06 September 2013

Breeders of Our Kind

MACHINE MADE (published in Others, 1916)

Lelia Miller Pearce

I am the woman at the loom—
Throwing the merry shuttles back and forth
Flat-bosomed, I am moulded for the Task
Gaunt and unwomanly—

The great wheels mutter, snarl, and jeer—
Others ill shapen as I, strive persistently—
Slope focused down, a vista with no end,
Grey and unlovely—

From what drab beginnings did we spring?—
Tossers of bobbins in a mad hemisphere ?—
Work-soddened, we are fathered by the Task—
Sweat of factories—

These are our forbears—these—the looms—
Fathers and mothers of dull, wan, humanity—
Soul-starved, we are breeders of our Kind—
Fruit of clamorings—

Dusk frees the woman from the loom—
Hobbles the shuttles for the night, jarringly—
Wheel-weaned, the loom-daughter dreads the Dawn's
Call of nativity—


A critical history of technology would show how little any of the inventions of the 18th century are the work of a single individual. Hitherto there is no such book. Darwin has interested us in the history of Nature's Technology, in the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as instruments of production for sustaining life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man, of organs that are the material basis of all social organisation, deserve equal attention? And would not such a history be easier to compile, since, as Vico says, human history differs from natural history in this, that we have made the. former, but not the latter? Technology discloses man's mode of dealing with Nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations, and of the mental conceptions that flow from them.


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