“The Woman’s Place”

Posted By on July 19, 2012

[Editor's Note: This is a post from the original LAF site that I meant to bring over to the new one but forgot. After a couple of reader requests, I managed to locate the original file. This is excellent material and illustrates why robust biblical womanhood negates any "need" for feminism. Women are already "empowered" thanks to God's high calling for them and the full scope for their abilities and gifts given to them within that multi-faceted role. Human rights are for both men and women and come because we are "endowed by our Creator," alike made in His image and worthy of dignity and respect. There is no need to play women against men to guarantee basic human rights. In fact, pitting women against men causes far more damage to individuals, families, and communities.

We talk a lot on LAF about the "family economy" and how it eliminates the whole mythical "work-family balance" that causes eruptions in the blogosphere every time it is raised. Family is work, and what takes place within the family unit is far more than washing dishes and making beds. Those are normal routines of any daily life. The heart of the family is really and truly economic in every sense of the word. When the whole family is involved in work (whether it's a home-based business, a ministry, home education, hospitality and charity, community service, etc.), its members grow together in amazing ways and become more involved in one another's lives, thoughts, and dreams than if each member of the family goes in a different direction each morning to different locations with differing priorities and goals. Today, this is a radical way to approach life, but our ancestors prior to the Industrial Revolution lived it, breathed it, and built nations upon it. We can, too. What could be more empowering, freeing, or exciting? Enjoy the article!]

“The Woman’s Place” by R.J. Rushdoony

The Biblical doctrine of woman…reveals her as one crowned with authority in her “subjection” or subordination, and clearly a helper of the closest possible rank to God’s appointed vice-regent over creation. This is no small responsibility, nor is it a picture of a patient Griselda. Theologians have all too often pointed to Eve as the one who led Adam into sin while forgetting to note that her God-given position was such that counsel was her normal duty, although in this case it was clearly evil counsel….

It is a common illusion that in man’s primitive, evolutionary past, women were the merest slaves, used at will by primitive brutes. Not only is this evolutionary myth without foundation, but in every known society, the position of women, as measured in terms of the men and the society, has been a notable one. The idea that women have ever submitted to being mere slaves is itself an absurd notion. Women have been women in every age.

In a study of an exceedingly [so-called] backward society, the natives of Australia, Phyllis Kaberry has shown the importance and status of women to be a considerable one. [1]

Few things have depressed women more than the Enlightenment, which turned woman into an ornament and a helpless creature. Unless of the lower class, where work was mandatory, the “privileged” woman was a useless, ornamental person, with almost no rights. This had not been previously true. In 17th-century England, women were often in business, were highly competent managers, and were involved in the shipping trade, as insurance brokers, manufacturers and the like.

Up to the eighteenth century women usually figured in business as partners with their husbands, and not in inferior capacities. They often took full charge during prolonged absences of their mates. In some instances, where they were the brighter of the pair, they ran the show. [2]

A legal “revolution” brought about the diminished status of women; “the all too familiar view of women suddenly emerging in the nineteenth century from a long historical night or to a sunlit plain is completely wrong.” [3] A knowledge of early American history makes clear the high responsibilities of the woman; New England sailing men could travel on two and three year voyages knowing that all business at home could be ably discharged by their wives.

The Age of Reason saw man as reason incarnate, and woman as emotion and will, and therefore inferior. The thesis of the Age of Reason has been that the government of all things should be committed to reason. The Age of Reason opposed the Age of Faith self-consciously. Religion was deemed to be woman’s business, and, the more the Enlightenment spread, the more church life came to be the domain of women and children. The more pronounced therefore the triumph of the Age of Reason in any culture, the more reduced the role of women became. Just as religion came to be regarded as a useless but sometimes charming ornament, so too women were similarly regarded.

These ideas moved into the United States through the influence of Sir William Blackstone on law, who in turn was influenced by England’s Chief Justice Edward Coke, a calculating opportunist. As a result, his law books of the first half of the 19th century showed woman in a diminished role. Three examples of this are revealing:

Walkers’ Introduction to American Law: The legal theory is, marriage makes the husband and wife one person, and that person is the husband. There is scarcely a legal act of any description that she is competent to perform…. In Ohio, but hardly anywhere else, is she allowed to make a will, if happily she has anything to dispose of.

