The Forerunner, Volume 1 (1909-1910)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Part 10 out of 18
and into careful dietetics, which would cut out from our food list the
hare and rabbit, the lobster, the crab, the turtle, the clam, oyster and
scallop, indeed all shellfish.
The "fowls that creep, going upon all four," whatever they may be, are
also considered an abomination; but locusts, bald locusts, and
grasshoppers are recommended by name. Even in clothing we are carefully
forbidden to use a garment of linen and woolen, yet among our pious
Puritan ancestors "linsey-woolsey" was a very common and useful cloth.
All these secondary Mosaic directions have long since been relegated to
their place in archaeology; at least by the Christian churches, but the
ten commandments are still held as coming direct from God; and form the
main basis of our ethics. Yet while tacitly accepted they are not
studied, and few people have remarked how the pressure of social
development has changed their weight and relative value.
At first they stood, imposing and alike, an even row, to break anyone of
which was held an equal sin. Few persons now would hold disrespect to a
patently disrespectable parent as wrong as murder; or a failure to
"remember the Sabbath" as great a sin as adultery. Experience has
taught us something, and those who have undertaken that sore travail--to
seek and search out by wisdom--have found that some things are much more
wrong than others--and why.
I met once a very pious man; dark, gloomy, violently virtuous. He
looked like one of Cromwell's deacons; but was in fact a southerner and
an Episcopalian. Mention was made of an enlightened jury, somewhere in
the west, who had acquitted a man who stole bread for his starving
"Good!" said I; "good! we are at last learning to discriminate in our
judgment of right and wrong."
He glowered at me forbiddingly. "There is no room for judgment," he
said; as if he were Fate itself. "There is a Commandment which says,
'Thou shalt not steal!'"
"Do you mean that all the Commandments stand equally?" I inquired.
"That we must hold all of the same importance, without qualification,
and to break any is an equal sin?"
"I do!" he said, with solemn assurance.
I meditated a little, and then asked, "Did you not say to me the other
day that if the negroes ever tried to assert social equality, you would
be among the first to shoulder your gun and put them in their place?"
"I would!" he admitted proudly.
"But," said I, "is there not a commandment which says, 'Thou shalt not
He was silent. He was much annoyed, and saw no way out of his morass of
contradiction. Then I offered what looked like a plank, a
stepping-stone to safety. "Surely," said I, "there is some room for
judgment. The later and smaller laws and regulations give many
directions for killing. All through ancient Hebraic history it was
frequently a special mandate, the people being distinctly commanded to
slay and destroy, sometimes even to kill women, children and the unborn.
And to-day--even a Christian man, in the exercise of legal justice, in
defence of his life, his family, his country,--surely he has a right to
kill! Do you not think there are times when it is right to kill?"
With a long breath of relief he agreed.
"Then why may it not be sometimes right to commit adultery?"
The conversation lapsed. He knew the two offenses were not in the same
category. He knew that the reasons adultery is wrong, and killing is
wrong are older than Hebrew history, and rest on observed facts. It
would be a hardy thinker who would defend adultery; but we all know--to
quote Ecclesiastes again that "There is a time to kill and a time to
It may be that that set of ten applied with beautiful precision to the
special vices of that people and that time; but there is room for many
more needed ones to-day. There is no commandment against gambling, for
instance; one of the most universal and indefensible evils. Gambling
does no one good; the winner of unearned money is corrupted and the
loser both corrupted and deprived. Gambling undermines all habits of
industry and thrift; it unsettles our reliance on care, patience,
thoroughness, ability, and tempts us to rely on chance. It is an
unmitigated social evil, but goes unforbidden by the Mosaic code, which
was so careful about which kind of fat to sacrifice and how much
uncleaner a girl baby was than a boy.
Speaking of social evil, _the_ social evil is not referred to. Adultery
is an offence to be sure, dangerous and destructive to family and social
life; but prostitution is a greater evil; far more common--and goes
unmentioned; unless in the original it meant the same thing.
Lying is not referred to. Of course some say that bearing false witness
means lying; but surely malicious perjury is a special crime, distinctly
described, and not the same thing as mere misrepresentation.
Another of the blackest sins known to man, always so recognized and
punished, goes without notice in this list:--treason. To betray one's
country--what could be worse! Is it not visibly wickeder than to play
ball on Sunday?
On the positive side our whole code of ethics, Hebrew and Christian,
fails to mention the main duty of life--to do your best work. This is
the one constant social service; and its reverse is a constant social
The old ethics is wholly personal, the new ethics (still unwritten) is
social first--personal later. In the old list we find, on a par with
adultery, theft and murder, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord
thy God in vain." Does this mean common swearing? Is it as wrong to
say 'damn' as to commit murder?
No, we do know better than that. We know that in those days, when lying
was so universal a habit that no one thought of prohibiting it, the two
most evil extremes were flat perjury with intent to harm, and the solemn
invocation of God's name to bind a bargain or seal a vow, afterward
broken. Both these were carefully forbidden. No one thought of
believing anything unless it was sworn to--and if they broke their oath
there was no reliance anywhere. To compel a slippery people to keep
faith--that was good ethics; and then most necessary.
We do not run our business that way now; we do greater evil in new
ways--and there is no commandment to forbid us. If that one read, "Thou
shalt not break faith nor cheat," it would have applied equally well
The very first one is a curious proof of the then belief in many gods.
Jehovah does not say, "I am the only God," He says, "Thou shalt have no
other gods before me." That there were others is admitted, but it is
forbidden to run after them.
Nowadays we do not care enough even for our own idea of God--to say
nothing of other people's! And look at all that careful objection to
images and likenesses, and idol worship generally. The Jews forebore
painting and sculpture for many centuries because of that prohibition.
Now everyone with a kodak breaks it. The growth of true religious
feeling, as well as scientific thought, makes it impossible for
civilized peoples to make images and worship them, as did those
ingenious old Moabites and Midianites, Jebuzites and Perrizites,
Hittites and Haggathites.
The rigorous prohibition of coveting has always puzzled me--to covet is
such a private feeling. And if you keep it to yourself, what harm does
it do? You may spend your life wishing you had your neighbor's large
red automobile; but he is none the poorer. Of course if one sits up
nights to covet; or does it daytimes, by the hour, to the exclusion of
other business; it would interfere with industry and injure the health.
Can it be that the ancient Hebrews were that covetous?
Now suppose we do in good earnest give our hearts to seek and search out
all things that are done under heaven, to classify and study them, to
find which are most injurious and which are most beneficial, and base
thereon a farther code of ethics--by no means excluding the old.
The two great Christian laws will stand solidly. The absolute and all
absorbing love of God and the love of the neighbor which is much the
same thing--are good general directions. But in daily living; in
confronting that ceaseless array of "all things that are done under
heaven," the average person cannot stop to think out just how this game
of bridge or that horse-race interferes with love of God or man. We
need good hard honest scientific study; sore travail, which God hath
given to the sons of men, to be exercised therewith; and a further code
of ethics, not claimed as directly handed down from Heaven, but proven
by plain facts of common experience. We do not need to imitate or
parody the authoritative utterance of any priesthood; we want an
exposition which a bright child can understand and a practical man
We have succeeded before now in establishing elaborate codes of
conduct--yes and enforcing them, without any better sanction than habit,
prejudice, tradition. A schoolboy has his notion of right behavior, not
traceable to Hebrew or Christian ethics; so has the grown man, putting
his quaint ideas of "honor" and "sportsmanship" far beyond any religious
teaching. Our scorn of the tell-tale and the coward is not based on the
Bible, but on experience; our inhuman cruelty to "the woman who has
sinned" is based on mere ignorance and falsehood.
Take that fatuous "unwritten law" which allows a man to murder another
man and the wife who has offended what he calls "his honor." There is
nothing about that honor of his in old or new testament. It is a notion
of his own, which overrides, "Thou shalt not kill," as easily as "lying
like a gentleman" overrides, "Thou shalt not bear false witness."
Since we have shown such simple capacity to invent and enforce codes of
ethics, of questionable value, why not exercise our ingenuity in making
some better ones? We know more now.
As a matter of fact we do not want commands, we want instructions; we
want to know why things are wrong, which are the most wrong, and what
are their respective consequences. But if a distinct set of
prohibitions is preferred it is quite possible to make some that would
fit our present day conditions more closely than the Hebraic list.
It would be an interesting thing to have earnest people give their minds
to this and seek and search out for themselves a new light on everyday
ethics. As a starter here is a tentative list to think about; open to
alteration and addition by anyone.
And on what authority are these presented? some will ask. Not on
"authority" at all; but on law, natural law, the right and wrong
indicated being long since known to us. And are these set
presumptuously in the place of the Divine Command? will be tremblingly
inquired. By no means. The Ten stand as before--these are auxiliary
and merely suggestive of study.
1. Thou shalt learn that human love is a natural law and obey it as the
main condition of life: the service of man is the worship of God.
2. Thou shalt learn that the first duty of human life is to find thy
work and do it; for by labor ye live and grow and in it is worship,
pride and joy.
3. Thou shalt keep an open mind and use it, welcoming new knowledge and
new truth and giving them to all.
