Among the Cathsi the girls choose their husbands, and the young men their wives; and Herodotus states that a similar rule prevailed among the Lydian people. Notwithstanding the arbitrary power which the Hebrew law gave the parent over the person of the child, there was yet, as we learn from the Scriptures, considerable liberty of choice accorded the girl in selecting a husband; and in view of the cases quoted, which might be multiplied at will, it seems impossible to coincide in the view of Letourneau that, "during a very long period, woman was married without her wishes being at all consulted."1
Indeed it appears difficult, considering our present system of social caste, and the various restrictions with which parental ambition has hampered marriage, to avoid the conclusion that, under primitive customs, women enjoyed possibly a greater degree of personal liberty than she does today.
There is little reason to doubt that the earliest conception of woman's use in the world was identified with the idea of man's sexual gratification. The social pleasure she is capable of imparting, through her graces of mind, and noble qualities of soul, did not weigh with the savage.
He took her simply and solely as the ministress of his lust, and when Bhe bore him a daughter, on the principle that women "eat but do not hunt," just as soon as the daughter reached a marriageable age she was disposed of to the most desirable applicant. But notwithstanding that bride-stealing and rapes were quite the rule among most of the savage races, a careful investigation of the subject will convince us that many, if not most, of these apparent outrages were perpetrated with the connivance and consent of the young lady herself; so that the majority of such cases come more properly under the head of elopements than bride-stealing."*
The boy, as well as the girl, could of course be bartered away, sold or even killed, if the father thought proper; but while the boy attained freedom from parental control at maturity, the girl always remained more or less amenable to it, so that marriage to her became rather a change of owners than one of social or domestic status. Nor, even in cases of enforced contract, were the conditions greatly different from our own. The man who had been induced to marry a wife he did not like, simply divorced her, choosing another more to his taste; and this law, although stubbornly resisted by the patria polestas of the Roman and Aryan races, and the monogamous tendency and divorce restrictions of Christianity, was, nevertheless, too closely in accord with natural instincts to be ever wholly abrogated.