Roper’s Law of Husband and Wife: It is not generally known, that whenever a woman has accepted an offer of marriage, all she has, or expects to have, becomes virtually the property of the man thus accepted as a husband: and no gift or deed executed by her between the period of acceptance and the marriage is held to be valid; for were she permitted to give away or otherwise settle her property, he might be disappointed in the wealth he looked to in making the offer.

Wharton’s Laws: The wife is only the servant of the husband. [4]

There is an extremely significant clause in Roper’s statement: “It is not generally known….” The full implications of the legal revolution were not generally known. Unfortunately, they did come to be generally supported, by men. Even more unfortunately, the churches very commonly supported this legal revolution by a one-sided and twisted reading of Scripture. The attitude of men generally was that women were better off being left on a pedestal of uselessness. At a women’s rights conference, one speaker answered these statements, Sojourner Truth, a tall, colored woman, prominent in anti-slavery circles and herself a former slave in New York state. She was 82 years of age, had a back scarred from whippings, could neither read nor write, but had “intelligence and common sense.” She answered the pedestal advocates powerfully and directly, speaking to the male hecklers in the audience:

Wall, chilern, whan dar is so much racket dar must be somethin’ out of kilter. I tink dat ‘twixt de niggers of de Souf and de womin at de Norf, all talkin’ ’bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all dis here talkin’ ’bout? Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me any best place! And a’n't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm!… I have ploughed and planted, gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And a’n't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it 00 and bear de lash as well! And a’n't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen ‘em mos’ all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And a’n't I a woman? Den dat little man in black dar, he say womin can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wan’t a woman! Whar did your Christ come from?… Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothin’ to do wid Him. ‘Bleeged to ye for hearin’ me, and now ole Sojourner han’t got nothin’ more to say. [5]

The tragedy of the women’s rights movement was that, although it had serious wrongs to correct, it added to the problem, and here the resistance of man was in as large a measure responsible. Instead of restoring women to their rightful place of authority beside man, women’s rights became feminism: it put women in competition with men. It led to the masculinization of women and the feminization of men, to the unhappiness of both. Not surprisingly, in March 1969, Paris couturier Pierre Cardin took a logical step in his menswear collection show: “the first garment displayed was a sleeveless jumper designed to be worn over high vinyl boots. In other words, a dress.” [6]

Thus, the Age of Reason brought in an irrational supremacy for men and has led to the war of the sexes. As a result, the laws today work, not to establish godly order, but to favor one sex or another. The laws of Texas reflect the older discrimination against women; the laws of some states (such as California) show a discrimination in favor of women.

To return to the Biblical doctrine, a wife is her husband’s help-meet. Since Eve was created from Adam and is Adam’s reflected image of God, she was of Adam and an image of Adam as well, his “counterpart….” The Biblical doctrine shows us the wife as the competent manager who is able to take over all business affairs if needed, so that her husband can assume public office as a civil magistrate; in the words of Proverbs 31:10-31, he can sit “in the gates,” that is, preside as a ruler or judge. Let us examine the women of Proverbs 31:10-31, whose “price is far above rubies.” Several things are clearly in evidence:

  1. Her husband can trust her moral, commercial, and religious integrity and competence (vss. 11, 12, 29-31).
  2. She not only manages her household competently, but she can also manage a business with ability (vss. 13-19, 24-25). She can buy and sell like a good merchant and manage a vineyard like an experienced farmer.
  3. She is good to her family, and good to the poor and the needy (vss. 20-22).
  4. Very important, “She openeth her mouth with wisdom: and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (vs. 26). The useless woman of the Age of Reason, and the useless socialite or jet set woman of today who is a show-piece and a luxury, can and does speak lightly, and as a trifler, because she is a trifle. The godly woman, however, has “in her tongue the law of kindness.” People, men and women, who are not triflers avoid trifling and cheap, malicious talk. Loose talk is the luxury of irresponsibility.
  5. She does not eat “the bread of idleness” (vs. 27); i.e., the godly woman is not a mere luxury and pretty decoration. She more than earns her keep.
  6. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her” (vs. 28).