4. Thou shalt maintain liberty and justice for everyone.
5. Thou shalt maintain thy health and thy chastity. Temperance and
purity are required of all men.
6. Thou shalt not lie, break faith or cheat.
7. Thou shalt not gamble, nor live idly on the labor of others, nor by
8. Thou shalt not steal; nor take from one another save in fair
exchange or as a free gift.
9. Thou shalt not do unnecessary hurt to any living thing.
10. Thou shalt not worship the past nor be content with the present,
for growth is the law of life.
Exempt! She "does not have to work!"
So might one talk
Defending long, bedridden ease,
Weak yielding ankles, flaccid knees,
With, "I don't have to walk!"
Not have to work. Why not? Who gave
Free pass to you?
You're housed and fed and taught and dressed
By age-long labor of the rest--
Work other people do!
What do you give in honest pay
For clothes and food?
Then as a shield, defence, excuse,
She offers her exclusive use--
Is motherhood a trade you make
A living by?
And does the wealth you so may use,
Squander, accumulate, abuse,
Show motherhood as high?
Or does the motherhood of those
Whose toil endures,
The farmers' and mechanics' wives,
Hard working servants all their lives--
Deserve less price than yours?
We're not exempt! Man's world runs on,
Our servitude and long duress,
Our shameless, harem idleness,
Both fail to serve the child.
GENIUS, DOMESTIC AND MATERNAL
Most of us believe the human race to be the highest form of life--so
far. Not all of us know why. Because we do not properly realize the
causes of our superiority and swift advance, we do not take advantage of
them as we should.
Among various causes of human supremacy, none counts more than our
social gift of genius, the special power that is given to some more than
others, as part of social specialization. In social life, which is
organic, we do not find each one doing the same work, but some,
especially fitted for one thing, doing that thing for the service of the
others. No creature approaches us in the degree of our specialization,
and the crowning power of individual genius.
Because of this power we, as a whole, have benefited by the "genius for
mechanics," for invention, for discovery, for administration, and all
the commoner lines of work, as well as in the fine arts and professions.
The great surgeon is a genius as well as the great painter or poet, and
the world profits by the mighty works of these specialized servants.
For the development of genius we must allow it to specialize, of course.
The genius of Beethoven would have done us little good if he had passed
his life as a bookkeeper or dealer in ironware. The greatest of poets
could produce little poetry if he worked twelve hours a day in a rolling
mill. Genius may overcome some forms of opposition, but it must be
allowed to do the work it has a genius for--or none will be manifested.
We can easily see what a loss it would have been to the world if all
forms of genius had been checked and smothered; if we had no better
poetry than the average man writes when he is in love, no better surgery
than each of us could perform if he had to, no better music than the
tunes we make up to amuse ourselves, no better machinery than each of us
is capable of inventing. We know full well the limitation of the
Now, suppose we had no better guide than that, no specialization at all,
no great financiers, no great administrators, no great astronomers or
architects, no great anything--simply the average mind, doing everything
for itself without any help from others. A nice, flat, low-grade world
we would have! Think of the houses, each of them "the house that Jack
built," and not a building on earth bigger or better than Jack alone
could make! No sciences, no arts, no skilled trades (one cannot develop
much special skill while doing everything for oneself); no teachers and
leaders of any sort--just the strength and ingenuity of each one of us,
trying to meet his own needs by his own efforts.
This would be stark savagery, not civilization.
All this is as true of women as it is of men; women also are human
beings, and members of society. Women have capacity for specialization,
for strong preference and high ability in certain kinds of work. But
since a man's world has viewed women only as females, since their
feminine functions were practically uniform, and since everything they
did was considered a feminine function, therefore women have not been
allowed to specialize and develop genius. All women were required to do
the same work (a) "keep house"; (b) "rear children."
These things we have at no time viewed as arts, trades, sciences or
professions; they were considered as feminine functions, and to be
performed by "instinct." Instinct is hereditary habit. It is developed
by the repeated action of identical conditions. It is a fine thing, for
animals, who have nothing else.
In humanity, instinct disappears in proportion as reason develops. Our
conditions vary, even more and rapidly, and we have to have something
much more rapid and alterable than instinct. No great man runs a
business by instinct; he learns how. For the performance of any social
service of importance, three powers are required. First, special
ability or genius; second, education; third, experience. When we are
served by special ability, education and experience, we are well served.
Any human business left without these is left at the bottom of the
That is where we find the two great branches of human service left to
women, the domestic and the maternal. These universal services, of most
vital importance not only to our individual lives but to our social
development, are left to be performed by the average mind, by the
average woman, by instinct.
Our shoemaking is done by a shoemaker, our blacksmithing by a
blacksmith, our doctoring by a doctor; but our cooking is done not by a
cook, but by the woman a man happens to marry. She may, by rare chance,
have some genius for cooking; but even if she does, there is no
education and experience, save such as she may get from a cook book and
a lifetime of catering to one family. Quite aside from cooking, the
management of our daily living is a form of social service which should
be given by genius, education, and experience; and, like the cooking, it
is performed by any pretty girl a man secures in marriage.
This vast field of comfort or discomfort, ease or disease, happiness or
unhappiness, is cut off from the uplifting influence of specialization.
But it is in the tasks and cares we call "maternal" that our strange
restriction of normal development does most damage. We have lumped
under their large and generous term all the things done to the little
child--by his mother. What his father does for him is not so limited.
A child needs a house to live in--but his father does not have to build
it. A child needs shoes, hats, furniture, dishes, toys--his father does
not have to make them. A child needs, above all things,
instruction--his father does not have to give it.
No, the fathers, humanly specialized, developing great skill and making
constant progress, give to the world's children human advantages. A
partly civilized state, comparative peace, such and such religions and
systems of education, such and such fruits of the industry, trade,
commerce of the time, and the mighty works of genius; all these men give
to children, not individually, as parents, but collectively, as human
beings. The father who, as a savage, could give his children only a
father's services, now gives them the services of carpenters and masons,
farmers and graziers, doctors and lawyers, painters and glaziers,
butchers and bakers, soldiers and sailors--all the multiplied abilities
of modern specialization; while the mother is "only mother" still.
There are three exceptions: that most ancient division of labor which
provided the nurse, the next oldest which gave the servant, and the very
recent one which has lifted the world so wonderfully, the teacher. The
first two are still unspecialized. As any woman is supposed to be a
competent mother, so any woman is supposed to be a competent nursemaid
or housemaid. The teacher, however, has to learn his business, is a
skilled professional, and accomplishes much.
Teaching is a form of specialized motherhood. It gives "the mother
love"--an attribute of all female animals toward their own young--a
chance to grow to social form as a general love of children, and through
specialization, training, experience, it makes this love far more
useful. The teacher is to some degree a social mother, and the
advantage of this social motherhood is so great that it would seem
impossible to question it. Motherhood is common to all races of
humanity, down to the Bushmen, as well as to beasts and birds.
Education is found only with us; and in proportion to our stage of
social progress. Where there is no education but the mother's--no
progress. Where the teacher comes, and in proportion to the quantity
and quality of teachers, so advances civilization. In Africa there are
mothers, prolific and affectionate; in China, in India, everywhere. But
the nations with the most and best education are those which lead the
Similarly in domestic service. Everywhere on earth, to the lowest
savages, we find the individual woman serving the individual man. "Home
cooking" varies with the home; from the oil-lamp of the Eskimo or
brazier of the Oriental, up to the more elaborate stoves and ranges of
to-day; but the art of cooking has grown through the men cooks, who made
it a business, and gave to this valuable form of social service the
advantages of genius, training and experience.
The whole people share in the development of architecture, of electric
transportation and communication, of science and invention. But no such
development is possible to the general public, in these basic
necessities of child care and house care, for the obvious reason above
stated, that these tasks are left to the unspecialized, untrained,
unexperienced average woman.
The child should have from birth the advantages of civilization. The
home should universally share in the progress of the age. To some
extent this now takes place, as far as the advance in child-culture can
spread and filter downward to the average mother, through the darkness
of ignorance and the obstacles of prejudice, and as far as public
statutes can enforce upon the private home the sanitary requirements of
the age. But this is a slow and pitifully small advance; we need
genius, for our children; genius to insure the health and happiness of
our daily lives.
Motherhood pure and simple, the bearing, nursing, loving and providing
for a child, is a feminine function, and should be common to all women.
But that "providing" does not have to be done in person. The mother has
long since deputed to the father the two main lines of child
care--defence and maintenance. She has allowed her responsibility to
shift in this matter on the ground that he could do it better than she
In instruction she has accepted the services of the school, and of the
music-teacher, dancing-teacher, and other specialists; in case of
illness, she relies on the doctor; in daily use, she is glad to
patronize the shoemaker and hatter, seamstress and tailor. Yet in the
position of nurse and teacher to the baby, she admits no assistance
except a servant. But the first four or five years of a child's life
are of preeminent importance. Here above all is where he needs the
advantage of genius, training and experience, and is given but ignorant
affection and hired labor.
Some, to-day, driven to the wall by glaring facts such as these, that
babies die most of preventable diseases, and that their death rate is
greatest while they are most absolutely in their mother's care, do admit
the need of improvement. But they say, "The mother should engage this
specialist to help her in the home," or, "The mother must be taught."
