The Forerunner, Volume 1 (1909-1910)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Part 11 out of 18
"You ought to close up the house," he said, "and spend the winter in a
warm climate. You need complete rest and change, for a long time, a
year at least," he told her. I urged her to go.
"Do make a change," I begged. "Here's Mrs. Sibthorpe perfectly willing
to keep Mirabella--she'd be just as well off there; and you do really
need a rest."
Emma smiled that saintly smile of hers, and said, "Of course, if
Mirabella would go to her sister's awhile I could leave? But I can't
ask her to go."
I could. I did. I put it to her fair and square,--the state of Emma's
health, her real need to break up housekeeping, and how Arabella was
just waiting for her to come there. But what's the use of talking to
that kind? Emma wasn't sick, couldn't be sick, nobody could. At that
very moment she paused suddenly, laid a fat hand on a fat side with an
expression that certainly looked like pain; but she changed it for one
of lofty and determined faith, and seemed to feel better. It made her
cross though, as near it as she ever gets. She'd have been rude I
think, but she likes my motor, to say nothing of my fudge.
I took them both out to ride that very afternoon, and Dr. Lucy with us.
Emma, foolish thing, insisted on sitting with the driver, and Mirabella
made for her pet corner at once. I put Dr. Lucy in the middle, and
encouraged Mirabella in her favorite backsliding, the discussion of her
symptoms--the symptoms she used to have--or would have now if she gave
way to "error."
Dr. Lucy was ingeniously sympathetic. She made no pretence of taking up
the new view, but was perfectly polite about it.
"Judging from what you tell me", she said, "and from my own point of
view, I should say that you had a quite serious digestive trouble; that
you had a good deal of pain now and then; and were quite likely to have
a sudden and perhaps serious attack. But that is all nonsense to you I
"Of course it is!" said Mirabella, turning a shade paler.
We were running smoothly down the to avenue where Arabella lived.
"Here's something to cheer you up," I said, producing my two boxes of
fudge. One I passed around in front to Emma; she couldn't share it with
us. The other I gave Mirabella.
She fell upon it at once; perfunctorily offering some to Dr. Lucy, who
declined; and to me. I took one for politeness's sake, and casually put
it in my pocket.
We had just about reached Mrs. Sibthorpe's gate when Mirabella gave in.
"Oh I have such a terrible pain!" said she. "Oh Dr. Lucy! What shall I
"Shall I take you down to your healer?" I suggested; but Mirabella was
feeling very badly indeed.
"I think I'd better go in here a moment," she said; and in five minutes
we had her in bed in what used to be her room.
Dr. Lucy seemed averse to prescribe.
"I have no right to interfere with your faith, Mrs. Vlack," she said.
"I have medicines which I think would relieve you, but you do not
believe in them. I think you should summon your--practitioner, at
"Oh Dr. Lucy!" gasped poor Mirabella, whose aspect was that of a small
boy in an August orchard. "Don't leave me! Oh do something for me
"Will you do just what I say?"
"I will! I will; I'll do _anything_!" said Mirabella, curling up in as
small a heap as was possible to her proportions, and Dr. Lucy took the
We waited in the big bald parlors till she came down to tell us what was
wrong. Emma seemed very anxious, but then Emma is a preternatural
Arabella came home and made a great todo. "So fortunate that she was
near my door!" she said. "Oh my poor sister! I am so glad she has a
The real doctor came down after a while. "She is practically out of
pain," she said, "and resting quietly. But she is extremely weak, and
ought not to be moved for a long time."
"She shall not be!" said Arabella fervently. "My own sister! I am so
thankful she came to me in her hour of need!"
I took Emma away. "Let's pick up Mrs. Montrose," I said. "She's tired
out with packing--the air will do her good."
She was glad to come. We all sat back comfortably in the big seat and
had a fine ride; and then Mrs. Montrose had us both come in and take
dinner with her. Emma ate better than I'd seen her in months, and
before she went home it was settled that she leave with Mrs. Montrose on
Dear Emma! She was as pleased as a child. I ran about with her, doing
a little shopping. "Don't bother with anything," I said, "You can get
things out there. Maybe you'll go on to Japan next spring with the
"If we could sell the house I would!" said Emma. She brisked and
sparkled--the years fell off from her--she started off looking fairly
girlish in her hope and enthusiasm.
I drew a long sigh of relief.
Mr. MacAvelly has some real estate interests.
The house was sold before Mirabella was out of bed.
To those who in leisure may meet
Comes Summer, green, fragrant and fair,
With roses and stars in her hair;
Summer, as motherhood sweet.
To us, in the waste of the street,
No Summer, only--The Heat!
To those of the fortunate fold
Comes Winter, snow-clean and ice-bright,
With joy for the day and the night,
Winter, as fatherhood bold.
To us, without silver or gold,
No Winter, only--The Cold!
GENIUS, DOMESTIC AND MATERNAL. II.
Consider the mighty influence of Dr. Arnold, of Emma Willard; and think
of that all lost to the world, and concentrated relentlessly on a few
little Arnolds and Willards alone!
The children of such genius can healthfully share in its benefits but
not healthily monopolize them.
Our appreciation of this study is hampered by the limitation of little
exercised minds. Most of us accept things as they are--cannot easily
imagine them different, and fear any change as evil.
There was a time when there wasn't a school or a schoolhouse on earth;
people may yet be found who see no need of them. To build places for
children to spend part of the day in--away from their mothers--and be
cared for by specialists!--Horrible!
The same feeling meets us now when it is suggested that places should be
built for the babies to spend part of the day in--away from their
mothers--and be cared for by specialists!--Horrible! Up hops in every
mind those twin bugaboos, the Infant Hospital and the Orphan Asylum.
That is all the average mind can think of as an "institution" for
Think of the kindergarten. Think of the day-nursery. Multiply and
magnify these a thousand fold; make them beautiful, comfortable,
hygienic, safe and sweet and near--one for every twenty or thirty
families perhaps; and put in each, not a casual young kindergarten
apprentice or hired nurse; but Genius, Training and Experience. Then
you can "teach the mothers," for at last there can be gathered a body of
facts, real knowledge, on the subject of child culture; and it can take
its place in modern progress.
Every mother whose baby spent its day hours in such care would take home
new knowledge and new standards to aid her there; and the one mother out
of twenty or thirty who cared most about it would be in that baby house
herself--she is the Genius. Not anybody's hired "nursemaid," but a
nurse-mother, a teacher-mother, a Human Mother at last.
The same opening confronts us when we squirm so helplessly in what we
call "the domestic problem." That problem is "How can every woman carry
on the same trade equally well?"
All women do not like to "keep house;" and there is no reason why all
men, and all children, as well as the women, should suffer in health,
comfort and peace of mind under their mal-administration. We need the
Expert, the Specialist, the Genius, here too.
Thousands of discontented women are doing very imperfectly what hundreds
could do well and enjoy.
Thousands of men are paying unnecessary bills, eating what we may
politely call "unnecessary food," and putting up with the discontented
woman. Thousands of children are growing up as best they can under
inexpert mothers and inexpert housekeepers. Thousands of unnecessary
deaths, invalids, and miserable lives; millions and millions of dollars
wasted; and all this for the simple lack of society's first
Here are all these unspecialized housekeepers wriggling miserably with
their unspecialized servants; and others--the vast majority,
remember--"doing their own work" in a crude and ineffectual manner; and
there is not even a standard whereby to judge our shortcomings! We have
never known anything better, and the average mind cannot imagine
anything better than it has ever known.
(When we have expert Childculture, we shall cultivate the imagination!)
"Do you want us to give up our homes?" cries the Average Mind. "Must we
live in hotels, eat in restaurants?"
No, dear Average Mind.
Every family should have its own home; and it ought to be a real home,
with a real garden. Among the homes and gardens should stand the
baby-house with its baby-gardens; and quite apart from these fair homes
should stand the Workshops. The Cleaning Establishment, the
Laundry--the Cookshop; the Service Bureau; each and all in charge of its
Genius--its special person who likes that kind of work and does it well.
The home, quiet, sweet and kitchenless, will be visited by swift skilled
cleaners to keep it up to the highest sanitary standards; the dishes
will come in filled with fresh, hot food, and go out in the same
receptacle, for proper cleansing; the whole labor of "housekeeping" will
be removed from the home, and the woman will begin to enjoy it as a man
does. The man also will enjoy it more. It will be cleaner, quieter,
more sanitary, more beautiful and comfortable, and far less expensive.
And what of the average woman?
She will cease to exist. She will become specialized as every civilized
person must be. She will not be a woman less, but a human being more.
