Tuesday, September 03, 2013

"The role of the father"

This piece of writing from 100 years ago published in the ODT today intrigued me.

Lady Stout, who is at present on a visit to Wanganui, gave some plain truths to a public meeting on Sunday concerning the responsibilities of fatherhood.
This was, she said, the century of the woman and the child.
It was claimed that girls should be taught the virtues of wifehood and motherhood, but no one talked of training the boys.
Fatherhood was the highest privilege a man could attain to, yet men were not to be taught that responsibilities were attached to that privilege.
The girls were expected to be trained in every essential that went towards the making of an ideal mother, yet the man was allowed perfect freedom from all responsibility, He could gamble, drink, and commit immorality at will, and do as he liked before and after marriage.
There was no one to warn him of his duty to his wife and children.
Alcohol, Lady Stout continued, did more harm to the physical development of the child than tight lacing and high heels.
Then there was the spiritual aspect of the duties of fatherhood to be remembered.
The racial function consisted of service to the mother and seeing that her health and strength were closely guarded.
Lady Stout referred to the awakening of women and quoted a number of passages showing that an evolution with regard to the relationship between man and woman was in progress.
In New Zealand, she continued, the many youthful imbeciles had to thank their fathers for their affliction.
The sins of the fathers were revisited on the third and fourth generation.
Heredity did not stop at birth.
Lady Stout referred to the white slave traffic, to cruelty to children, which darkened the annals of the courts, to the rescue and maternity homes, packed full of unmarried mothers, and to the asylums and the hospitals.
Would these exist, she asked, if man realised the duties of fatherhood?

Is Lady Stout foreshadowing foetal alcohol syndrome but attributing the incidence to men? Or is her point that the behaviour of drunk, profligate men was not conducive to reproduction and raising of healthy children? She makes no reference to mothers' use of alcohol.

In any case, over the century many men did not learn the "responsibilities of fatherhood" and the state took over their financial role leaving the mother in charge of the "physical development of the child",  and that hasn't provided the perfect answer either.


Paranormal said...

Thanks Lindsay. One of the paragraphs struck a note with me. The comment of the sins of the father being visited on the third and fourth generation.

My father warned my brother and I that our great grandfather was an alcoholic and to be careful because it would manifest in our generation. Is that a coincidence?

(On a lighter note - as diligent teenagers we ignored my fathers advice and drank up a storm. How disappointed to learn we'd wasted our efforts in the wrong direction. At a later stage we discovered that he wasn't actually an alcoholic, he was in fact a philanderer.)

JC said...

Lady Stout's word's are both relevant and irrelevant to us today.

A century ago and earlier we were still the last colony with an abundance of rough male gold miners, farmers, whalers and laborers. We were coming out of the age of indentured servants and an illegitimacy rate second to none in the developed world coupled with the inevitable results of a corrupted Maori population. So its almost an irrelevancy to consider Lady Stout's views here.

Then of course, one needs to consider Stout's determined view of feminism and the Temperance Movement at the time.. to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies "Well, she would say that, wouldn't she".

Incidentally, given the extreme isolation of a great many families, interracial liaisons etc her words on imbecility and heredity also sound like allusions to incest.


Anonymous said...

I suspect she was a believer in biblical values so here's some more from Galations 5.

"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:sexual immorality, impurity,debauchery,idolatry,witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage (before computers were invented),selfish ambition, envy and drunkeness (and so on).

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law."

Sounds good to me and hardly seems obsolete.