If all normal women are to be mothers, as they should, how are any
specialists to be hired in private homes? A young nursemaid cannot
reach the heights of training and experience needed. As to teaching the
mother--_who is to teach her?_
Who understands this work? No one! And no one ever will until the
natural genius for child culture of some women is improved by training,
strengthened and deepened by experience, and recognized as social
service. Such women should be mothers themselves, of course, They would
be too few, by the laws of specialization, to be hired as private
nurses, and too expensive, if they were not too few. The great
Specialist in Child Culture should be as highly honored and paid as a
college president--more so; no place on earth is more important.
The average mother is not, and never can be, an eminent specialist, any
more than the average father can be. Averages do not attain genius.
Our children need genius in their service. "Where are we to get it?"
demand the carpers and doubters, clinging to their rocky fastnesses of
tradition and habit like so many limpets.
It is here already.
Some women have a natural genius for the care and training of babies and
little children. Some women have a natural genius for household
management. All this wealth of genius is now lost to the world except
in so far as it is advantageous to one family.
And here, by a paradox not surprising, it io often disadvantageous. A
woman capable of smoothly administering a large hotel may be extremely
wearing as a private housekeeper. Napoleon, as a drill sergeant, would
have been hard to bear.
A woman with the real human love for children, the capacity for detail
in their management, the profound interest in educational processes,
which would make her a beneficent angel if she had the care of hundreds,
may make her a positive danger if she has to focus all that capacity on
two or three.
(To be concluded.)
A MAN IN PRISON.
His cell is small.
His cell is dark.
His cell is cold.
His labor is monotonous and hard.
He is cut off from the light of day, from freedom of movement, from the
meeting of friends, from all amusement and pleasure and variety.
His hard labor is the least of his troubles--without it he could not
support life. What he most suffers from is the monotony--the
confinement--from being in prison.
He longs for his wife. He longs for his children. He longs for his
But first and last and always; highest and deepest and broadest, with
all his body and soul and mind he longs for Freedom!
A WOMAN IN PRISON.
Her cell is small.
Her cell is dark.
Her cell is cold.
Her labor is monotonous and hard.
She is cut off from the light of day, from freedom of movement, from the
meeting of friends, from all amusement and pleasure and variety.
Her hard labor is the least of her troubles--without it she could not
support life. What she most suffers from is the monotony--the
confinement--from being in prison.
She longs for her husband. She longs for her children. She longs for
But first and last and always; highest and deepest and broadest, with
all her body and soul and mind she longs for Freedom!
THE MAN OF ALL WORK.
A man is doing all the housework of one family. He loves this family.
It is his family.
He loves his home.
He does not hate his work; but he does get tired of it.
He has to sleep at home all night, and he would prefer to go away from
it in the morning; to go out into the air; to join his friends; to go to
the shop, the office, the mill, the mine; to work with other men at more
He loves his children; and wishes to do his duty as a father, but he has
them with him by night as well as by day; and even a father's patience
sometimes gives out. Also he has to do the housework. And even a
father, with all his love and strength cannot be a cook, a teacher, and
a nurse at the same time.
Sometimes the cooking suffers, but more often it is the teaching or
nursing or both--for his wife is rather exacting in the matter of food.
He has a kind wife and they are happy together.
He is proud of his children and they love him.
But when he was a young man he had a strange ambition--he wanted to Be
Somebody--to Do Something--to be independent, to take hold of the
world's work and help.
His children say, "We need you, Father--you cannot be spared--your duty
His wife says, "I need you, Husband! You cannot be spared. I like to
feel that you are here with the children--keeping up our Home--your duty
And the Voice of the Priest, and the Voice of the Past and the Voice of
Common Prejudice all say:
"The duty of a father is to his children. The duty of a husband is to
his wife. Somebody must do the housework! Your duty is here!"
Yet the man is not satisfied.
THE WOMAN OF ALL WORK.
? ? ? ? ?
My whole heart grieves
To feel the thrashing winds of March
On the young May leaves--
The cold dry dust winds of March
On the tender, fresh May leaves.
WHAT DIANTHA DID
See, "Locked Inside," January No.
Behind the straight purple backs and smooth purple legs on the box
before them, Madam Weatherstone and Mrs. Weatherstone rolled home
silently, a silence of thunderous portent. Another purple person opened
the door for them, and when Madam Weatherstone said, "We will have tea
on the terrace," it was brought them by a fourth.
"I was astonished at your attitude, Viva," began the old lady, at
length. "Of course it was Mrs. Dankshire's fault in the first place,
but to encourage that,--outrageous person! How could you do it!"
Young Mrs. Weatherstone emptied her exquisite cup and set it down.
"A sudden access of courage, I suppose," she said. "I was astonished at
"I wholly disagree with you!" replied her mother-in-law. "Never in my
life have I heard such nonsense. Talk like that would be dangerous, if
it were not absurd! It would destroy the home! It would strike at the
roots of the family."
Viva eyed her quietly, trying to bear in mind the weight of a tradition,
the habits of a lifetime, the effect of long years of uninterrupted
worship of household gods.
"It doesn't seem so to me," she said slowly, "I was much interested and
impressed. She is evidently a young woman of knowledge and experience,
and put her case well. It has quite waked me up."
"It has quite upset you!" was the reply. "You'll be ill after this, I
am sure. Hadn't you better go and lie down now? I'll have some dinner
sent to you."
"Thank you," said Viva, rising and walking to the edge of the broad
terrace. "You are very kind. No. I do not wish to lie down. I
haven't felt so thoroughly awake in--" she drew a pink cluster of
oleander against her cheek and thought a moment--"in several years."
There was a new look about her certainly.
"Nervous excitement," her mother-in-law replied. "You're not like
yourself at all to-night. You'll certainly be ill to-morrow!"
Viva turned at this and again astonished the old lady by serenely
kissing her. "Not at all!" she said gaily. "I'm going to be well
to-morrow. You will see!"
She went to her room, drew a chair to the wide west window with the far
off view and sat herself down to think. Diantha's assured poise, her
clear reasoning, her courage, her common sense; and something of
tenderness and consecration she discerned also, had touched deep chords
in this woman's nature. It was like the sound of far doors opening,
windows thrown up, the jingle of bridles and clatter of hoofs, keen
bugle notes. A sense of hope, of power, of new enthusiasm, rose in her.
Orchardina Society, eagerly observing "young Mrs. Weatherstone" from her
first appearance, had always classified her as "delicate." Beside the
firm features and high color of the matron-in-office, this pale quiet
slender woman looked like a meek and transient visitor. But her white
forehead was broad under its soft-hanging eaves of hair, and her chin,
though lacking in prognathous prominence or bull-dog breadth, had a
certain depth which gave hope to the physiognomist.
She was strangely roused and stirred by the afternoon's events. "I'm
like that man in 'Phantastes'," she thought contemptuously, "who stayed
so long in that dungeon because it didn't occur to him to open the door!
Why don't I--?" she rose and walked slowly up and down, her hands
behind her. "I will!" she said at last.
Then she dressed for dinner, revolving in her mind certain suspicions
long suppressed, but now flaming out in clear conviction in the light of
Diantha's words. "Sleeping in, indeed!" she murmured to herself. "And
nobody doing anything!"
She looked herself in the eye in the long mirror. Her gown was an
impressive one, her hair coiled high, a gold band ringed it like a
crown. A clear red lit her checks.
She rang. Little Ilda, the newest maid, appeared, gazing at her in shy
admiration. Mrs. Weatherstone looked at her with new eyes. "Have you
been here long?" she asked. "What is your name?"
"No, ma'am," said the child--she was scarce more. "Only a week and two
days. My name is Ilda."
"Who engaged you?"
"Mrs. Halsey, ma'am."
"Ah," said Mrs. Weatherstone, musing to herself, "and I engaged Mrs.
Halsey!" "Do you like it here?" she continued kindly.
"Oh yes, ma'am!" said Ilda. "That is--" she stopped, blushed, and
continued bravely. "I like to work for you, ma'am."
"Thank you, Ilda. Will you ask Mrs. Halsey to come to me--at once,
Ilda went, more impressed than ever with the desirability of her new
place, and mistress.
As she was about to pass the door of Mr. Matthew Weatherstone, that
young gentleman stepped out and intercepted her. "Whither away so fast,
my dear?" he amiably inquired.
"Please let one pass, sir! I'm on an errand. Please, sir?"
"You must give me a kiss first!" said he--and since there seemed no
escape and she was in haste, she submitted. He took six--and she ran
away half crying.
Mrs. Halsey, little accustomed to take orders from her real mistress,
and resting comfortably in her room, had half a mind to send an excuse.
"I'm not dressed," she said to the maid.
"Well she is!" replied Ilda, "dressed splendid. She said 'at once,
"A pretty time o' day!" said the housekeeper with some asperity, hastily
buttoning her gown; and she presently appeared, somewhat heated, before
That lady was sitting, cool and gracious, her long ivory paper-cutter
between the pages of a new magazine.
"In how short a time could you pack, Mrs. Halsey?" she inquired.
"Pack, ma'am? I'm not accustomed to doing packing. I'll send one of
the maids. Is it your things, ma'am?"
