faculty in Women." He replied, "No, what does she say?" "She argues that woman is without creative genius--without genius, in fact, which is necessarily creative." "Does she seriously argue that?" "So it appears." "But what is her base-ground--on what does she build?" "History, or thinks she does." "Probably thinks." "She says women do not create character, write the great poems, construct the great stories." "How does she account for Sappho?" "She contends that Sappho is an imagined quantity--that her fame is unwarranted." "How about Homer's fame, then? They came to us together, a pair, equally revered by the Greek." "She discounts George Eliot and George Sand." "Indeed? By comparison?" "Yes. Asks if they are anyway to be rated with Thackeray or the great creators of character." "But who says they are not?" "She does--she mightily says, no, and asks what about Madame de Stael and others? Admitting that women have contemporary fame, but add nothing to immortality. And she goes on to argue the same way as to musicians--all creative workers, in fact. They are all men!" "Damn the woman! But stick to George Sand! That would be dangerous doctrine for her to pronounce in Europe. It would be hard lines for anyone to pretend that Dickens and Thackeray and that class can anyway approach the best women: it would show there was no sense in talk."

Tuesday, September 15, 1891

Again recurring to women, W. said, "The women who have borne children--oh! they are the most alert and well-balanced people I have known--especially the women, old, the children grown up, the past reviewed, glances backward casting--the old mothers, preserved out of the battle, the trials--sound, pure--all the senses still in hand, still commanded!"

Wednesday, September 23, 1891

Told him of Aggie's little girl, born last night, 20 minutes before twelve. W. asked, "And is she all right? Weathered the cape? Good! Send her my love--hopes for her. Oh! I think the sweetest, sanest, perfectest, whollest, majestic-est of all characters are the mothers of children. Neither saints nor warriors--neither--all history, art, literature, has so far been devoted to such. Now comes a new age, new recognitions--the age of the mothers." He was telling me this as he toiled round the bed to his chair. He finally sat down, closed his eyes, murmuring, "This becomes a tough struggle, sometimes, merely to keep up." I said, "You and Bob [Ingersoll] have your reverence for woman in common. Bob is constantly saying, the grandest picture under the heavens, or over, or anywhere, is the mother with her children, the mother of children: no saint, no virgin, no nothing, to compare with it." W. thereupon fervently, "Them's my sentiments, out and out! Nor is that the only thing the Colonel and I have in common."