And in these special lines of genius, domestic and maternal, she will
lift the whole world forward with amazing speed. The health, the
brain-power, the peace of mind, of all our citizens will be increased by
the work of the Mother-Genius and maintained by the Domestic Genius.
Have you never known one of those born mothers, with perhaps some
training as a kindergartner added; who loves to be with children and
whom children love to be with? She is healthy and happy in her work,
and the children she cares for grow up with fewer tears, with better
constitutions, with strong young hearts and clear brains to meet life's
Have you never compared such a mother and such children with those we
see commonly about us? The mother, nervous, irritable, unfit for her
work and not happy in it; a discontented person, her energies both
exhausted and unused. What she wastes in uncongenial effort she might
spend joyfully in work she was fit for.
Have you never seen the sullen misery, the horrible impotent rage, the
fretful unhappiness of mishandled children? Not orphans; and not
"neglected"; not physically starved or beaten; but treated with such
brutal clumsiness that their childhood is clouded and their whole lives
embittered and weakened by the experience?
Are we so blinded by the beautiful ideal of motherhood as it should be,
that we continually overlook the limitations of motherhood as it is?
Again have you not seen the home of homes; where the cleanliness is
perfect, the quiet and harmony a joy to the soul; where beauty and peace
are linked with economy and wisdom? There are such--but they are not
As in the other case, our ideals blind us to the facts. Most homes are
sadly imperfect; enjoyed by their inmates because they are used to
them--and have known no better. What we have so far failed to see is
humanity's right to the best; in these departments of life, as well as
As we live now, the ever-growing weight of our just demands for a higher
order of home falling on the ever more inadequate shoulders of the
Average Woman, both Motherhood and the home are imperilled. We are
horribly frightened when we see our poor Average Woman shrink from
maternity, and [illegible] at housework. We preach at her and scold her
and flatter her and woo her, and, if we could, we would force her back
into her old place, child-bearer and burden-hearer, the helpless servant
of the world.
All this terror is wasted. It is not child-bearing--within reason--that
the girl of to-day so dreads. It is the life-long task of
child-rearing, for which she begins at last to realize she is unfit. An
utterly ignorant woman has no such terror, she bears profusely, rears as
she can, and buries as she must. Better one well-born and well-trained,
than the incapable six survivors of the unnecessary twelve.
It is not home-life that our girls shrink from; men and women alike, we
love and need a home; it is the housework, and the house management,
which are no more alluring to a rational woman than to a rational man.
"I love ocean travel," says Mrs. Porne, "but that's no reason I should
wish to be either a captain or a stoker!"
Why not respect this new attitude of our women; study it, try to
understand it; see if there is not some reason for it--and some way to
Suppose a young woman stands, happy and successful, in her chosen
profession. Suppose a young man offers her marriage. Suppose that this
meant to her all that life held before--plus Love! Plus a Home
Together! Plus Children! Children they both would love, both would
provide for, both would work for; but to whom neither would be a living
sacrifice--and an ineffectual sacrifice at that.
Children are not improved in proportion to their mother's immolation.
The father's love, the mother's love, the sheltering care of both, and
all due association, they need, but in the detailed services and
education of their lives, they need Genius.
And the Home--that should mean to her precisely what it means to him.
Peace, comfort, joy and pride; seclusion; mutual companionship; rest,
beautiful privacy and rest--not a workshop.
What we need in this matter is not noisy objurgations and adjurations on
the part of men; and not the reluctant submission, or angry refusal, of
women--forced to take so much needless bitter with life's sweetest joy;
but a rational facing of the question by the women themselves. It is
their business--as much so as the most obdurate mossback can
protest--but collectively, not individually.
Let them collect then! Let them organize and specialize--the two go
together. Let them develop Genius--and use it; heaven knows it is
IMPROVED METHODS OF HABIT CULTURE
Most of us recognize that common force, "the power of habit." Most of
us have been rigorously, often painfully, almost always annoyingly,
trained into what our parents and guardians considered good habits.
Most of us know something of the insidious nature of "bad habits"--how
easily they slip in, how hard they are to eject.
But few of us know the distinct pleasure of voluntary habit culture, by
ln my youth an improving book was prepared for children concerning a
Peasant and a Camel. The Peasant was depicted as having a Hut, and a
Fireside, and as loafing lazily in its warm glow. Then, in the crack of
the door, appeared the appealing nose of a Camel--might he warm that
nose? The lazy Peasant wouldn't take the trouble to get up and shut him
out. The appealing nose became an insinuating neck, then intrusive
shoulders, and presently we have a whole camel lying by the fire, and
the peasant, now alarmed and enraged, vainly belaboring the tough hind
quarters of the huge beast which lay in his place.
I was a child of a painfully logical mind, and this story failed of its
due effect on me because of certain discrepancies. A. Peasants (in my
limited reading) belonged with asses and oxen--not with Camels. Camels
had Arab companions--Bedouins--turbaned Blacks--not Peasants. I did not
understand the intrusion of this solitary camel into a peasant country.
B. Why should the Camel want to come into the hut? Camels are not
house-beasts, surely. And to lie by the fire;--cats and dogs like
firesides, and crickets, but in my pictures of the Ship of the Desert I
never had seen this overmastering desire to get warm. And if it was in
sooth a cold country--then in the name of all nursery reasonableness,
how came the camel there?
Furthermore, if he was a stray camel, a camel escaped from a circus and
seeking the only human companionship he could discover,--in that case
such an unusual apparition would have scared the laziest of Peasants
into prompt resistance. Moreover, a Hut, to my mind, was necessarily a
small building, with but a modest portal; and camels are tall bony
beasts, not physically able to slink and crawl. How could the beast get
Beyond these criticisms I was filled with contempt at the
resourcelessness of the Peasant, who found no better means of ejecting
the intruder than to beat him where he felt it the least. It seemed to
me a poor story on the face of it, though I did not then know how these
things are made up out of whole cloth, as it were, and foisted upon
In later years, I found that it was sometimes desirable to catch and
tame one's own camels. Certain characteristics were assuredly more
desirable than others, and seemed open to attainment if one but knew
how. I experimented with processes, and worked out a method; simple,
easy, safe and sure. Safe--unless overdone. It is not well to overdo
anything, and if our young people should develop a morbid desire to
acquire too many virtues at once, this method would be a strain on the
nervous system! Short of such excess, there is no danger involved.
Here is the Subject; up for moral examination; as if for physical
examination in a gymnasium. Self-measurements are taken--this is a
wholly personal method. Many of us, indeed most of us, are willing to
acquire good habits of our own choosing and by our own efforts who would
strenuously object to outside management! Very well. The subject
decides which Bad Habit He or She wishes to check, or, which Good Habit
I will take as an illustrative instance a Combination effort: to check
the habit of Thoughtless Speech, and substitute the habit of Conscious
Control. Common indeed are the offences of the unbridled tongue; and in
youth they are especially prevalent.
"Why don't you think before you speak?" demands the Irate Parent; but
has not the faintest idea of the reason--patent though it be to any
Here is the reason:
Reflex action is earlier established than voluntary action. In a child
most activity is reflex--unconscious. It may be complex, modified by
many contradictory stimuli, but whatever else modifies it, a clear
personal determination seldom does.
Most of us carry this simple early state of mind through life. We speak
according to present impulse, provocation, and state of mind; and
afterward are sorry for it. When we are called upon to "think before we
speak", a distinct psychological process is required. We have to
establish a new connection between the speech center and the center of
volition. To hold the knife in the right hand and carve is easy; to
hold it in the left is hard, for most of us, merely because the
controlling impulse has always been sent to the muscles of the right
arm. To learn to cut with the left is an extra effort, but can be done
if necessary. It is merely a matter of repetition of command, properly
So with our Subject.
"You speak thoughtlessly, do you? You say things you wish you hadn't?
You'd like to be able to use your judgement beforehand instead of
afterward when it's too late?" Very well.
First Step.--Make up your mind that you _will_ think before you speak.
This "making up one's mind," as we so lightly call it, is in itself a
distinct act. Suppose you have to get up at five, and have no alarm
clock nor anyone to waken you. You "make up your mind," hard, that you
must wake up at five; you rouse yourself from coming sleep with the
renewed intense determination to wake up at five; your last waking
thought is "I must wake up at five!"--and you do wake up at five. You
set an alarm inside--and it worked. After a while, the need continuing,
you always wake up at five--no trouble at all--and a good deal of
trouble to break the habit when you want to. When the mind is "made up"
it is apt to stay.