"No," said Mrs. Weatherstone. "It is yours I refer to. I wish you to
pack your things and leave the house--in an hour. One of the maids can
help you, if necessary. Anything you cannot take can be sent after you.
Here is a check for the following month's wages."
Mrs. Halsey was nearly a head taller than her employer, a stout showy
woman, handsome enough, red-lipped, and with a moist and crafty eye.
This was so sudden a misadventure that she forgot her usual caution.
"You've no right to turn me off in a minute like this!" she burst forth.
"I'll leave it to Madam Weatherstone!"
"If you will look at the terms on which I engaged you, Mrs. Halsey, you
will find that a month's warning, or a month's wages, was specified.
Here are the wages--as to the warning, that has been given for some
"By whom, Ma'am?"
"By yourself, Mrs. Halsey--I think you understand me. Oscar will take
your things as soon as they are ready."
Mrs. Halsey met her steady eye a moment--saw more than she cared to
face--and left the room.
She took care, however, to carry some letters to Madam Weatherstone, and
meekly announced her discharge; also, by some coincidence, she met Mr.
Matthew in the hall upstairs, and weepingly confided her grievance to
him, meeting immediate consolation, both sentimental and practical.
When hurried servants were sent to find their young mistress they
reported that she must have gone out, and in truth she had; out on her
own roof, where she sat quite still, though shivering a little now and
then from the new excitement, until dinner time.
This meal, in the mind of Madam Weatherstone, was the crowning factor of
daily life; and, on state occasions, of social life. In her cosmogony
the central sun was a round mahogany table; all other details of
housekeeping revolved about it in varying orbits. To serve an endless
series of dignified delicious meals, notably dinners, was, in her eyes,
the chief end of woman; the most high purpose of the home.
Therefore, though angry and astounded, she appeared promptly when the
meal was announced; and when her daughter-in-law, serene and royally
attired, took her place as usual, no emotion was allowed to appear
before the purple footman who attended.
"I understood you were out, Viva," she said politely.
"I was," replied Viva, with equal decorum. "It is charming outside at
this time in the evening--don't you think so?"
Young Matthew was gloomy and irritable throughout the length and breadth
of the meal; and when they were left with their coffee in the drawing
room, he broke out, "What's this I hear about Mrs. Halsey being fired
"That is what I wish to know, Viva," said the grandmother. "The poor
woman is greatly distressed. Is there not some mistake?"
"It's a damn shame," said Matthew.
The younger lady glanced from one to the other, and wondered to see how
little she minded it. "The door was there all the time!" she thought to
herself, as she looked her stepson in the eye and said, "Hardly
drawing-room language, Matthew. Your grandmother is present!"
He stared at her in dumb amazement, so she went on, "No, there is no
mistake at all. I discharged Mrs. Halsey about an hour before dinner.
The terms of the engagement were a month's warning or a month's wages.
I gave her the wages."
"But! but!" Madam Weatherstone was genuinely confused by this sudden
inexplicable, yet perfectly polite piece of what she still felt to be in
the nature of 'interference' and 'presumption.' "I have had no fault to
find with her."
"I have, you see," said her daughter-in-law smiling. "I found her
unsatisfactory and shall replace her with something better presently.
How about a little music, Matthew? Won't you start the victrolla?"
Matthew wouldn't. He was going out; went out with the word. Madam
Weatherstone didn't wish to hear it--had a headache--must go to her
room--went to her room forthwith. There was a tension in the
athmosphere that would have wrung tears from Viva Weatherstone a week
ago, yes, twenty-four hours ago.
As it was she rose to her feet, stretching herself to her full height,
and walked the length of the great empty room. She even laughed a
little. "It's open!" said she, and ordered the car. While waiting for
it she chatted with Mrs. Porne awhile over the all-convenient telephone.
Diantha sat at her window, watching the big soft, brilliant moon behind
the eucalyptus trees. After the close of the strenuous meeting, she had
withdrawn from the crowd of excited women anxious to shake her hand and
engage her on the spot, had asked time to consider a number of good
opportunities offered, and had survived the cold and angry glances of
the now smaller but far more united Home and Culture Club. She declined
to talk to the reporters, and took refuge first in an open car. This
proved very unsatisfactory, owing to her sudden prominence. Two
persistent newspaper men swung themselves upon the car also and insisted
on addressing her.
"Excuse me, gentlemen," she said, "I am not acquainted with you."
They eagerly produced their cards--and said they were "newspaper men."
"I see," said Diantha, "But you are still men? And gentlemen, I
suppose? I am a woman, and I do not wish to talk with you."
"Miss Bell Declines to Be Interviewed," wrote the reporters, and spent
themselves on her personal appearance, being favorably impressed
But Miss Bell got off at the next corner and took a short cut to the
house where she had rented a room. Reporters were waiting there, two
Diantha politely but firmly declined to see them and started for the
stairs; but they merely stood in front of her and asked questions. The
girl's blood surged to her cheeks; she smiled grimly, kept absolute
silence, brushed through them and went swiftly to her room, locking the
door after her.
The reporters described her appearance--unfavorably this time; and they
described the house--also unfavorably. They said that "A group of
adoring-eyed young men stood about the doorway as the flushed heroine of
the afternoon made her brusque entrance." These adorers consisted of
the landlady's Johnny, aged thirteen, and two satellites of his, still
younger. They _did_ look at Diantha admiringly; and she _was_ a little
hurried in her entrance--truth must be maintained.
Too irritated and tired to go out for dinner, she ate an orange or two,
lay down awhile, and then eased her mind by writing a long letter to
Ross and telling him all about it. That is, she told him most of it,
all the pleasant things, all the funny things; leaving out about the
reporters, because she was too angry to be just, she told herself. She
wrote and wrote, becoming peaceful as the quiet moments passed, and a
sense grew upon her of the strong, lasting love that was waiting so
"Dearest," her swift pen flew along, "I really feel much encouraged. An
impression has been made. One or two men spoke to me afterward; the
young minister, who said such nice things; and one older man, who looked
prosperous and reliable. 'When you begin any such business as you have
outlined, you may count on me, Miss Bell,' he said, and gave me his
card. He's a lawyer--P. L. Wiscomb; nice man, I should think. Another
big, sheepish-looking man said, 'And me, Miss Bell.' His name is
Thaddler; his wife is very disagreeable. Some of the women are
favorably impressed, but the old-fashioned kind--my! 'If hate killed
men, Brother Lawrence!'--but it don't."
She wrote herself into a good humor, and dwelt at considerable length on
the pleasant episode of the minister and young Mrs. Weatherstone's
remarks. "I liked her," she wrote. "She's a nice woman--even if she is
There was a knock at her door. "Lady to see you, Miss."
"I cannot see anyone," said Diantha; "you must excuse me."
"Beg pardon, Miss, but it's not a reporter; it's--." The landlady
stretched her lean neck around the door edge and whispered hoarsely,
"It's young Mrs. Weatherstone!"
Diantha rose to her feet, a little bewildered. "I'll be right down,"
she said. But a voice broke in from the hall, "I beg your pardon, Miss
Bell, but I took the liberty of coming up; may I come in?"
She came in, and the landlady perforce went out. Mrs. Weatherstone held
Diantha's hand warmly, and looked into her eyes. "I was a schoolmate of
Ellen Porne," she told the girl. "We are dear friends still; and so I
feel that I know you better than you think. You have done beautiful
work for Mrs. Porne; now I want you to do to it for me. I need you."
"Won't you sit down?" said Diantha.
"You, too," said Mrs. Weatherstone. "Now I want you to come to
me--right away. You have done me so much good already. I was just a
New England bred school teacher myself at first, so we're even that far.
Then you took a step up--and I took a step down."
Diantha was a little slow in understanding the quick fervor of this new
friend; a trifle suspicious, even; being a cautious soul, and somewhat
overstrung, perhaps. Her visitor, bright-eyed and eager, went on. "I
gave up school teaching and married a fortune. You have given it up to
do a more needed work. I think you are wonderful. Now, I know this
seems queer to you, but I want to tell you about it. I feel sure you'll
understand. At home, Madam Weatherstone has had everything in charge
for years and years, and I've been too lazy or too weak, or too
indifferent, to do anything. I didn't care, somehow. All the machinery
of living, and no _living_--no good of it all! Yet there didn't seem to
be anything else to do. Now you have waked me all up--your paper this
afternoon--what Mr. Eltwood said--the way those poor, dull, blind women
took it. And yet I was just as dull and blind myself! Well, I begin to
see things now. I can't tell you all at once what a difference it has
made; but I have a very definite proposition to make to you. Will you
come and be my housekeeper, now--right away--at a hundred dollars a
Diantha opened her eyes wide and looked at the eager lady as if she
suspected her nervous balance.
"The other one got a thousand a year--you are worth more. Now, don't
decline, please. Let me tell you about it. I can see that you have
plans ahead, for this business; but it can't hurt you much to put them
off six months, say. Meantime, you could be practicing. Our place at
Santa Ulrica is almost as big as this one; there are lots of servants
and a great, weary maze of accounts to be kept, and it wouldn't be bad
practice for you--now, would it?"
Diantha's troubled eyes lit up. "No--you are right there," she said.
"If I could do it!"
