(Her biographer does not recordnwhether the domestic staff was composednof men or women.)nThe sustained rise of American hvingnstandards over the last century has,nit goes without saying, broadened opportunitiesnfor everyone, especiallynwomen, who are no longer bound tondomestic duties by necessity. There isnno disputing that the changes of societynwrought by modern economies havenaffected relations between the sexes. Indoubt whether Mrs. Jerry Falwell ornPhyllis Schlafly would stand for thendomestic regimen of their grandmothers.nBut this presents us with one of thengrand ironies of America. America isnthe arena in w^hich true progress isnindicated; et een as progress hasnexpanded opportunities and secured anbroader range of rights, the feministnrage against our liberal society hasngrown more strident and uncompromising.nOnly in America, it seems, donwomen recognize how bad off theynare!nStanton’s case aptly illustrates thendegeneration of feminism from its originsnwith Anthony and the early suffragists.nMany of the early suffragists werenscandalized by Stanton’s more outrageousndicta, many of which couldnhave come from today’s stentoriannfeminists: “Society as organized todaynunder the man power is one grandnrape of womanhood.” Yet the feministsnof Seneca Falls, Stanton included,nmade an explicit appeal to naturalnrights as the basis of their concretenpolitical demands, and even fashionedntheir “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments”nafter that classic embodimentnof natural right, the Declaration ofnIndependence.nThis appeal to natural right is ironic,nfor contemporary feminism, likenmost other modern ideologies, beginsnwith an explicit denial of human nature.nNature is a term of distinction,nvhich, as well as providing the basis ofnman’s inherent rights, also sets limitsnto what man may aspire to do. Feminismnshares with modern scientism thenfallacy of supposing that because necessitynhas been mitigated by materialnprogress, nature, especially human nature,nis therefore malleable to man’snwill.nWhile the Stanton of Seneca Fallsnappealed to natural right as the basis ofnpolitical equality, the older Stantonnunderstood that nature has to benreinterpreted—denied, in fact—fornthe more radical feminist claims tonsocial equality to have any plausibility.nStanton aimed high, writing ThenWomen’s Bible in 1895, which professednan androgynous “Mother andnFather God.” On another occasion,nshe even came close to suggesting thatnwomen could be the physical equal ofnman through “the healthy developmentnof their muscular system.”nThe tacit assumption behind thenfeminist blast at the “patriarchal” socialnorder is that there is really nothingnprescriptive about human nature, andnthat our social ordering is merely annaccumulation of “roles” imposed bynillegitimate tradition or force. Hencenthe heavy emphasis today on new “rolenmodels.” Elisabeth Griffith explains inna “methodological note” that “rolenmodels were central to the developmentnof Elizabeth Cady Stanton as anfeminist.” Three times in 30 pagesnGriffith laments that Stanton’s greatestnhindrance at the moment was thatn”she was without a role model.”nThis preoccupation with “role models”nreveals the biases of feminist biography:ntheir polemical intention isnmade clear by the hindsight interpretationsnwhich judge these 19th-centurynsubjects by today’s standards. In thisncrucial respect these biographies tell usnmore about the biographers than thensubjects. Consider the closing paragraphnof Kathleen Brady’s portrait ofnIda Tarbell:nIn life she had never foundnrepose. As a woman in a malenworld, she felt herself soninferior, especially whennglimpsed from the height of herndreams, that she dared not facenmany aspects of herself IdanTarbell was not the flinty stuffnof which the cutting edge ofnany revolution is made. Shenwas a reasonable woman whonthought she tried tonaccommodate herself toncircumstances, not to changenthem. Yet she was called tonachievement in a day whennwomen were” called only tonexist. Her triumph was that shensucceeded. Her tragedy wasnnever to know it.nnnNow this might be true, but it is notnestablished by Brady’s narrative. Thenfact is, Tarbell didn’t fit the feministn”role model” of a woman whose “consciousness”nhad been “raised”; shen”was not the flinty stuff of which thencutting edge of any revolution isn”In the end, lofty and largely isolatednfrom the groups speaking in her name,n[Stanton] nearly approximated the androgynousndeity which was the only onenshe deigned to recognize.”nThe Progressivenmade”; therefore, there must be somethingnlacking in her that kept her fromnfacing “many aspects of herself “nWhat disappoints feminists aboutnTarbell is what also disappoints themnabout women of distinction today likenMargaret Thatcher, Jeane Kirkpatrick,nand Sandra Day O’Connor: they don’tntoe the feminist line. (The rabid SonianJohnson calls Kirkpatrick and Thatchern”female impersonators.” Get it: it’snnot physiology that matters, it’s yourn”consciousness.”)nTarbell, although she was comfortablenin the company of men, nevernmarried and had little romance in hernlife; she was extremely dubious aboutnthe suffragist movement and the feministnagitators of her day. Even thoughnshe had broken clear of “woman’sntraditional place,” she nevertheless upheldnthe value and importance of domesticnlife for women. Tarbell had nonn& $ • • ” x^n/L liH. VWVt’^^^^^v’^” •’n/Jr^f^^nm^m^nA ^9^ ‘•”’ M^^^ • ‘”‘ ‘fnjff•’•’••• •’ •’ ‘ ‘• ‘Jry.nMnIJnhHXBC-ny^^W^^^mY tu^xa nt^M^mJw -^WS^n^^^|p«””**5 L- ‘^^^^^^^nJULY 1985/11n