Second Step.--Dismiss the matter from your mind. You may not think of
your determination again for a month--but at last you do.
Third Step.--When your determination reappears to you, welcome it
easily. Do not scold because it was so long in coming. Do not lament
its lateness. Just say, "Ah! Here you are! I knew you'd come!" Then
_drive it in._ That is, make up your mind again--harder than before,
and again dismiss it completely. You will remember it again in less
time--say in a fortnight. Then you can welcome it more cordially,
feeling already that the game is yours: and drive it in again with good
Presently it reappears--in a week maybe. "Hurrah!" you say, wasting
never a spark of energy on lamenting the delay; this is a natural
process and takes time, and once more you make up your mind. Presently
you will think of it oftener and oftener, daily perhaps; the idea of
control will flutter nearer and nearer to the moment of expression, but
always too soon--when you are not about to say anything, or too
late--after you have said it.
Do not waste energy in fretting over this delay; just renew your
determination as often as it pops into your head--"I _will_ think
_before_ I speak."
By and by you do so. You remember _in time._ Your brother aggravates
you--your mother is swearing--your father is too severe--your girl
friends tempt you to unwise confidences--but--you remember!
Then, for the first time, a new nerve connection is established. From
the center of volition a little pulse of power goes down; the unruly
member is checked in mid-career, and you decide what you shall or shall
Very well. The miracle is wrought, you think. You have attained. Wait
Fourth Step.--_Turn off the power._ Don't think of it again that day.
But to-morrow it will come again; use it twice; next day four times,
perhaps; but go slowly.
Here is the formula:
1st. Make up your mind.
2nd. Release the spring.
3rd. Remake as often as you think of it cheerfully, always releasing
4th. When you have at last established connection;
Do it as often as you think of it;--
Stop _before_ you are tired.
The last direction is the patentable secret of this process.
Always before we have been taught to strive unceasingly for our virtues;
and to reproach ourselves bitterly if we "back-slide." When we learn
more of our mental machinery we shall feel differently about
back-sliding. When you are learning the typewriter or the bicycle or
the use of skates, you do not gain by practicing day and night.
Practice--_and rest;_ that is the trick.
After you have learned your new virtue, it will not tire you to practice
it; but while you are learning, go slow.
If you essay to hold your arm out straight; and hold it there till
muscle and nerve are utterly exhausted, you have gone backward rather
than forward in establishing the habit. But if you deliberately pour
nerve force along that arm for a while, holding it out as you choose;
and then withdraw the nerve force, release the pressure, discontinue the
determination, drop the arm, _because you choose,_ and _before you are
tired_--then you can repeatedly hold it out a little longer until you
have mastered the useless art.
Don't waste nerve force on foolish and unnecessary things--physical or
moral; but invest it, carefully, without losing an ounce, in the gradual
and easy acquisition of whatever new habits You, as the Conscious
Master, desire to develop in your organism.
O FAITHFUL CLAY!
O faithful clay of ancient brain!
Deep graven with tradition dim,
Hard baked with time and glazed with pain,
On your blind page man reads again
What else were lost to him.
Blessed the day when art was found
To carve and paint, to print and write,
So may we store past memory's bound,
Make our heaped knowledge common ground.
So may the brain go light.
Oh wondrous power of brain released,
Knowledge possessed; desire increased;
We enter life's continual feast
To see--to see--to see!
WHAT DIANTHA DID
Men have marched in armies, fleets have borne them,
Left their homes new countries to subdue;
Young men seeking fortune wide have wandered--
We have something new.
Armies of young maidens cross our oceans;
Leave their mother's love, their father's care;
Maidens, young and helpless, widely wander,
Burdens new to bear.
Strange the land and language, laws and customs;
Ignorant and all alone they come;
Maidens young and helpless, serving strangers,
Thus we keep the Home.
When on earth was safety for young maidens
Far from mother's love and father's care?
We preserve The Home, and call it sacred--
Burdens new they bear.
The sun had gone down on Madam Weatherstone's wrath, and risen to find
it unabated. With condensed disapprobation written on every well-cut
feature, she came to the coldly gleaming breakfast table.
That Mrs. Halsey was undoubtedly gone, she had to admit; yet so far
failed to find the exact words of reproof for a woman of independent
means discharging her own housekeeper when it pleased her.
Young Mathew unexpectedly appeared at breakfast, perhaps in anticipation
of a sort of Roman holiday in which his usually late and apologetic
stepmother would furnish the amusement. They were both surprised to
find her there before them, looking uncommonly fresh in crisp, sheer
white, with deep-toned violets in her belt.
She ate with every appearance of enjoyment, chatting amiably about the
lovely morning--the flowers, the garden and the gardeners; her efforts
ill seconded, however.
"Shall I attend to the orders this morning?" asked Madam Weatherstone
with an air of noble patience.
"O no, thank you!" replied Viva. "I have engaged a new housekeeper."
"A new housekeeper! When?" The old lady was shaken by this
"Last night," said her daughter-in-law, looking calmly across the table,
her color rising a little.
"And when is she coming, if I may ask?"
"She has come. I have been with her an hour already this morning."
Young Mathew smiled. This was amusing, though not what he had expected.
"How extremely alert and businesslike!" he said lazily. "It's becoming
to you--to get up early!"
"You can't have got much of a person--at a minute's notice," said his
grandmother. "Or perhaps you have been planning this for some time?"
"No," said Viva. "I have wanted to get rid of Mrs. Halsey for some
time, but the new one I found yesterday."
"What's her name?" inquired Mathew.
"Bell--Miss Diantha Bell," she answered, looking as calm as if
announcing the day of the week, but inwardly dreading the result
somewhat. Like most of such terrors it was overestimated.
There was a little pause--rather an intense little pause; and
then--"Isn't that the girl who set 'em all by the ears yesterday?" asked
the young man, pointing to the morning paper. "They say she's a
Madam Weatherstone rose from the table in some agitation. "I must say I
am very sorry, Viva, that you should have been so--precipitate! This
young woman cannot be competent to manage a house like this--to say
nothing of her scandalous ideas. Mrs. Halsey was--to my mind--perfectly
satisfactory. I shall miss her very much." She swept out with an
"So shall I," muttered Mat, under his breath, as he strolled after her;
"unless the new one's equally amiable."
Viva Weatherstone watched them go, and stood awhile looking after the
well-built, well-dressed, well-mannered but far from well-behaved young
"I don't _know_," she said to herself, "but I do feel--think--imagine--a
good deal. I'm sure I hope not! Anyway--it's new life to have that
girl in the house."
That girl had undertaken what she described to Ross as "a large order--a
very large order."
"It's the hardest thing I ever undertook," she wrote him, "but I think I
can do it; and it will be a tremendous help. Mrs. Weatherstone's a
brick--a perfect brick! She seems to have been very unhappy--for ever
so long--and to have submitted to her domineering old mother-in-law just
because she didn't care enough to resist. Now she's got waked up all of
a sudden--she says it was my paper at the club--more likely my awful
example, I think! and she fired her old housekeeper--I don't know what
for--and rushed me in.
"So here I am. The salary is good, the work is excellent training, and
I guess I can hold the place. But the old lady is a terror, and the
young man--how you would despise that Johnny!"
The home letters she now received were rather amusing. Ross, sternly
patient, saw little difference in her position. "I hope you will enjoy
your new work," he wrote, "but personally I should prefer that you did
not--so you might give it up and come home sooner. I miss you as you
can well imagine. Even when you were here life was hard enough--but
"I had a half offer for the store the other day, but it fell through.
If I could sell that incubus and put the money into a ranch--fruit,
hens, anything--then we could all live on it; more cheaply, I think; and
I could find time for some research work I have in mind. You remember
that guinea-pig experiment I want so to try?"
Diantha remembered and smiled sadly. She was not much interested in
guinea-pigs and their potential capacities, but she was interested in
her lover and his happiness. "Ranch," she said thoughtfully; "that's
not a bad idea."
Her mother wrote the same patient loving letters, perfunctorily hopeful.
Her father wrote none--"A woman's business--this letter-writin'," he
always held; and George, after one scornful upbraiding, had "washed his
hands of her" with some sense of relief. He didn't like to write
But Susie kept up a lively correspondence. She was attached to her
sister, as to all her immediate relatives and surroundings; and while
she utterly disapproved of Diantha's undertaking, a sense of sisterly
duty, to say nothing of affection, prompted her to many letters. It did
not, however, always make these agreeable reading.