"You'll have to do just that sort of thing when you are running your
business, won't you?" her visitor went on. "And the summer's not a good
time to start a thing like that, is it?"
Diantha meditated. "No, I wasn't going to. I was going to start
somewhere--take a cottage, a dozen girls or so--and furnish labor by the
day to the other cottages."
"Well, you might be able to run that on the side," said Mrs.
Weatherstone. "And you could train my girls, get in new ones if you
like; it doesn't seem to me it would conflict. But to speak to you
quite frankly, Miss Bell, I want you in the house for my own sake. You
do me good."
They discussed the matter for some time, Diantha objecting mainly to the
suddenness of it all. "I'm a slow thinker," she said, "and this is
so--so attractive that I'm suspicious of it. I had the other thing all
planned--the girls practically engaged."
"Where were you thinking of going?" asked Mrs. Weatherstone.
"To Santa Ulrica."
"Exactly! Well, you shall have your cottage and our girls and give them
part time. Or--how many have you arranged with?"
"Only six have made definite engagements yet."
"Two laundresses, a cook and three second maids; all good ones."
"Excellent! Now, I tell you what to do. I will engage all those girls.
I'm making a change at the house, for various reasons. You bring them
to me as soon as you like; but you I want at once. I wish you'd come
home with me to-night! Why don't you?"
Diantha's scanty baggage was all in sight. She looked around for an
excuse. Mrs. Weatherstone stood up laughing.
"Put the new address in the letter," she said, mischievously, "and come
And the purple chauffeur, his disapproving back ineffectual in the
darkness, rolled them home.
THE ROOM AT THE TOP
There is room at the top?
Ah yes! Were you ever there?
Do you know what they bear
Whose struggle does not stop
Till they reach the room at the top?
Think you first of the way,
How long from the bottom round,--
From the safe, warm, common ground
In the light of the common day--
'Tis a long way. A dark way.
And think of the fight.
It is not so hard to stand
And strive off the broad free land;
But to climb in the wind and night,
And fight,--and climb,--and fight!
And the top when you enter in!
Ah! the fog! The frost! The dark!
And the hateful voices--hark!
O the comfort that you win!
Yes, there's room at the top. Come in!
OUR ANDROCENTRIC CULTURE; or, THE MAN-MADE WORLD
The origin of education is maternal. The mother animal is seen to teach
her young what she knows of life, its gains and losses; and, whether
consciously done or not, this is education. In our human life,
education, even in its present state, is the most important process.
Without it we could not maintain ourselves, much less dominate and
improve conditions as we do; and when education is what it should be,
our power will increase far beyond present hopes.
In lower animals, speaking generally, the powers of the race must be
lodged in each individual. No gain of personal experience is of avail
to the others. No advantages remain, save those physically transmitted.
The narrow limits of personal gain and personal inheritance rigidly hem
in sub-human progress. With us, what one learns may be taught to the
others. Our life is social, collective. Our gain is for all, and
profits us in proportion as we extend it to all. As the human soul
develops in us, we become able to grasp more fully our common needs and
advantages; and with this growth has come the extension of education to
the people as a whole. Social functions are developed under natural
laws, like physical ones, and may be studied similarly.
In the evolution of this basic social function, what has been the effect
of wholly masculine influence?
The original process, instruction of individual child by individual
mother, has been largely neglected in our man-made world. That was
considered as a subsidiary sex-function of the woman, and as such, left
to her "instinct." This is the main reason why we show such great
progress in education for older children, and especially for youths, and
so little comparatively in that given to little ones.
We have had on the one side the natural current of maternal education,
with its first assistant, the nursemaid, and its second, the
"dame-school"; and on the other the influence of the dominant class,
organized in university, college, and public school, slowly filtering
Educational forces are many. The child is born into certain conditions,
physical and psychic, and "educated" thereby. He grows up into social,
political and economic conditions, and is further modified by them. All
these conditions, so far, have been of androcentric character; but what
we call education as a special social process is what the child is
deliberately taught and subjected to; and it is here we may see the same
dominant influence so clearly.
This conscious education was, for long, given to boys alone, the girls
being left to maternal influence, each to learn what her mother knew,
and no more. This very clear instance of the masculine theory is
glaring enough by itself to rest a case on. It shows how absolute was
the assumption that the world was composed of men, and men alone were to
be fitted for it. Women were no part of the world, and needed no
training for its uses. As females they were born and not made; as human
beings they were only servants, trained as such by their servant
This system of education we are outgrowing more swiftly with each year.
The growing humanness of women, and its recognition, is forcing an equal
education for boy and girl. When this demand was first made, by women
of unusual calibre, and by men sufficiently human to overlook
sex-prejudice, how was it met? What was the attitude of woman's
"natural protector" when she began to ask some share in human life?
Under the universal assumption that men alone were humanity, that the
world was masculine and for men only, the efforts of the women were met
as a deliberate attempt to "unsex" themselves and become men. To be a
woman was to be ignorant, uneducated; to be wise, educated, was to be a
man. Women were not men, visibly; therefore they could not be educated,
and ought not to want to be.
Under this androcentric prejudice, the equal extension of education to
women was opposed at every step, and is still opposed by many. Seeing
in women only sex, and not humanness, they would confine her exclusively
to feminine interests. This is the masculine view, _par excellence_.
In spite of it, the human development of women, which so splendidly
characterizes our age, has gone on; and now both woman's colleges and
those for both sexes offer "the higher education" to our girls, as well
as the lower grades in school and kindergarten.
In the special professional training, the same opposition was
experienced, even more rancorous and cruel. One would think that on the
entrance of a few straggling and necessarily inferior feminine beginners
into a trade or profession, those in possession would extend to them the
right hand of fellowship, as comrades, extra assistance as beginners,
and special courtesy as women.
The contrary occurred. Women were barred out, discriminated against,
taken advantage of, as competitors; and as women they have had to meet
special danger and offence instead of special courtesy. An
unforgettable instance of this lies in the attitude of the medical
colleges toward women students. The men, strong enough, one would
think, in numbers, in knowledge, in established precedent, to be
generous, opposed the newcomers first with absolute refusal; then, when
the patient, persistent applicants did get inside, both students and
teachers met them not only with unkindness and unfairness, but with a
weapon ingeniously well chosen, and most discreditable--namely,
obscenity. Grave professors, in lecture and clinic, as well as grinning
students, used offensive language, and played offensive tricks, to drive
the women out--a most androcentric performance.
Remember that the essential masculine attitude is one of opposition, of
combat; his desire is obtained by first overcoming a competitor; and
then see how this dominant masculinity stands out where it has no
possible use or benefit--in the field of education. All along the line,
man, long master of a subject sex, fought every step of woman toward
mental equality. Nevertheless, since modern man has become human enough
to be just, he has at last let her have a share in the advantages of
education; and she has proven her full power to appreciate and use these
Then to-day rises a new cry against "women in education." Here is Mr.
Barrett Wendell, of Harvard, solemnly claiming that teaching women
weakens the intellect of the teacher, and every now and then bursts out
a frantic sputter of alarm over the "feminization" of our schools. It
is true that the majority of teachers are now women. It is true that
they do have an influence on growing children. It would even seem to be
true that that is largely what women are for.
But the male assumes his influence to be normal, human, and the female
influence as wholly a matter of sex; therefore, where women teach boys,
the boys become "effeminate"--a grievous fall. When men teach girls, do
the girls become -----? Here again we lack the analogue. Never has it
occurred to the androcentric mind to conceive of such a thing as being
too masculine. There is no such word! It is odd to notice that which
ever way the woman is placed, she is supposed to exert this degrading
influence; if the teacher, she effeminizes her pupils; if the pupil, she
effeminizes her teachers.
Now let us shake ourselves free, if only for a moment, from the
androcentric habit of mind.
As a matter of sex, the female is the more important. Her share of the
processes which sex distinction serves is by far the greater. To be
feminine--if one were nothing else, is a far more extensive and
dignified office than to be masculine--and nothing else.
But as a matter of humanity the male of our species is at present far
ahead of the female. By this superior humanness, his knowledge, his
skill, his experience, his organization and specialization, he makes and
manages the world. All this is human, not male. All this is as open to
the woman as the man by nature, but has been denied her during our
But even if, in a purely human process, such as education, she does
bring her special feminine characteristics to bear, what are they, and
what are the results?
We can see the masculine influence everywhere still dominant and
superior. There is the first spur, Desire, the base of the reward
system, the incentive of self-interest, the attitude which says, "Why
should I make an effort unless it will give me pleasure?" with its
concomitant laziness, unwillingness to work without payment. There is
the second spur, Combat, the competitive system, which sets one against
another, and finds pleasure not in learning, not exercising the mind,
but in getting ahead of one's fellows. Under these two wholly masculine
influences we have made the educational process a joy to the few who
successfully attain, and a weary effort, with failure and contumely
attached, to all the others. This may be a good method in
sex-competition, but is wholly out of place and mischievous in
education. Its prevalence shows the injurious masculization of this
noble social process.
What might we look for in a distinctly feminine influence? What are
these much-dreaded feminine characteristics?
The maternal ones, of course. The sex instincts of the male are of a
preliminary nature, leading merely to the union preceding parenthood.
