Adele Crepaz

Adele (Adelaide) Crepaz, the daughter of a government official, was born in Austria on 24th October 1849. She became a journalist and based in Vienna she worked for Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung, An der Schönen Blauen Donau and Wiener Hausfrauen-Zeitung.

Crepaz's book, The Emancipation of Women and Its Probable Consequences, was published in Leipzig in 1892. Crepaz makes it clear that she is a strong opponent of women's suffrage and quotes a statement published by a group of women who later became active in the Anti-Suffrage League: "We are convinced that the pursuit of a mere outward equality with men is for women not only vain but demoralising. It leads to a total misconception of women's true dignity and special mission. It tends to personal struggle and rivalry, where the only effort of both the great divisions of the human family should be to contribute the characteristic labour and the best gifts of each of the common stock."

Crepaz argues in the book if girls and boys receive an equal education, the girl will succeed faster simply because she is superior: "a girl's intelligence is quicker, her ambition greater, her moral consciousness more highly developed". She goes on to add: "Let us suppose women's equality with man to be an established fact, we then have the woman standing side by side with man in the great arena of life, fighting for the same aims, the same rights, unconsciously, without will or intention, injuring his interests."

Susan K. Harris, the author of The Cultural Work of the Late Nineteenth-Century Hostess (2004), has pointed out: "If women take the jobs, Crepaz argues, men won't be able to support wives and families. Hence marriage rates will decrease. And if marriage rates decrease, culture will fail. Additionally, women who work won't be able to serve their husbands as they should, with the consequence that woman's nature will be prevented. Even women doctors ultimately undermine women's sacred role. Rather than trying to serve in more than one capacity, women should remember that the greatest civic role is to bring up their children well, and that the highest moral role is to serve their husbands."

William Gladstone, the British prime-minister and an opponent of women's suffrage, read the book in German. He wrote to Crepaz to say that "it seems to me by far the most comprehensive, luminous, and penetrating work on this question that I have yet met with." In 1893 it was translated into English and published in London. It included the letter that Gladstone had sent Crepaz. Ellis Wright, who did the translation has suggested: "Whilst.... acknowledging most fully the benefit accruing to the women of Great Britain from increased facilities for self-support, it is against their claim to equal political and social right with men that Frau Crepaz would earnestly protest, convinced that therein lies much danger to the welfare of humanity. The recognition accorded to her views by England's Prime Minister is some indication that they are not without supporters in this country."

Gladstone sent copies of the book to female members of the Liberal Party who supported women being given the vote. Margaret Cowell Stepney was one of those who sent her comments on the book to the prime-minister: "I feel fearfully presumptuous in venturing, in any way, to criticize a book which you have commended - but as you were good enough to tell me to say what I thought, I must answer truly.... I cannot believe, that there is more danger in mothers making their daughters self-supporting, than in mothers who look upon marriage as the only aim of existence - and, there seems to me to be possibly some weak point in the suggestion that when the husband dies, the widow who cannot work, may always look for help, with confidence, from relations, friends, and charitable institutions - surely in their cases at least - widows - girls who cannot marry - or who can only marry, as a means of livelihood - there may be reason for wishing that women should have independence of a profession?"

Adele Crepaz died in 1919.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Adele Crepaz, The Emancipation of Women and Its Probable Consequences (1892)

Let us suppose women's equality with man to be an established fact, we then have the woman standing side by side with man in the great arena of life, fighting for the same aims, the same rights, unconsciously, without will or intention, injuring his interests.

(2) Susan K. Harris, The Cultural Work of the Late Nineteenth-Century Hostess (2004)

If women take the jobs, Crepaz argues, men won't be able to support wives and families. Hence marriage rates will decrease. And if marriage rates decrease, culture will fail. Additionally, women who work won't be able to serve their husbands as they should, with the consequence that woman's nature will be prevented. Even women doctors ultimately undermine women's sacred role. Rather than trying to serve in more than one capacity, women should remember that the greatest civic role is to bring up their children well, and that the highest moral role is to serve their husbands.

(3) Margaret Cowell Stepney, letter to William Gladstone (17th March, 1892)

It seems to me to be written with immense thought - the ideas (so far as I can judge) are beautifully expressed - and the tracing of the very roots of the question, in all times and countries, is most deeply interesting - and makes one think over the whole great problem in quite a fresh way. With all Mme Crepaz's views as to the Blessedness of Motherhood, and the Supreme duty of women to their husbands and children...

I cannot believe, that there is more danger in mothers making their daughters self-supporting, than in mothers who look upon marriage as the only aim of existence - and, there seems to me to be possibly some weak point in the suggestion that when the husband dies, the widow who cannot work, may always look for help, with confidence, from relations, friends, and charitable institutions - surely in their cases at least - widows - girls who cannot marry - or who can only marry, as a means of livelihood - there may be reason for wishing that women should have independence of a profession?

I wish that Mme Crepaz had said a little more about woman's suffrage. My own earnest hope is, that someday - some way may be found, for women to give their votes (or to send them by proxy or by post) without themselves entering any further into political life - and without disturbing the sacred quietness of home - but, if your decision is eventually against this hope - of course I shall feel that you must be right - and that I must be wrong. I feel fearfully presumptuous in venturing, in any way, to criticize a book which you have commended - but as you were good enough to tell me to say what I thought, I must answer truly.