"Mother's pretty well, and the girl she's got now does nicely--that
first one turned out to be a failure. Father's as cranky as ever. We
are all well here and the baby (this was a brand new baby Diantha had
not seen) is just a Darling! You ought to be here, you unnatural Aunt!
Gerald doesn't ever speak of you--but I do just the same. You hear from
the Wardens, of course. Mrs. Warden's got neuralgia or something; keeps
them all busy. They are much excited over this new place of yours--you
ought to hear them go on! It appears that Madam Weatherstone is a
connection of theirs--one of the F. F. V's, I guess, and they think
she's something wonderful. And to have _you_ working _there!_--well,
you can just see how they'd feel; and I don't blame them. It's no use
arguing with you--but I should think you'd have enough of this
disgraceful foolishness by this time and come home!"
Diantha tried to be very philosophic over her home letters; but they
were far from stimulating. "It's no use arguing with poor Susie!" she
decided. "Susie thinks the sun rises and sets between kitchen, nursery
"Mother can't see the good of it yet, but she will later--Mother's all
"I'm awfully sorry the Wardens feel so--and make Ross unhappy--but of
course I knew they would. It can't be helped. It's just a question of
time and work."
And she went to work.
Mrs. Porne called on her friend most promptly, with a natural eagerness
"How does it work? Do you like her as much as you thought? Do tell me
about it, Viva. You look like another woman already!"
"I certainly feel like one," Viva answered. "I've seen slaves in
housework, and I've seen what we fondly call 'Queens' in housework; but
I never saw brains in it before."
Mrs. Porne sighed. "Isn't it just wonderful--the way she does things!
Dear me! We do miss her! She trained that Swede for us--and she does
pretty well--but not like 'Miss Bell'! I wish there were a hundred of
"If there were a hundred thousand she wouldn't go round!" answered Mrs.
Weatherstone. "How selfish we are! _That_ is the kind of woman we all
want in our homes--and fuss because we can't have them."
"Edgar says he quite agrees with her views," Mrs. Porne went on.
"Skilled labor by the day--food sent in--. He says if she cooked it he
wouldn't care if it came all the way from Alaska! She certainly can
cook! I wish she'd set up her business--the sooner the better."
Mrs. Weatherstone nodded her head firmly. "She will. She's planning.
This was really an interruption--her coming here, but I think it will be
a help--she's not had experience in large management before, but she
takes hold splendidly. She's found a dozen 'leaks' in our household
"Mrs. Thaddler's simply furious, I hear," said the visitor. "Mrs. Ree
was in this morning and told me all about it. Poor Mrs. Ree! The home
is church and state to her; that paper of Miss Bell's she regards as
They both laughed as that stormy meeting rose before them.
"I was so proud of you, Viva, standing up for her as you did. How did
you ever dare?"
"Why I got my courage from the girl herself. She was--superb! Talk of
blasphemy! Why I've committed _lese majeste_ and regicide and the
Unpardonable Sin since that meeting!" And she told her friend of her
brief passage at arms with Mrs. Halsey. "I never liked the woman," she
continued; "and some of the things Miss Bell said set me thinking. I
don't believe we half know what's going on in our houses."
"Well, Mrs. Thaddler's so outraged by 'this scandalous attack upon the
sanctities of the home' that she's going about saying all sorts of
things about Miss Bell. O look--I do believe that's her car!"
Even as they spoke a toneless voice announced, "Mr. and Mrs. Thaddler,"
and Madam Weatherstone presently appeared to greet these visitors.
"I think you are trying a dangerous experiment!" said Mrs. Thaddler to
her young hostess. "A very dangerous experiment! Bringing that young
iconoclast into your home!"
Mr. Thaddler, stout and sulky, sat as far away as he could and talked to
Mrs. Porne. "I'd like to try that same experiment myself," said he to
her. "You tried it some time, I understand?"
"Indeed we did--and would still if we had the chance," she replied. "We
think her a very exceptional young woman."
Mr. Thaddler chuckled. "She is that!" he agreed. "Gad! How she did
set things humming! They're humming yet--at our house!"
He glanced rather rancorously at his wife, and Mrs. Porne wished, as she
often had before, that Mr. Thaddler wore more clothing over his domestic
"Scandalous!" Mrs. Thaddler was saying to Madam Weatherstone. "Simply
scandalous! Never in my life did I hear such absurd--such
outrageous--charges against the sanctities of the home!"
"There you have it!" said Mr. Thaddler, under his breath. "Sanctity of
the fiddlesticks! There was a lot of truth in what that girl said!"
Then he looked rather sheepish and flushed a little--which was needless;
easing his collar with a fat finger.
Madam Weatherstone and Mrs. Thaddler were at one on this subject; but
found it hard to agree even so, no love being lost between them; and the
former gave evidence of more satisfaction than distress at this
"dangerous experiment" in the house of her friends. Viva sat silent,
but with a look of watchful intelligence that delighted Mrs. Porne.
"It has done her good already," she said to herself. "Bless that girl!"
Mr. Thaddler went home disappointed in the real object of his call--he
had hoped to see the Dangerous Experiment again. But his wife was well
"They will rue it!" she announced. "Madam Weatherstone is ashamed of
her daughter-in-law--I can see that! _She_ looks cool enough. I don't
know what's got into her!"
"Some of that young woman's good cooking," her husband suggested.
"That young woman is not there as cook!" she replied tartly. "What she
_is_ there for we shall see later! Mark my words!"
Mr. Thaddler chuckled softly. "I'll mark 'em!" he said.
Diantha had her hands full. Needless to say her sudden entrance was
resented by the corps of servants accustomed to the old regime. She had
the keys; she explored, studied, inventoried, examined the accounts,
worked out careful tables and estimates. "I wish Mother were here!" she
said to herself. "She's a regular genius for accounts. I _can_ do
it--but it's no joke."
She brought the results to her employer at the end of the week. "This
is tentative," she said, "and I've allowed margins because I'm new to a
business of this size. But here's what this house ought to cost you--at
the outside, and here's what it does cost you now."
Mrs. Weatherstone was impressed. "Aren't you a little--spectacular?"
Diantha went over it carefully; the number of rooms, the number of
servants, the hours of labor, the amount of food and other supplies
"This is only preparatory, of course," she said. "I'll have to check it
off each month. If I may do the ordering and keep all the accounts I
can show you exactly in a month, or two at most."
"How about the servants?" asked Mrs. Weatherstone.
There was much to say here, questions of competence, of impertinence, of
personal excellence with "incompatibility of temper." Diantha was given
a free hand, with full liberty to experiment, and met the opportunity
with her usual energy.
She soon discharged the unsatisfactory ones, and substituted the girls
she had selected for her summer's experiment, gradually adding others,
till the household was fairly harmonious, and far more efficient and
economical. A few changes were made among the men also.
By the time the family moved down to Santa Ulrica, there was quite a new
spirit in the household. Mrs. Weatherstone fully approved of the Girls'
Club Diantha had started at Mrs. Porne's; and it went on merrily in the
larger quarters of the great "cottage" on the cliff.
"I'm very glad I came to you, Mrs. Weatherstone," said the girl. "You
were quite right about the experience; I did need it--and I'm getting
She was getting some of which she made no mention.
As she won and held the confidence of her subordinates, and the growing
list of club members, she learned their personal stories; what had
befallen them in other families, and what they liked and disliked in
their present places.
"The men are not so bad," explained Catharine Kelly, at a club meeting,
meaning the men servants; "they respect an honest girl if she respects
herself; but it's the young masters--and sometimes the old ones!"
"It's all nonsense," protested Mrs. James, widowed cook of long
standing. "I've worked out for twenty-five years, and I never met no
such goings on!"
Little Ilda looked at Mrs. James' severe face and giggled.
"I've heard of it," said Molly Connors, "I've a cousin that's workin' in
New York; and she's had to leave two good places on account of their
misbehavin' theirselves. She's a fine girl, but too good-lookin'."
Diantha studied types, questioned them, drew them out, adjusted facts to
theories and theories to facts. She found the weakness of the whole
position to lie in the utter ignorance and helplessness of the
individual servant. "If they were only organized," she thought--"and
knew their own power!--Well; there's plenty of time."
As her acquaintance increased, and as Mrs. Weatherstone's interest in
her plans increased also, she started the small summer experiment she
had planned, for furnishing labor by the day. Mrs. James was an
excellent cook, though most unpleasant to work with. She was quite able
to see that getting up frequent lunches at three dollars, and dinners at
five dollars, made a better income than ten dollars a week even with
several days unoccupied.