The sex instincts of the female cover a far larger field, spending
themselves most fully in the lasting love, the ceaseless service, the
ingenuity and courage of efficient motherhood. To feminize education
would be to make it more motherly. The mother does not rear her
children by a system of prizes to be longed for and pursued; nor does
she set them to compete with one another, giving to the conquering child
what he needs, and to the vanquished, blame and deprivation. That would
Motherhood does all it knows to give to each child what is most needed,
to teach all to their fullest capacity, to affectionately and
efficiently develop the whole of them.
But this is not what is meant by those who fear so much the influence of
women. Accustomed to a wholly male standard of living, to masculine
ideals, virtues, methods and conditions, they say--and say with some
justice--that feminine methods and ideals would be destructive to what
they call "manliness." For instance, education to-day is closely
interwoven with games and sports, all of an excessively masculine
nature. "The education of a boy is carried on largely on the
playground!" say the objectors to women teachers. Women cannot join
them there; therefore, they cannot educate them.
What games are these in which women cannot join? There are forms of
fighting, of course, violent and fierce, modern modifications of the
instinct of sex-combat. It is quite true that women are not adapted, or
inclined, to baseball or football or any violent game. They are
perfectly competent to take part in all normal athletic development, the
human range of agility and skill is open to them, as everyone knows who
has been to the circus; but they are not built for physical combat; nor
do they find ceaseless pleasure in throwing, hitting or kicking things.
But is it true that these strenuous games have the educational value
attributed to them? It seems like blasphemy to question it. The whole
range of male teachers, male pupils, male critics and spectators, are
loud in their admiration for the "manliness" developed by the craft,
courage, co-ordinative power and general "sportsmanship" developed by
the game of football, for instance; that a few young men are killed and
many maimed, is nothing in comparison to these advantages.
Let us review the threefold distinction on which this whole study rests,
between masculine, feminine and human. Grant that woman, being
feminine, cannot emulate man in being masculine--and does not want to.
Grant that the masculine qualities have their use and value, as well as
feminine ones. There still remain the human qualities shared by both,
owned by neither, most important of all. Education is a human process,
and should develop human qualities--not sex qualities. Surely our boys
are sufficiently masculine, without needing a special education to make
them more so.
The error lies here. A strictly masculine world, proud of its own sex
and despising the other, seeing nothing in the world but sex, either
male or female, has "viewed with alarm" the steady and rapid growth of
humanness. Here, for instance, is a boy visibly tending to be an
artist, a musician, a scientific discoverer. Here is another boy not
particularly clever in any line, nor ambitious for any special work,
though he means in a general way to "succeed"; he is, however, a big,
husky fellow, a good fighter, mischievous as a monkey, and strong in the
virtues covered by the word "sportsmanship." This boy we call "a fine
We are quite right. He is. He is distinctly and excessively male, at
the expense of his humanness. He may make a more prepotent sire than
the other, though even that is not certain; he may, and probably will,
appeal more strongly to the excessively feminine girl, who has even less
humanness than he; but he is not therefore a better citizen.
The advance of civilization calls for human qualities, in both men and
women. Our educational system is thwarted and hindered, not as Prof.
Wendell and his life would have us believe, by "feminization," but by an
Their position is a simple one. "We are men. Men are human beings.
Women are only women. This is a man's world. To get on in it you must
do it man-fashion--i.e., fight, and overcome the others. Being
civilized, in part, we must arrange a sort of "civilized warfare," and
learn to play the game, the old crude, fierce male game of combat, and
we must educate our boys thereto." No wonder education was denied to
women. No wonder their influence is dreaded by an ultra-masculine
It will change the system in time. It will gradually establish an equal
place in life for the feminine characteristics, so long belittled and
derided, and give pre-eminent dignity to the human power.
Physical culture, for both boys and girls, will be part of such a
modified system. All things that both can do together will be accepted
as human; but what either boys or girls have to retire apart to practice
will be frankly called masculine and feminine, and not encouraged in
The most important qualities are the human ones, and will be so named
and honored. Courage is a human quality, not a sex-quality. What is
commonly called courage in male animals is mere belligerence, the
fighting instinct. To meet an adversary of his own sort is a universal
masculine trait; two father cats may fight fiercely each other, but both
will run from a dog as quickly as a mother cat. She has courage enough,
however, in defence of her kittens.
What this world most needs to-day in both men and women, is the power to
recognize our public conditions; to see the relative importance of
measures; to learn the processes of constructive citizenship. We need
an education which shall give its facts in the order of their
importance; morals and manners based on these facts; and train our
personal powers with careful selection, so that each may best serve the
At present, in the larger processes of extra-scholastic education, the
advantage is still with the boy. From infancy we make the gross mistake
of accentuating sex in our children, by dress and all its limitations,
by special teaching of what is "ladylike" and "manly." The boy is
allowed a freedom of experience far beyond the girl. He learns more of
his town and city, more of machinery, more of life, passing on from
father to son the truths as well as traditions of sex superiority.
All this is changing before our eyes, with the advancing humanness of
women. Not yet, however, has their advance affected, to any large
extent, the base of all education; the experience of a child's first
years. Here is where the limitations of women have checked race
progress most thoroughly. Here hereditary influence was constantly
offset by the advance of the male. Social selection did develop higher
types of men, though sex-selection reversed still insisted on primitive
types of women. But the educative influence of these primitive women,
acting most exclusively on the most susceptible years of life, has been
a serious deterrent to race progress.
Here is the dominant male, largely humanized, yet still measuring life
from male standards. He sees women only as a sex. (Note here the
criticism of Europeans on American women. "Your women are so sexless!"
they say, meaning merely that our women have human qualities as well as
feminine.) And children he considers as part and parcel of the same
domain, both inferior classes, "women and children."
I recall in Rimmer's beautiful red chalk studies, certain profiles of
man, woman and child, and careful explanation that the proportion of the
woman's face and head were far more akin to the child than to the man.
What Mr. Rimmer should have shown, and could have, by profuse
illustration, was that the faces of boy and girl differ but slightly,
and the faces of old men and women differ as little, sometimes not at
all; while the face of the woman approximates the human more closely
than that of the man; while the child, representing race more than sex,
is naturally more akin to her than to him. The male reserves more
primitive qualities, the hairiness, the more pugnacious jaw; the female
is nearer to the higher human types.
An ultra-male selection has chosen women for their femininity first, and
next for qualities of submissiveness and patient service bred by long
ages of servility.
This servile womanhood, or the idler and more excessively feminine type,
has never appreciated the real power and place of the mother, and has
never been able to grasp or to carry out any worthy system of education
for little children. Any experienced teacher, man or woman, will own
how rare it is to find a mother capable of a dispassionate appreciation
of educative values. Books in infant education and child culture
generally are read by teachers more than mothers, so our public
libraries prove. The mother-instinct, quite suitable and sufficient in
animals, is by no means equal to the requirements of civilized life.
Animal motherhood furnishes a fresh wave of devotion for each new birth;
primitive human motherhood extends that passionate tenderness over the
growing family for a longer period; but neither can carry education
beyond its rudiments.
So accustomed are we to our world-old method of entrusting the first
years of the child to the action of untaught, unbridled mother-instinct,
that suggestions as to a better education for babies are received with
the frank derision of massed ignorance.
That powerful and brilliant writer, Mrs. Josephine Daskam Bacon, among
others has lent her able pen to ridicule and obstruct the gradual
awakening of human intelligence in mothers, the recognition that babies
are no exception to the rest of us in being better off for competent
care and service. It seems delightfully absurd to these reactionaries
that ages of human progress should be of any benefit to babies, save,
indeed, as their more human fathers, specialized and organized, are able
to provide them with better homes and a better world to grow up in. The
idea that mothers, more human, should specialize and organize as well,
and extend to their babies these supreme advantages, is made a laughing
It is easy and profitable to laugh with the majority; but in the
judgment of history, those who do so, hold unenviable positions. The
time is coming when the human mother will recognize the educative
possibilities of early childhood, learn that the ability to rightly
teach little children is rare and precious, and be proud and glad to
avail themselves of it.
We shall then see a development of the most valuable human qualities in
our children's minds such as would now seem wildly Utopian. We shall
learn from wide and long experience to anticipate and provide for the
steps of the unfolding mind, and train it, through carefully prearranged
experiences, to a power of judgment, of self-control, of social
perception, now utterly unthought of.
Such an education would begin at birth; yes, far before it, in the
standards of a conscious human motherhood. It would require a quite
different status of wifehood, womanhood, girlhood. It would be wholly
impossible if we were never to outgrow our androcentric culture.
COMMENT AND REVIEW
With the May issue of the American Magazine closes the first set of
papers on "The American Woman," by Miss Ida Tarbell. She has to a high
degree the historian's power to collate facts and so marshall them as to
give a clear picture of the time and scenes in question. I always read
her work with admiration and respect, also with enjoyment, personal and
professional. The strong, far-seeing mind at work; the direct style;
and the value of the subject matter, place this writer high among our
present day teachers.
For these reasons I was wholly unprepared for the painful shock caused
by reading the opening page in the March number of these articles.