Obviously, such a woman is very different from the pretty doll of the Age of Reason, and the highly competitive masculinized woman of the 20th century who is out to prove that she is as good as any man, if not better. A Biblical faith will not regard woman as any less rational or intelligent than man; her reason is normally more practically and personally oriented in terms of her calling as a woman, but she is not less intelligent for that.

Another note is added by King Lemuel in his description of the virtuous woman:

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who reveres the LORD will be praised” (vs. 30, Berkeley Version).

Nothing derogatory towards physical beauty is here intended, and, elsewhere in Scripture, especially in the Song of Solomon, it is highly appreciated. The point here is that, in relation to the basic qualities of a true and capable help-meet, beauty is a transient virtue, and clever, charming ways are deceitful and have no value in the working relationships of marriage.

Important as the role of a woman is as mother, Scripture presents her essentially as a wife, i.e., a help-meet. The reference is therefore not primarily to children but to the Kingdom of God and man’s calling therein. Man and wife together are in the covenant called to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it…. Certainly, the command to “increase an multiply” is very important, but a marriage does not cease to exist if it be childless…. God himself defined Eve’s basic function as help-meet, important as motherhood is, it cannot take priority over God’s own declaration.

Endnotes:

1. Phyllis M. Kaberry, Aboriginal Woman: Sacred and Profane (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1939).
2. Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia F. Farnham, M.D., Modern Woman, The Lost Sex (New York: Harper, 1947), p. 130.
3. Ibid., p. 421.
4. Charles Neilson Gattey The Bloomer Girls (New York: Coward-McCann, 1968), p. 21.
5. Ibid., p. 105 f.
6. Time, April 18, 1969, p. 96.
7. Ibid., p. 213.

(Excerpted from Institutes of Biblical Law: Vol. I)

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About The Author

Jennie is the wife of Matthew and mother of ten children, all of whom keep the household bubbling with life, learning, and levity. Jennie co-founded LAF in 2002 with Lydia Sherman and has been delighted to hear from women all over the world who enjoy their femininity and love to cultivate womanly virtues.

Comments

15 Responses to ““The Woman’s Place””

  1. claybyfaith says:

    This is an interesting article, in that I think a lot of modern day feminists think that proponents of Biblical womanhood want to go back to the days of sitting pretty and embroidery. My response is, “NO! We don’t want to be bothered with a lot of what ladies from the Victorian era (and before and after) had to put up with, and the false fronts that made womanhood seem so pink and frivolous. In our day and age, we need to be real with one another, not shirk from putting our hand to whatever “plow” is put before us, and move forward raising our families, loving and supporting our husbands, while balancing that with the gentle and quiet spirit that is precious in the sight of God…

  2. mrsbartley says:

    Write more meaty pieces like this, instead of all that fluff about the movie “Brave”

    I really enjoyed this read. thank you

  3. phoebe says:

    I am extremely offended by your reference to Aboriginal people as, “exceedingly backward society.” Why do you view them this way?

    Phrases like “backward” denote inferiority. Survival International, an advocate for Aboriginal groups, explains why this is so offensive, “Terms like ‘stone age’ and ‘primitive’ have been used to describe tribal people since the colonial era, reinforcing the idea that they have not changed over time and that they are backward.

    This idea is both incorrect and very dangerous. It is incorrect because all societies adapt and change, and it is dangerous because it is often used to justify the persecution or forced ‘development’ of tribal peoples. The results are almost always catastrophic: poverty, alcoholism, prostitution, disease and death.”

    http://www.survivalinternational.org/stampitout

    Please consider taking out the offending sentence. Your article makes its point without it.