A group of younger women, under Diantha's sympathetic encouragement,
agreed to take a small cottage together, with Mrs. James as a species of
chaperone; and to go out in twos and threes as chambermaids and
waitresses at 25 cents an hour. Two of them could set in perfect order
one of the small beach cottage in an hour's time; and the occupants,
already crowded for room, were quite willing to pay a little more in
cash "not to have a servant around." Most of them took their meals out
in any case.
It was a modest attempt, elastic and easily alterable and based on the
special conditions of a shore resort: Mrs. Weatherstone's known interest
gave it social backing; and many ladies who heartily disapproved of
Diantha's theories found themselves quite willing to profit by this very
practical local solution of the "servant question."
The "club girls" became very popular. Across the deep hot sand they
ploughed, and clattered along the warping boardwalks, in merry pairs and
groups, finding the work far more varied and amusing than the endless
repetition in one household. They had pleasant evenings too, with
plenty of callers, albeit somewhat checked and chilled by rigorous Mrs.
"It is both foolish and wicked!" said Madam Weatherstone to her
daughter-in-law, "Exposing a group of silly girls to such danger and
temptations! I understand there is singing and laughing going on at
that house until half-past ten at night."
"Yes, there is," Viva admitted. "Mrs. James insists that they shall all
be in bed at eleven--which is very wise. I'm glad they have good
times--there's safety in numbers, you know."
"There will be a scandal in this community before long!" said the old
lady solemnly. "And it grieves me to think that this household will be
responsible for it!"
Diantha heard all this from the linen room while Madam Weatherstone
buttonholed her daughter-in-law in the hall; and in truth the old lady
meant that she should hear what she said.
"She's right, I'm afraid!" said Diantha to herself--"there will be a
scandal if I'm not mighty careful and this household will be responsible
Even as she spoke she caught Ilda's childish giggle in the lower hall,
and looking over the railing saw her airily dusting the big Chinese
vases and coquetting with young Mr. Mathew.
Later on, Diantha tried seriously to rouse her conscience and her common
sense. "Don't you see, child, that it can't do you anything but harm?
You can't carry on with a man like that as you can with one of your own
friends. He is not to be trusted. One nice girl I had here simply left
the place--he annoyed her so."
Ilda was a little sulky. She had been quite a queen in the small
Norwegian village she was born in. Young men were young men--and they
might even--perhaps! This severe young housekeeper didn't know
everything. Maybe she was jealous!
So Ilda was rather unconvinced, though apparently submissive, and
Diantha kept a careful eye upon her. She saw to it that Ilda's room had
a bolt as well as key in the door, and kept the room next to it empty;
frequently using it herself, unknown to anyone. "I hate to turn the
child off," she said to herself, conscientiously revolving the matter.
"She isn't doing a thing more than most girls do--she's only a little
fool. And he's not doing anything I can complain of--yet."
But she worried over it a good deal, and Mrs. Weatherstone noticed it.
"Doesn't your pet club house go well, 'Miss Bell?' You seem troubled
"I am," Diantha admitted. "I believe I'll have to tell you about
it--but I hate to. Perhaps if you'll come and look I shan't have to say
She led her to a window that looked on the garden, the rich, vivid,
flower-crowded garden of Southern California by the sea. Little Ilda,
in a fresh black frock and snowy, frilly cap and apron, ran out to get a
rose; and while she sniffed and dallied they saw Mr. Mathew saunter out
and join her.
The girl was not as severe with him as she ought to have been--that was
evident; but it was also evident that she was frightened and furious
when he suddenly held her fast and kissed her with much satisfaction.
As soon as her arms were free she gave him a slap that sounded smartly
even at that distance; and ran crying into the house.
"She's foolish, I admit," said Diantha,--"but she doesn't realize her
danger at all. I've tried to make her. And now I'm more worried than
ever. It seems rather hard to discharge her--she needs care."
"I'll speak to that young man myself," said Mrs. Weatherstone. "I'll
speak to his grandmother too!"
"O--would you?" urged Diantha. "She wouldn't believe anything except
that the girl 'led him on'--you know that. But I have an idea that we
could convince her--if you're willing to do something rather
melodramatic--and I think we'd better do it to-night!"
"What's that?" asked her employer; and Diantha explained. It was
melodramatic, but promised to be extremely convincing.
"Do you think he'd dare! under my roof?" hotly demanded Madam
"I'm very much afraid it wouldn't be the first time," Diantha
reluctantly assured her. "It's no use being horrified. But if we could
only make _sure_--"
"If we could only make his grandmother sure!" cried Madam Weatherstone.
"That would save me a deal of trouble and misunderstanding. See here--I
think I can manage it--what makes you think it's to-night?"
"I can't be absolutely certain--" Diantha explained; and told her the
reasons she had.
"It does look so," her employer admitted. "We'll try it at any rate."
Urging her mother-in-law's presence on the ground of needing her
experienced advice, Mrs. Weatherstone brought the august lady to the
room next to Ilda's late that evening, the housekeeper in attendance.
"We mustn't wake the servants," she said in an elaborate whisper. "They
need sleep, poor things! But I want to consult you about these
communicating doors and the locksmith is coming in the morning.--you see
this opens from this side." She turned the oiled key softly in the
lock. "Now Miss Bell thinks they ought to be left so--so that the girls
can visit one another if they like--what do you think?"
"I think you are absurd to bring me to the top floor, at this time of
night, for a thing like this!" said the old lady. "They should be
permanently locked, to my mind! There's no question about it."
Viva, still in low tones, discussed this point further; introduced the
subject of wall-paper or hard finish; pointed out from the window a tall
eucalyptus which she thought needed heading; did what she could to keep
her mother-in-law on the spot; and presently her efforts were rewarded.
A sound of muffled speech came from the next room--a man's voice dimly
heard. Madam Weatherstone raised her head like a warhorse.
"What's this! What's this!" she said in a fierce whisper.
Viva laid a hand on her arm. "Sh!" said she. "Let us make sure!" and
she softly unlatched the door.
A brilliant moon flooded the small chamber. They could see little Ilda,
huddled in the bedclothes, staring at her door from which the key had
fallen. Another key was being inserted--turned--but the bolt held.
"Come and open it, young lady!" said a careful voice outside.
"Go away! Go away!" begged the girl, low and breathlessly. "Oh how
_can_ you! Go away quick!"
"Indeed, I won't!" said the voice. "You come and open it."
"Go away," she cried, in a soft but frantic voice. "I--I'll scream!"
"Scream away!" he answered. "I'll just say I came up to see what the
screaming's about, that's all. You open the door--if you don't want
anybody to know I'm here! I won't hurt you any--I just want to talk to
you a minute."
Madam Weatherstone was speechless with horror, her daughter-in-law
listened with set lips. Diantha looked from one to the other, and at
the frightened child before them who was now close to the terrible door.
"O please!--_please!_ go away!" she cried in desperation. "O what shall
I do! What shall I do!"
"You can't do anything," he answered cheerfully. "And I'm coming in
anyhow. You'd better keep still about this for your own sake. Stand
from under!" Madam Weatherstone marched into the room. Ilda, with a
little cry, fled out of it to Diantha.
There was a jump, a scramble, two knuckly hands appeared, a long leg was
put through the transom, two legs wildly wriggling, a descending body,
and there stood before them, flushed, dishevelled, his coat up to his
He did not notice the stern rigidity of the figure which stood between
him and the moonlight, but clasped it warmly to his heart.--"Now I've
got you, Ducky!" cried he, pressing all too affectionate kisses upon the
face of his grandmother.
Young Mrs. Weatherstone turned on the light.
It was an embarrassing position for the gentleman.
He had expected to find a helpless cowering girl; afraid to cry out
because her case would be lost if she did; begging piteously that he
would leave her; wholly at his mercy.
What he did find was so inexplicable as to reduce him to gibbering
astonishment. There stood his imposing grandmother, so overwhelmed with
amazement that her trenchant sentences failed her completely; his
stepmother, wearing an expression that almost suggested delight in his
discomfiture; and Diantha, as grim as Rhadamanthus.
Poor little Ilda burst into wild sobs and choking explanations, clinging
to Diantha's hand. "If I'd only listened to you!" she said. "You told
me he was bad! I never thought he'd do such an awful thing!"
Young Mathew fumbled at the door. He had locked it outside in his
efforts with the pass-key. He was red, red to his ears--very red, but
there was no escape. He faced them--there was no good in facing the
They all stood aside and let him pass--a wordless gauntlet.
Diantha took the weeping Ilda to her room for the night. Madam
Weatherstone and Mrs. Weatherstone went down together.
"She must have encouraged him!" the older lady finally burst forth.