Preceding issues had treated of the rise of the Equal Suffrage movement
in this country; while not wholly sympathetic, these were fair, and ably
The March number begins: "What was the American Woman doing in the '40's
and '50's that she went on her way so serenely while a few of her sex
struggled and suffered to gain for her what they believed to be her
rights?" And she goes on to show for what reason she kept out of the
Woman's Rights Movement, "reasons, on the whole, simple and noble."
Here are the reasons.
"She was too much occupied with preserving and developing the great
traditions of life she had inherited and accepted. . . . She was firmly
convinced that these traditions were the best the world had so far
developed, not merely for women, but for society. She did not deny that
women had not the full opportunity they should have; but as she saw it,
no more did men. She saw civil and educational and social changes going
on about her. She feared their coming too fast rather than too slow.
"And it was no unworthy thing that she was doing. Take that part of her
life so often spoken of with contempt--her social life. Those who would
pass society by as a frivolous and unworthy institution are those who
have never learned its real functions--who confuse the selfish business
of amusement with the serious task of providing _an intimate circle for
the free exchange of ideals and of service,_ for stimulus and enjoyment.
"It is through society that _the quickening of mind and heart best comes
about--that the nature is aroused, the fancy heightened. It is the very
foundation of civilization--society. The church and state work through
it. Morals are made and unmade in it. Ideas find life or death
The italics are mine.
For so clear-headed a woman as Miss Tarbell to commit herself to
statements like these was a keen disappointment to a sincere admirer. I
have quoted at length that there may be no mistake as to her meaning.
The "society" referred to is unmistakably that business of exchanging
entertainments which most of us do pass by as "a frivolous and unworthy
institution;" but which some find the sufficient occupation of a
That human intercourse is profoundly important no one will deny; we know
that contact and exchange does quicken the mind and heart, does give
stimulus and enjoyment. It is even true in a large sociological sense
that human intercourse is the foundation of civilization. But to call
"society" the foundation of civilization does seem like putting a very
long train of carts before the horse.
Women who work for suffrage, like other women, and men also, need to
meet other people, need relaxation, need the stimulus of contact with
differing minds, and get it. Being a suffragist is not like being a
leper--or a pauper--or excommunicated. There is nothing about the
belief itself to cut off the believer from her kind, and make it
impossible to invite her to dinner.
"Society" is of course averse to meeting persons who talk seriously of
important things. We are all taught as children that religion and
politics must not be discussed in society--and the cause of woman
suffrage is often both.
"The selfish business of amusement" is so predominant in "society" that
amusing people are the preferred guests; and if some earnest and
noteworthy person is drawn into "society" as a temporary exhibit, he is
expected to be amusing if he can, and not talk "shop."
It may be admitted at once that Miss Tarbell's main contention is true.
It was of course because most women were so occupied in "preserving and
developing the great traditions of life" that they could not open their
minds to new convictions. They were of course suspicious of change, so
is the mass of people at all times, in proportion to their ignorance.
The deadening effect of a ceaseless round of housework keeps most women
from grasping general issues of importance; and the deadening effect of
a ceaseless round of entertainments does the same thing to the few who
represent "society." But to have that "society" presented to us as a
noble soul-satisfying rightfully exclusive occupation, is a shock.
If it is a natural, simple right form of meeting together it is in no
way forbidding to woman suffragists. If it is the "round of gaieties"
to which our newspapers give columns--how does it accomplish all those
invaluable achievements Miss Tarbell enumerates?
What are the occupations of "society?" Its members are always getting
together in expensive clothes, to visit and receive, to eat and drink,
to ride and drive, to dance and play games, to go to the opera; and to
travel from town to country, from beach to mountain, from land to land,
to repeat these things or to hire some one to invent new ones. But
these pleasures cannot be in themselves the foundation of civilization!
The "exchange of ideals and service" alleged to take place in "society"
must be in conversation! It is by this medium that we get our minds and
hearts quickened--our natures aroused--our fancy heightened--that the
ideas find life and death, and morals are made and unmade.
During which process of "society" does the conversation which promotes
the exchange of ideals and service best come about? Is it in the talk
of women who are "paying calls?" Is it in the talk at a "tea" or
reception? Is it in the talk at a luncheon or a dinner? Is it in the
talk over the card-table, or while dancing? Is it in talk at the
horse-show or opera? (The pressure of ideas in society is so great that
its members do converse at the opera.)
Surely it cannot be "society" which Miss Tarbell means! She must mean
human intercourse--the meeting of congenial minds. But no; that is open
to the suffragist as well as to any; and no one ever called it a
frivolous and unworthy institution.
The meaning is clear enough, but the claims made are to say the least
My own, partly personal and partly professional.
Q. Why don't people send questions to this department?
A. 1. Because it does not interest them.
A. 2. Because they have no problems.
A. 3. Because they see no reason to expect satisfactory answers.
A. 4. Because they do not understand that questions are asked for.
Now if any of the first three answers are correct, there is nothing to
be said--and no use for this department.
But if its the last--herein it is stated that the purpose of this
department is to seriously discuss real "personal problems" such as do
arise in most lives; and to which neither the minister nor Ruth Ashmore
It is not proposed to furnish absolute wisdom; only comparative.
One question was considered in the January issue; and a very earnest
letter of inquiry was answered at great length for this number but
proved too long--will appear in July.
What has always been a problem to me is how people can be alive and take
so little interest in the performance.
Here is Life--Death--and a discussable Immortality. Here is Love--of
all kinds and sizes. Here is Happiness--so big that you can't swallow
it; and Pain--an unlimited assortment.
Here are Things Going On--all kinds of things.
And here are we--making button holes in the back parlor--breaking our
heads in a sham fight in the back yard!
Question. Why don't people wake up and LIVE! World-size?
Some of you send an answer!
CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN'S MAGAZINE
CHARLTON CO., 67 WALL ST., NEW YORK
AS TO PURPOSE:
_What is The Forerunner?_ It is a monthly magazine, publishing stories
short and serial, article and essay; drama, verse, satire and sermon;
dialogue, fable and fantasy, comment and review. It is written entirely
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
_What is it For?_ It is to stimulate thought: to arouse hope, courage
and impatience; to offer practical suggestions and solutions, to voice
the strong assurance of better living, here, now, in our own hands to
_What is it about?_ It is about people, principles, and the questions
of every-day life; the personal and public problems of to-day. It gives
a clear, consistent view of human life and how to live it.
_Is it a Woman's magazine?_ It will treat all three phases of our
existence--male, female and human. It will discuss Man, in his true
place in life; Woman, the Unknown Power; the Child, the most important
_Is it a Socialist Magazine?_ It is a magazine for humanity, and
humanity is social. It holds that Socialism, the economic theory, is
part of our gradual Socialization, and that the duty of conscious
humanity is to promote Socialization.
_Why is it published?_ It is published to express ideas which need a
special medium; and in the belief that there are enough persons
interested in those ideas to justify the undertaking.
AS TO ADVERTISING:
We have long heard that "A pleased customer is the best advertiser."
The Forerunner offers to its advertisers and readers the benefit of this
authority. In its advertising department, under the above heading, will
be described articles personally known and used. So far as individual
experience and approval carry weight, and clear truthful description
command attention, the advertising pages of The Forerunner will be
useful to both dealer and buyer. If advertisers prefer to use their own
statements The Forerunner will publish them if it believes them to be
AS TO CONTENTS:
The main feature of the first year is a new book on a new subject with a
_"Our Androcentric Culture."_ this is a study of the historic effect on
normal human development of a too exclusively masculine civilization.
It shows what man, the male, has done to the world: and what woman, the
more human, may do to change it.
_"What Diantha Did."_ This is a serial novel. It shows the course of
true love running very crookedly--as it so often does--among the
obstructions and difficulties of the housekeeping problem--and solves
that problem. (NOT by co-operation.)
Among the short articles will appear:
"Private Morality and Public Immorality."
"The Beauty Women Have Lost"
"Our Overworked Instincts."
"The Nun in the Kitchen."
"Genius: Domestic and Maternal."
"A Small God and a Large Goddess."
"Animals in Cities."
"How We Waste Three-Fourths Of Our Money."
There will be short stories and other entertaining matter in each issue.
The department of "Personal Problems" does not discuss etiquette,
fashions or the removal of freckles. Foolish questions will not be
answered, unless at peril of the asker.
AS TO VALUE:
If you take this magazine one year you will have:
One complete novel . . . By C. P. Gilman
One new book . . . By C. P. Gilman
Twelve short stories . . . By C. P. Gilman
Twelve-and-more short articles . . . By C. P. Gilman
Twelve-and-more new poems . . . By C. P. Gilman
Twelve Short Sermons . . . By C. P. Gilman
Besides "Comment and Review" . . . By C. P. Gilman
"Personal Problems" . . . By C. P. Gilman
And many other things . . . By C. P. Gilman
DON'T YOU THINK IT'S WORTH A DOLLAR?
CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN'S MAGAZINE
CHARLTON CO., 67 WALL ST., NEW YORK
Please find enclosed $_____ as subscription to "The Forerunner" from
_____ 19___ to _____ 19___
A MONTHLY MAGAZINE
CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
AUTHOR, OWNER & PUBLISHER
1.00 A YEAR
.10 A COPY
Volume 1. No. 9
Copyright for 1910
C. P. Gilman
Genus Homo is superior to all other animal species.
