The essay “Now We Can Begin: What’s Next?” by Crystal Eastman is assuredly a strong and persuasive piece. She was a social feminist who wrote this essay in 1920, after the Tennessee legislature passed out the Federal suffrage amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Well that is not all what a woman needs in the society to be considered equal with men. Eastman has diligently sought to express the need for emotional freedom and economic independence of women, in this essay, to foster the right treatment to women as human beings.
How Eastman shows the different aspects of the reactions, thinking and behavior of men and women, in contrast to each other, emphatically brings out the way women are treated and considered both in the home and society. For instance, if a husband and his wife both are employed in a factory, the husband gets to rest after returning home. Whereas, the woman on the other hand, has to do other household chores. There’s no rest for her, as she is overburdened with work and responsibility both at home and outside. This also throws light on the emotions of women as they must be feeling so frustrated and stressed out. The husband is called the ‘revolutionary leader’ or the ‘proletarian dictator’ as his expectation of the wife would be to do the dreary job of looking after the home and children. Thus, the need for a woman to have a free soul is advocated for, in the essay.
Eastman also brings out the fallacy of the government, as the sources of life are privately owned by a few, and a vast majority of men and women are simply bread and butter slaves, under pressed by the necessities of living. She portrays the role of a woman as a slave in the capitalist society, where there’s no guarantee of her emancipation and profit. This actually reveals the place of women in the society and how underprivileged and deprived they are. They receive no appreciation or acknowledgement for all their hard work.
Eastman’s essay definitely deserves appreciation as she not only explains the problem of women’s freedom but also proposes solutions to the problems. She gives a wise and practical suggestion that it’s important to train both boys and girls from early childhood to work and earn a living, as well as be taught to cook, sew and clean at home, making them adept for all kinds of work in life. If both boys and girls know how to work at home and outside, it will be such a big help for women when they get married, as their husbands will know how to cook, clean, sew and do other household chores, to share the burden of work at home. This will actually free the women of some work load and enable them to have some leisure time, which is so important to relax.
There is a very valid suggestion by Eastman, that outward freedom is actually what will free a woman’s soul so it can grow. Therefore the feminist movement’s focus should be to create conditions through which women can have emotional freedom, a healthy egotism, and sources of joy. In addition there has to be a freedom of choice in occupation and economic independence for women everywhere. What a commendable and strong point is put forth by Eastman that all barriers should be broken down, and women should be allowed to receive training for various professions and join trade unions. The wages of men and women also should be equal because through this a great upward shift can be made in the state and role of women in the society.
Eastman acknowledges the hard work and labor that goes into raising children and calls for motherhood endowment for women for doing this work. But before this, women should be advised when to have children and control the size of their families, so they have time for some other occupation. Eastman brings an excellent thought in the essay that raising children is actually a service to the society and the political government must give an adequate economic reward to mothers for this service. Well, a monetary reward/endowment for mothers will definitely be a step taken forward to bestow economic independence upon women.
Eastman gives very logical suggestions for the upliftment of women and voices their physical, emotional and social struggle in the society. The essay ends on a very positive and optimistic note that with the implementation of these ideas and suggestions, there is no reason why women cannot become human.
Eastman, Crystal. “Now We Can Begin.” About.com: Women’s History. 2012. Web. 14 September 2012