The New York Times Book Review (essay date 1909)
SOURCE: "When the Child Gets His Rights," in The New York Times Book Review, March 6, 1909, p. 128.
[In the following review, the anonymous author praises The Century of the Child, noting, however, that many of Key's assertions will already be taken for granted by American readers because of the direction of the women's movement in the United States at the time of the work's publication in English.]
Among the books of serious import that have been published in Germany during the last year or two, none has attracted wider attention or caused more general discussion than Ellen Key's The Century of the Child. It has won the consideration of the Kaiser, has gone through more than twenty editions, and has been published in several other European countries. The author was formerly among the foremost champions of the feminist movement in Germany, but she severed her connection with the cause of woman's emancipation because she had come to believe that it was working on a wrong basis, and that the best good of the sex and of the race demanded a different conception of woman's nature and a different attitude toward her mission in the world.
The author declares that she has not renounced her belief in the right of woman to choose her own way in life, to work out her own individual destiny, but she contends that in all this woman must guard herself, and must be protected by society, from the necessity of engaging in any work that would injure or interfere with the maternal function, if she is or expects ever to be a mother. In that category Ellen Key puts work outside the home, whether professional or industrial, and any occupation that would tend to make much draft upon her energy. Nevertheless, she believes that it is for the good both of the individual and of society that every able-bodied person, men and women alike, should work, should have some money earning occupation which would afford economical independence.
"I do not believe," she says, "that social development will maintain the old ideal of the father as the one who takes care of the family. I hope, rather, that the new conception of having every individual look after himself will gain more ground." And in recognition of the immense value to society of the mother's business as conservator of the family and trainer of the children, while this occupation lasts "society must guarantee her existence." "It is plain," she goes on, "that nothing is...
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