  4. Phoebe, the “backward” comment was made in the original study referred to in the article and is not Rushdoony’s viewpoint nor ours. In fact, Rushdoony debunks the whole “primitive” evolutionary view of people in this and many other articles. The evolutionary view of man has fostered racism, slavery, and horrific abuse throughout its history, and we repudiate it.

  5. tmichelle says:

    This was a great article! I’d love to read more along these lines or even character studies of women like Sojourner Truth or others that exemplify Prov. 31

  6. charity says:

    What a fantastic article. I wish this would be preached and taught in every church and every homeschoolers household. Women need not be simpering playthings or oversweet dolls.

  7. The idea of economy in the Proverbs 31:1-10 summary of the worthy woman, is often misunderstood. Far from it being a woman who has a job away from home, it is a mentality of economy. She has an eye on quality, on value, and frugality. It is possible she was so careful with her family income that it allowed her to make greater decisions, such as “buying a field.” When the woman is removed from the home, she cannot have a feeling for what is the most important in maintaining the home and family. If her mind and energy is depleted by the cares of the world, she cannot give her best to her family.

  8. That being said, we have to be careful not to be disgusted by the women who do the embroidery and the crochet, leaving behind things for their descendents, that have sentimental value. Such work is the evidence of busy hands and a creative love of life.

  9. I believe that’s exactly what Rushdooney is getting at, Mrs. Sherman–showing that the home involves real work and not just things like decorating and spending money. Unfortunately, feminism has reduced homemaking to “housework” and even to hobby activities when the Proverbs 31 woman could manage the entire estate of the family with wisdom, frugality, and beauty. She is devoted to giving her family the best, and that means her work directly benefits them–and it’s real work…not just a hobby. ;-)

  10. WolfStar says:

    I’m a thirteen year old girl with a problem -or at least you would probably label it as such. The fact of the matter is that I am very aggressive and actually scare my male friends sometimes. I act like the stereotypical feminist and really don’t like the idea of relationships, sex, or children whatsoever. The line in the Bible about female subordination, even in context, makes my blood boil. I know I’m a hormonally instable teenager and all that, but I’ve really always had a rough personality. Do you have anything to say besides how much I need to fill my soul with Jesus?

  11. blessings says:

    Very good post. But not knowing much about R.J. Rushdooney, I was surprised to read many disturbing quotes from the same book that was quoted here. One being, ” all men aren’t created equal”? Was his desire that ALL women had these God-given rights to be help-meets and homemakers? And that ALL men had the same rights to lead their family in a God-honoring Biblical way?
    Humbled.

  12. Context is key. Lots of people misquote Rushdooney. I don’t believe all men are literally “equal,” either. I’m not equal to Einstein in brains. I’m not equal to Vigee’ Le Brun in art. That’s the context here. We’re all equal before our creator, but we aren’t all identical. Hope that helps!

  13. irisT says:

    excactly….woman are not less then men, they are different with a different job to do. Now unfortuynally, my husband cannot find a job, so i have to work.
    But work is hard on me, which seems strange because when i was with maternityleave i managed the household perfectly.

    And my husband told my just last monday “men are not made for homemaking, no matter how hard i work it is never as good and cosy and welcoming here as when you are home and rule the house (he means that i deside what groceries to buy from our budget, cleaning, decorating etc..)

  14. Independent says:

    This is a nice article. I hope people who want a life like this go for it. I think a husband wife can if they sacrifice and work hard can attain this kind of lifestyle.

    However for those who hope the world becomes more biblical and models this article’s points, don’t dwell on fantasy because it will never happen, not how you expect it.

    The world is ruled by the devil its simple as that. Individual Christians have to live their lives separate as well as a part of the world, that takes work to balance.

    This is why i roll my eyes every time i see an article about “well intentioned” people who have this fantastic biblical view of changing marriage and society. Thats wonderful , do what you can to better society go for it. However I think many people get upset and frustrated when the world is not changing how they think it should be, yep and we gotta get over that and move on back to our biblical little worlds lest we dwell in fantasy and bitterness.

    In todays culture of misandry where women suffer too because of it, It’s refreshing to see good biblical idea’s and articles of how to respect women and men and marriage.

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