"She did not encourage him to enter her room, as you saw and heard,"
said Viva with repressed intensity.
"He's only a boy!" said his grandmother.
"She is only a child, a helpless child, a foreigner, away from home,
untaught, unprotected," Viva answered swiftly; adding with quiet
sarcasm--"Save for the shelter of the home!"
They parted in silence.
WE EAT AT HOME
We eat at home; we do not care
Of what insanitary fare;
So long as Mother makes the pie,
Content we live, content we die,
And proudly our dyspepsia bear.
Straight from our furred forefather's lair
The instinct comes of feeding there;
And still unmoved by progress high
We eat at home.
In wasteful ignorance we buy
Alone; alone our food we fry;
What though a tenfold cost we bear,
The doctor's bill, the dentist's chair?
Still without ever asking why
We eat at home.
OUR ANDROCENTRIC CULTURE; or, THE MAN-MADE WORLD
"SOCIETY" AND "FASHION"
Among our many naive misbeliefs is the current fallacy that "society" is
made by women; and that women are responsible for that peculiar social
manifestation called "fashion."
Men and women alike accept this notion; the serious essayist and
philosopher, as well as the novelist and paragrapher, reflect it in
their pages. The force of inertia acts in the domain of psychics as
well as physics; any idea pushed into the popular mind with considerable
force will keep on going until some opposing force--or the slow
resistance of friction--stops it at last.
"Society" consists mostly of women. Women carry on most of its
processes, therefore women are its makers and masters, they are
responsible for it, that is the general belief.
We might as well hold women responsible for harems--or prisoners for
jails. To be helplessly confined to a given place or condition does not
prove that one has chosen it; much less made it.
No; in an androcentric culture "society," like every other social
relation, is dominated by the male and arranged for his convenience.
There are, of course, modifications due to the presence of the other
sex; where there are more women than men there are inevitable results of
their influence; but the character and conditions of the whole
performance are dictated by men.
Social intercourse is the prime condition of human life. To meet, to
mingle, to know one another, to exchange, not only definite ideas,
facts, and feelings, but to experience that vague general stimulus and
enlarged power that comes of contact--all this is essential to our
happiness as well as to our progress.
This grand desideratum has always been monopolized by men as far as
possible. What intercourse was allowed to women has been rigidly hemmed
its by man-made conventions. Women accept these conventions, repeat
them, enforce them upon their daughters; but they originate with men.
The feet of the little Chinese girl are bound by her mother and her
nurse--but it is not for woman's pleasure that this crippling torture
was invented. The Oriental veil is worn by women, but it is not for any
need of theirs that veils were decreed them.
When we look at society in its earlier form we find that the public
house has always been with us. It is as old almost as the private
house; the need for association is as human as the need for privacy.
But the public house was--and is--for men only. The woman was kept as
far as possible at home. Her female nature was supposed to delimit her
life satisfactorily, and her human stature was completely ignored.
Under the pressure of that human nature she has always rebelled at the
social restrictions which surrounded her; and from the women of older
lands gathered at the well, or in the market place, to our own women on
the church steps or in the sewing circle, they have ceaselessly
struggled for the social intercourse which was as much a law of their
being as of man's.
When we come to the modern special field that we call "society," we find
it to consist of a carefully arranged set of processes and places
wherein women may meet one another and meet men. These vary, of course,
with race, country, class, and period; from the clean licence of our
western customs to the strict chaperonage of older lands; but free as it
is in America, even here there are bounds.
Men associate without any limit but that of inclination and financial
capacity. Even class distinction only works one way--the low-class man
may not mingle with high-class women; but the high-class man may--and
does--mingle with low-class women. It is his society--may not a man do
what he will with his own?
Caste distinctions, as have been ably shown by Prof. Lester F. Ward, are
relics of race distinction; the subordinate caste was once a subordinate
race; and while mating, upward, was always forbidden to the subject
race; mating, downward, was always practiced by the master race.
The elaborate shading of "the color line" in slavery days, from pure
black up through mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, quinteroon, griffada,
mustafee, mustee, and sang d'or--to white again; was not through white
mothers--but white fathers; never too exclusive in their tastes. Even
in slavery, the worst horrors were strictly androcentric.
"Society" is strictly guarded--that is its women are. As always, the
main tabu is on the woman. Consider carefully the relation between
"society" and the growing girl. She must, of course, marry; and her
education, manners, character, must of course be pleasing to the
prospective wooer. That which is desirable in young girls means,
naturally, that which is desirable to men. Of all cultivated
accomplishments the first is "innocence." Beauty may or may not be
forthcoming; but "innocence" is "the chief charm of girlhood."
Why? What good does it do _her?_ Her whole life's success is made to
depend on her marrying; her health and happiness depends on her marrying
the right man. The more "innocent" she is, the less she knows, the
easier it is for the wrong man to get her.
As is so feelingly described in "The Sorrows of Amelia," in "The Ladies'
Literary Cabinet," a magazine taken by my grandmother; "The only foible
which the delicate Amelia possessed was an unsuspecting breast to lavish
esteem. Unversed in the secret villanies of a base degenerate world,
she ever imagined all mankind to be as spotless as herself. Alas for
Amelia! This fatal credulity was the source of all her misfortunes."
It was. It is yet.
Just face the facts with new eyes--look at it as if you had never seen
"society" before; and observe the position of its "Queen."
Here is Woman. Let us grant that Motherhood is her chief purpose. (As
a female it is. As a human being she has others!) Marriage is our way
of safeguarding motherhood; of ensuring "support" and "protection" to
the wife and children.
"Society" is very largely used as a means to bring together young
people, to promote marriage. If "society" is made and governed by women
we should naturally look to see its restrictions and encouragements such
as would put a premium on successful maternity and protect women--and
their children--from the evils of ill-regulated fatherhood.
Do we find this? By no means.
"Society" allows the man all liberty--all privilege--all license. There
are certain offences which would exclude him; such as not paying
gambling debts, or being poor; but offences against womanhood--against
motherhood--do not exclude him.
How about the reverse?
If "society" is made by women, for women, surely a misstep by a
helplessly "innocent" girl, will not injure her standing!
But it does. She is no longer "innocent." She knows now. She has lost
her market value and is thrown out of the shop. Why not? It is his
shop--not hers. What women may and may not be, what they must and must
not do, all is measured from the masculine standard.
A really feminine "society" based on the needs and pleasures of women,
both as females and as human beings, would in the first place accord
them freedom and knowledge; the knowledge which is power. It would not
show us "the queen of the ballroom" in the position of a wall-flower
unless favored by masculine invitation; unable to eat unless he brings
her something; unable to cross the floor without his arm. Of all blind
stultified "royal sluggards" she is the archetype. No, a feminine
society would grant _at least_ equality to women in this, their
so-called special field.
Its attitude toward men, however, would be rigidly critical.
Fancy a real Mrs. Grundy (up to date it has been a Mr., his whiskers hid
in capstrings) saying, "No, no, young man. You won't do. You've been
drinking. The habit's growing on you. You'll make a bad husband."
Or still more severely, "Out with you, sir! You've forfeited your right
to marry! Go into retirement for seven years, and when you come back
bring a doctor's certificate with you."
That sounds ridiculous, doesn't it--for "Society" to say? It is
ridiculous, in a man's "society."
The required dress and decoration of "society"; the everlasting eating
and drinking of "society," the preferred amusements of "society," the
absolute requirements and absolute exclusions of "society," are of men,
by men, for men,--to paraphrase a threadbare quotation. And then, upon
all that vast edifice of masculine influence, they turn upon women as
Adam did; and blame _them_ for severity with their fallen sisters!
"Women are so hard upon women!"
They have to be. What man would "allow" his wife, his daughters, to
visit and associate with "the fallen"? His esteem would be forfeited,
they would lose their "social position," the girl's chance of marrying
would be gone.
Men are not so stern. They may visit the unfortunate women, to bring
them help, sympathy, re-establishment--or for other reasons; and it does
not forfeit their social position. Why should it? They make the
Women are to-day, far more conspicuously than men, the exponents and
victims of that mysterious power we call "Fashion." As shown in mere
helpless imitation of one another's idea, customs, methods, there is not
much difference; in patient acquiescence with prescribed models of
architecture, furniture, literature, or anything else; there is not much
difference; but in personal decoration there is a most conspicuous
difference. Women do to-day submit to more grotesque ugliness and
absurdity than men; and there are plenty of good reasons for it.
Confining our brief study of fashion to fashion in dress, let us observe
why it is that women wear these fine clothes at all; and why they change
them as they do.