Granted. The superiority is due to some things--and in spite of others.
THE BAWLING WORLD
Be not impatient with the bawling world!--
The clatter of wild newsmongers, the cry
Of those in pulpits, the incessant speech
From many platforms, and the various prayers
Of tale-tellers all striving for our ears,
And poets that wait and gibber--they have cause.
For all this noise there is a natural cause,
Most natural of all that move the world,
The one that first assails a mother's ears
When loud a lusty infant learns to cry,
An inarticulate insistent prayer
But serving that first need as well as speech.
Reason and love combine to give us speech,
But this loud outcry has a simpler cause,
The same that prompts the roaming jackal's prayer
And fills the forests of the untamed world
With one long, jarring hungry piteous cry--
Such cry as still attacks our weary ears.
We long for human music in our ears,
For the clear joy of well-considered speech,
And the true poet's soul-uplifting cry
To lead us forward, striving for the cause
Of liberty and light for all the world--
And hear but this confused insensate prayer.
Vainly we seek to fly this ceaseless prayer--
To find some silent spot--to stop our ears:--
There is no place in all the groaning world
Where we can live apart from human speech:
and we, while speech is governed by this cause,
Are infants "with no language but a cry."
It is for food that all live creatures cry,
For food the sparrow's or the lion's prayer,
And need of food is the continuing cause,
Of all this deafening tumult in our ears.
Had we our food secure--! Then human speech
Might make mild music, and a wiser world!
Poor hungry world! No wonder that you cry;
Elaborate speech reduced to primal prayer:
To save our ears let us remove the cause!
"O that! It was a fortunate coincidence, wasn't it? All things work
together for good with those who love the Lord, you know, and Emma
Ordway is the most outrageously Christian woman I ever knew. It did
look that Autumn as if there was no way out of it, but things do happen,
I dropped in rather late one afternoon to have a cup of tea with Emma,
hoping against hope that Mirabella Vlack wouldn't be on hand; but she
was, of course, and gobbling. There never was such a woman for candy
and all manner of sweet stuff. I can remember her at school, with those
large innocent eyes, and that wide mouth, eating Emma's nicest tidbits
Emma loves sweets but she loves her friends better, and never gets
anything for herself unless there is more than enough for everybody.
She is very fond of a particular kind of fudge I make, has been fond of
it for thirty years, and I love to make it for her once in a while, but
after Mirabella came--I might as well have made it for her to begin
I devised the idea of bringing it in separate boxes, one for each, but
bless you! Mirabella kept hers in her room, and ate Emma's!
"O I've left mine up stairs!" she'd say; "Let me go up and get it;"--and
of course Emma wouldn't hear of such a thing. Trust Emma!
I've loved that girl ever since she was a girl, in spite of her
preternatural unselfishness. And I've always hated those Vlack girls,
both of them, Mirabella the most. At least I think so when I'm with
her. When I'm with Arabella I'm not so sure. She married a man named
Sibthorpe, just rich.
They were both there that afternoon, the Vlack girls I mean, and
disagreeing as usual. Arabella was lean and hard and rigorously well
dressed, she meant to have her way in this world and generally got it.
Mirabella was thick and soft. Her face was draped puffily upon its
unseen bones, and of an unwholesome color because of indigestion. She
was the type that suggests cushioned upholstery, whereas Arabella's
construction was evident.
"You don't look well, Mirabella," said she.
"I am well," replied her sister, "Quite well I assure you."
Mirabella was at that time some kind of a holy thoughtist. She had
tried every variety of doctor, keeping them only as long as they did not
charge too much, and let her eat what she pleased; which necessitated
Mrs. Montrose smiled diplomatically, remarking "What a comfort these
wonderful new faiths are!" She was one of Emma's old friends, and was
urging her to go out to California with them and spend the winter. She
dilated on the heavenly beauty and sweetness of the place till it almost
made my mouth water, and Emma!--she loved travel better than anything,
and California was one of the few places she had not seen.
Then that Vlack girl began to perform. "Why don't you go, Emma?" she
said. "I'm not able to travel myself," (she wouldn't admit she was
pointedly left out), "but that's no reason you should miss such a
delightful opportunity. I can be housekeeper for you in your absence."
This proposition had been tried once. All Emma's old servants left, and
she had to come back in the middle of her trip, and re-organize the
Thus Mirabella, looking saintly and cheerful. And Emma--I could have
shaken her soundly where she sat--Emma smiled bravely at Mrs. Montrose
and thanked her warmly; she'd love it above all things, but there were
many reasons why she couldn't leave home that winter. And we both knew
there was only one, a huge thing in petticoats sitting gobbling there.
One or two other old friends dropped in, but they didn't stay long; they
never did any more, and hardly any men came now. As I sat there
drinking my pale tea I heard these people asking Emma why she didn't do
this any more, and why she didn't come to that any more, and Emma just
as dignified and nice as you please, telling all sorts of perforated
paper fibs to explain and decline. One can't be perfect, and nobody
could be as absolutely kind and gracious and universally beloved as Emma
if she always told the plain truth.
I'd brought in my last protege that day, Dr. Lucy Barnes, a small quaint
person, with more knowledge of her profession than her looks would
indicate. She was a very wise little creature altogether. I had been
studying chemistry with her, just for fun. You never know when yon may
want to know a thing.
It was fine to see Dr. Lucy put her finger on Mirabella's weakness.
There that great cuckoo sat and discoursed on the symptoms she used to
have, and would have now if it wasn't for "science"; and there I sat and
watched Emma, and I declare she seemed to age visibly before my eyes.
Was I to keep quiet and let one of the nicest women that ever breathed
be worn into her grave by that--Incubus? Even if she hadn't been a
friend of mine, even if she hadn't been too good for this world, it
would have been a shame. As it was the outrage cried to heaven.--and
nobody could do anything.
Here was Emma, a widow, and in her own house; you couldn't coerce her.
And she could afford it, as far as money went, you couldn't interfere
that way. She had been so happy! She'd got over being a widow--I mean
got used to it, and was finding her own feet. Her children were all
married and reasonably happy, except the youngest, who was unreasonably
happy; but time would make that all right. The Emma really began to
enjoy life. Her health was good; she'd kept her looks wonderfully; and
all the vivid interests of her girlhood cropped up again. She began to
study things; to go to lectures and courses of lectures; to travel every
year to a new place; to see her old friends and make new ones. She
never liked to keep house, but Emma was so idiotically unselfish that
she never would enjoy herself as long as there was anybody at home to
give up to.
And then came Mirabella Vlack.
She came for a visit, at least she called one day with her air of
saintly patience, and a miserable story of her loneliness and
unhappiness, and how she couldn't bear to be dependent on
Arabella--Arabella was so unsympathetic!--and that misguided Emma
invited her to visit her for awhile.
That was five years ago. Five years! And here she sat, gobbling, forty
pounds fatter and the soul of amiability, while Emma grew old.
Of course we all remonstrated--after it was too late.
Emma had a right to her own visitors--nobody ever dreamed that the thing
was permanent, and nobody could break down that adamantine wall of
Christian virtue she suffered behind, not owning that she suffered.
It was a problem.
But I love problems, human problems, better even than problems in
chemistry, and they are fascinating enough.
First I tried Arabella. She said she regretted that poor Mirabella
would not come to her loving arms. You see Mirabella had tried them,
for about a year after her husband died, and preferred Emma's.
"It really doesn't look well," said Arabella. "Here am I alone in these
great halls, and there is my only sister preferring to live with a
comparative stranger! Her duty is to live with me, where I can take
care of her."
Not much progress here. Mirabella did not want to be taken care of by a
fault-finding older sister--not while Emma was in reach. It paid, too.
Her insurance money kept her in clothes, and she could save a good deal,
having no living expenses. As long as she preferred living with Emma
Ordway, and Emma let her--what could anybody do?
It was getting well along in November, miserable weather.
Emma had a cough that hung on for weeks and weeks, she couldn't seem to
gather herself together and throw it off, and Mirabella all the time
assuring her that she had no cough at all!
Certain things began to seem very clear to me.
One was the duty of a sister, of two sisters. One was the need of a
change of climate for my Emma.
One was that ever opening field of human possibilities which it has been
the increasing joy of my lifetime to study.
I carried two boxes of my delectable fudge to those ladies quite
regularly, a plain white one for Emma, a pretty colored one for the
"Are you sure it is good for you?" I asked Mirabella; "I love to make it
and have it appreciated, but does your Doctor think it is good for you?"
Strong in her latest faith she proudly declared she could eat anything.
She could--visibly. So she took me up short on this point, and ate
several to demonstrate immunity--out of Emma's box.
Nevertheless, in spite of all demonstration she seemed to grow
somewhat--queasy--shall we say? --and drove poor Emma almost to tears
trying to please her in the matter of meals.
Then I began to take them both out to ride in my motor, and to call
quite frequently on Arabella; they couldn't well help it, you see, when
I stopped the car and hopped out. "Mrs. Sibthorpe's sister" I'd always
say to the butler or maid, and she'd always act as if she owned the
house--that is if Arabella was out.
Then I had a good talk with Emma's old doctor, and he quite frightened
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