First, and very clearly, the human female carries the weight of sex
decoration, solely because of her economic dependence on the male. She
alone in nature adds to the burdens of maternity, which she was meant
for, this unnatural burden of ornament, which she was not meant for.
Every other female in the world is sufficiently attractive to the male
without trimmings. He carries the trimmings, sparing no expense of
spreading antlers or trailing plumes; no monstrosity of crest and
wattles, to win her favor.
She is only temporarily interested in him. The rest of the time she is
getting her own living, and caring for her own young. But our women get
their bread from their husbands, and every other social need. The woman
depends on the man for her position in life, as well as the necessities
of existence. For herself and for her children she must win and hold
him who is the source of all supplies. Therefore she is forced to add
to her own natural attractions this "dance of the seven veils," of the
seventeen gowns, of the seventy-seven hats of gay delirium.
There are many who think in one syllable, who say, "women don't dress to
please men--they dress to please themselves--and to outshine other
women." To these I would suggest a visit to some summer shore resort
during the week and extending over Saturday night. The women have all
the week to please themselves and outshine one another; but their array
on Saturday seems to indicate the approach of some new force or
If all this does not satisfy I would then call their attention to the
well-known fact that the young damsel previous to marriage spends far
more time and ingenuity in decoration than she does afterward. This has
long been observed and deprecated by those who write Advice to Wives, on
the ground that this difference is displeasing to the husband--that she
loses her influence over him; which is true. But since his own
"society," knowing his weakness, has tied him to her by law; why should
she keep up what is after all an unnatural exertion?
That excellent magazine "Good Housekeeping" has been running for some
months a rhymed and illustrated story of "Miss Melissa Clarissa McRae,"
an extremely dainty and well-dressed stenographer, who captured and
married a fastidious young man, her employer, by the force of her
artificial attractions--and then lost his love after marriage by a
sudden unaccountable slovenliness--the same old story.
If this in not enough, let me instance further the attitude toward
"Fashion" of that class of women who live most openly and directly upon
the favor of men. These know their business. To continually attract
the vagrant fancy of the male, nature's born "variant," they must not
only pile on artificial charms, but change them constantly. They do.
From the leaders of this profession comes a steady stream of changing
fashions; the more extreme and bizarre, the more successful--and because
they are successful they are imitated.
If men did not like changes in fashion be assured these professional
men-pleasers would not change them, but since Nature's Variant tires of
any face in favor of a new one, the lady who would hold her sway and
cannot change her face (except in color) must needs change her hat and
But the Arbiter, the Ruling Cause, he who not only by choice demands,
but as a business manufactures and supplies this amazing stream of
fashions; again like Adam blames the woman--for accepting what he both
demands and supplies.
A further proof, if more were needed, is shown in this; that in exact
proportion as women grow independent, educated, wise and free, do they
become less submissive to men-made fashions. Was this improvement
hailed with sympathy and admiration--crowned with masculine favor?
The attitude of men toward those women who have so far presumed to
"unsex themselves" is known to all. They like women to be foolish,
changeable, always newly attractive; and while women must "attract" for
a living--why they do, that's all.
It is a pity. It is humiliating to any far-seeing woman to have to
recognize this glaring proof of the dependent, degraded position of her
sex; and it ought to be humiliating to men to see the results of their
mastery. These crazily decorated little creatures do not represent
When the artist uses the woman as the type of every highest ideal; as
Justice, Liberty, Charity, Truth--he does not represent her trimmed. In
any part of the world where women are even in part economically
independent there we find less of the absurdities of fashion. Women who
work cannot be utterly absurd.
But the idle woman, the Queen of Society, who must please men within
their prescribed bounds; and those of the half-world, who must please
them at any cost--these are the vehicles of fashion.
ONLY AN HOUR
"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven," said the Second Hand, and
then he lost count. "One, two, three, four, five--" It was no use.
"There is no end to it," said he, under his breath. "Hundreds of times
I do it! Thousands! Millions! A positive eternity--in constant
action. What a thing Life is!"
The Minute Hand was very patient with him. "My dear little Busybody,"
he said. "Look at me and learn some dignity. See, you have to make
those little jumps sixty times before I move! Sixty times!" And the
Minute Hand took a short step. "There--now you begin again, while I
wait. Watch me, take courage! If you can count up to sixty you will
understand Life!" And he took another short step.
The Hour Hand smiled. He was too proud to talk with the Minute
Hand--considering him to have a Limited Intellect. As for the Second
Hand, he did not acknowledge his existence. "I am no microscopist!" he
would say if you pointed out that there was a Second Hand.
No, the Hour Hand did not converse, he Mused. He mused much upon life,
as was natural. "Twelve of them!" he thought to himself--"twelve of
these long long waits, these slow terrible advances. And then twelve
more--before Life is over. I can count. I have an intellect. I am not
afraid. I can think around Life." And he kept on thinking.
The man pulled out his watch and looked at it; yawned, took an easier
position on the car seat. "Bah!" he said. "Only an hour gone!--And I
can't get there till the day after to-morrow!"
COMMENT AND REVIEW
The first thing that struck me in reading this novel was the style. Not
often, in a first publication, is this the main impression.
There is a delicate finished personal touch in Mrs. Schoonmaker's work,
that would indicate years of application. Next I slowly gathered
interest in the story; not at once--it grew gradually--but later on,
when the characters were well placed and a grave danger threatened the
lives of several.
The flat, peaceful, limited life of rural Kentucky and its contented
inhabitants is drawn in soft assured touches--the reader feels the
sweetness and peace as well as the deadly dulness.
The picture of life among the studios of Paris hints at more than is
said, much more; indicating a philosophic judgment; yet withholding it.
There is a restraint, an economy of expression throughout; even where
the writer feels most strongly.
As to the heroine--her young life-struggle is part and parcel of that
universal stir and uprising among the women of to-day; so much of it
blind and undirected; so much wasted and lost in reaction; so much in
lines of true long-needed social evolution. This girl's share in it
will be differently judged by different readers. Many of our young
college women will sympathize with it most, I fancy.
THE ETERNAL FIRES
By Nancy Musselman Schoonmaker,
Broadway Pub. Co., N. Y.
Dr. Stanton Coit, prominent in ethical and social advance in England, is
a valuable supporter of the woman's movement. His booklet, "Women in
Church and State," is a concise and impressive presentation of her
position in those great social bodies. He treats of the militant
movement in England, its wise period of quiescence, and offers
reasonable suggestions as to further policy.
The attitude of the church toward women, from the miserable past up
through the changing present to the hopeful future, is given succinctly,
and the unfortunate reaction of a servile womanhood upon the church is
It is a clear presentation of the relation of woman to the state, in
politics, education, marriage and the home.
This booklet is for sale, in England, as one of the Ethical Message
Series, at 6d. net; and may be rebound for American circulation, at 15c.
WOMAN IN CHURCH AND STATE
By Stanton Coit, Ph.D.,
West London Ethical Society,
Queen's Road, Bayswater, England.
The ethical movement of the last twenty years is a strong proof of
humanity's natural bent toward the study and practice of that first of
sciences, the science of conduct.
How to behave, and Why, are universal questions; decided first by
conditions, then by instinct, then by custom and tradition, then by
religion, then by reason. We are rapidly reaching the reasoning stage;
hence the popularity of ethics, and of such papers as The Ethical World.
We have ethical publications in this country, good ones, but it is
inspiring to get from other lands the vivid sense of that common
movement which so marks the uniting of the world.
Mere verbal language was necessary to the faintest human development;
written language, in the permanent form of books, established the long
roots of our historic life, with its sense of continuity; today the
multiplication of periodic literature, widely specialized, speaks our
social consciousness. We no longer have to think alone, but the
smallest cult has its exponent, giving to each member the strength of
In the issue of March 15th of this paper, Dr. Stanton Coit has an
article on "The Group Spirit," which treats sympathetically that marvel
of social dynamics, "the interpenetrating Third," appearing where two or
three are gathered together.
I should like to have discussed with Sir James Mackintosh, however, his
contention that moral principles are stationary. They are not, but vary
from age to age in accordance with conditions.
A friend and subscriber writes me thus:
"There are one or two questions I want to ask--not because I disagree,
but because I want to be able to meet objections.
"Those who believe in restricting "Woman's Sphere" to its present--no,
its former narrow boundaries may say,--"Yes, man is the only species
which keeps the female--or tries to--in the home and restricts her to
the strictly female functions and duties. But it is just because man is
higher than the other animals, and because the period of infancy is so
much longer for human babies. The animal mother bears her young,
nourishes them a short time, and is no longer needed. The human mother
is something more than an agent of reproduction and a source of
nourishment. By just so much as her motherhood is more and higher than
that of the ewe, it must take more of her time, her strength, her life.
How can a woman who is giving birth to a child every two or three years
for a period of ten years, for example, and "mothering," in the fullest
sense of the word, those children, find time or strength for anything
"Then, too, what you call "Androcentric Culture" has existed by your own
statement practically ever since our historic period began--that is,
since man first advanced from savagery to human intelligence and
civilization. Is it not fair to assume that a condition of affairs
non-existent among lower animals, but co-existent with the development
of the intelligence and civilization of mankind is a higher condition
than that found among the animals?"
Here we have five premises:
1. Man is the only species which segregates the female to maternal
functions and duties.
2. Man is higher than the other animals.
3. The human period of infancy is longer.
4. The human mother has to devote longer time to maternal cares.
5. The Androcentric Culture is coexistent with the period of progress.
On these premises,two questions are based: On the first four:
A. How can the human mother find time or strength for anything else?
On the fifth:
B. Is not the Androcentric Culture evidence and conditions of our
To clearly follow and answer this line of reasoning requires close
attention; but it is well worth doing; for this inquirer fairly puts the
general attitude of mind on this matter.
Premise one we may grant. It is true as applied to all higher species.
There are some low ones where the female is a mere egg-layer; but with
those creatures the male is not much either.
Premises two and three we grant freely.
Premises three and four require consideration.
Is the existence of human infancy accompanied by a similar extension of
Our Children are infants in the eyes of the law till they reach legal
majority; and in the arts, professions, and more complex businesses, a
boy of twenty-one is still an infant.
To bring a young animal up to the age where it can take care of itself
is a simple process and can be accomplished by the mother alone; but to
bring up a young human creature to the age where he or she can fitly
serve society is a complex process and cannot be performed by the mother
alone. Our prolongation of infancy is a result of social progress, and
has to be met by social cares; is so met to some degree already.
The nurse and the teacher are social functionaries, performing the
duties of social motherhood. The female savage can suckle her child and
teach her to prepare food, tan hides, make baskets and clothing, and
decorate them. The male savage can teach his child to hunt and trap
game, to bear pain and privation, to put on warpaint and yell and dance,
to fight and kill.
But the civilized mother and father cannot teach their children all that
society requires of its citizens. When trades went from father to son
they were so taught; and the level of progress in those trades was the
level of personal experience. Our real progress has coincided with our
educational processes, in which suitable persons are selected to teach
children what society requires them to know, quite irrespective of their
parent's individual knowledge. Should the learning of the world, the
discoveries and inventions, be limited to what each man can find out for
himself and teach his son?
No one expects the father's wisdom to be the limit of his son's
instruction; nor the mother's either. She loves her child as much as
ever; and for its own sake is willing to have it learn of
music-teachers, dancing-teachers, and all the allied specialists of
school and college.
In all higher and more special cases, it is clear that the mother is not
required to parallel her attentions to our "period of infancy," but
perhaps it will still be contended that in the simpler and more
universal tasks of earlier years she is indispensable; and that these
years so overlap that she is practically confined to the home during her
whole period of child-bearing.
The answer to this is, first; that the simpler and more universal the
tasks the more there may be found capable of performing it. As a matter
of fact we are so accustomed to take this view that we cheerfully
entrust the most delicate personal services of our babies to hired
persons of the lowest orders; as in our Southern States the proud white
mother gives her baby often to be suckled and always to be tended by a
It is idle to talk of the indispensability of the mother's care in the
first years when any mother who can afford it is quite willing to share
or delegate that care to women admittedly inferior. If the human race
has got on as well as it has with the care of its lower class children
solely ignorant mothers, and the care of its higher class children given
mainly by ignorant servants; why should we dread to have the care of all
children given mainly by high-class, skilled, educated, experienced
persons, of equal or superior grade to the parents?
The answer to this usually is the child needs the individual mother's
love and influence. This is quite true. The baby should be nourished
by his own mother--if she is healthy--and nothing can excuse her from
the loving cares of parentage. But just as an ordinary unskilled
working woman loves and cares for her child--and yet does ten hours of
housework, to which no one objects; or just as an ordinary rich woman
loves and cares for her child--and yet does ten or twelve hours of
dancing, dining, riding, golfing, and bridge playing (to which no one
objects!)--so could a skilled working woman spend six or eight hours at
an appropriate trade, and still love and care for her child. A normal
motherhood does not prevent the mother from suitable industry. In other
words: The prolongation of human infancy does not demand an equal
prolongation of maternal services; but does demand specialized social
services. When these services are properly given our children will be
far better cared for than now.
The best answer of all is simply this. Almost all mothers do work, and
work hard, at house service; and are healthier than idle wholly
segregated women; yet there are many kinds of work far more compatible
with motherhood than cooking, scrubbing, sweeping, washing and ironing.
The fifth premise, and its accompanying question also calls for study.
It is true that our Androcentric Culture is co-existent with human
history and modern progress, with these qualifications:
Practically all our savages are decadent, and grossly androcentric.
Their language and customs prove an earlier and higher culture, in which
we may trace the matriarchate. Among the less savage savages--as our
Pueblos--the women are comparatively independent and honored.
Almost all races have a "golden age" myth; faint traditions of a period
when things were better; which seems to coincide with this background of
matriarchal rule. The farther back we go in our civilization the more
traces we find of woman's power and freedom, with goddesses, empresses,
and woman-favoring laws.
Again in our present Age, the most progressive and dominant races are
those whose women have most power and liberty; and in the feeblest and
most backward races we find women most ill-treated and enslaved.
The Teutons and Scandinavian stocks seem never to have had that period
of enslaved womanhood, that polygamous harem culture; their women never
went through that debasement; and their men have succeeded in preserving
the spirit of freedom which is inevitably lost by a race which has
servile women. Thus while it is admitted that roughly speaking the
period of Androcentric Culture corresponds with the period of progress,
these considerations show that the coincidence is not perfect. Even if
it were, there remains this satisfying rejoinder:
The lit space in our long life-story begins but a short time ago
compared with the real existence of human life on earth. On the
conditions preceding history we know little save that they were
matriarchal as to culture and of an industrious, peaceful and friendly
nature. Of the conditions brought about by the androcentric culture we
know much, however.
We have developed some degree of peace and prosperity; marked progress
in intelligence, learning, and specialized skill; immense material and
scientific development and increased wealth.
But we have also developed an array of diseases, follies, vices, and
crimes, which distinguish us from the other animals as markedly as does
our androcentric culture.
Not all of these disadvantages con be clearly traced to its door; but
these three are plainly due to it; prostitution, with all its
devastation of its ensuing diseases; drug habits of all sorts, as
alcohol, tobacco, opium--which are preponderantly masculine; and
warfare; with its loss of life and wealth; its cruelty and waste; its
foolish interference with true social processes.
If the matriarchal period can be shown to have produced worse evils than
these then it was a blessing to lose it. If at all the splendid gains
we have made under man's rule can be traced to his separate influence
then we might say even these world injuries may be borne for the sake of
the benefits not otherwise obtainable. But if it can be shown that real
progress is always paralleled by improvement in the conditions of women;
that the most valuable human qualities are found in women as well as
men; that these three worst evils of our present day are clearly of a
masculine nature and removable by the extension of feminine
influence--then our inquirer's last question is easily answered; the
existence of our androcentric culture during our period of modern
progress distinctly does not prove that it is a necessary condition of
A number of most interesting Personal Problems have come in this month,
but the length of the above, postponed from June, prevents due answers
in this issue. This one had to be long, its questions were so general.
The earnest friend who asks as to the right attitude of a mother toward
her children, born and unborn, asks too much. No explicit "answers" can
be given to such life-covering queries. One may reply epigrammatically
(and unsatisfactorily) as this:
The first duty of a mother is to be a mother worth having.
The second duty of a mother is to select a father worth having.
The third duty of a mother is to bring up children worth having--and to
have children worth bringing up!
Motherhood is a personal process, Child-culture is a social process.
A vigorous well-placed wisely working woman should take her
child-bearing naturally, not make too much ado about it. But
child-rearing--that is another matter.
We can advise as to one wanting a gardener, "Get a good one."
If there are none--then it is not time we made some?
Books by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Sent postpaid by
THE CHARLTON COMPANY
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"Women and Economics" $1.50
Since John Stuart Mill's essay there has been no book dealing with the
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brilliancy of exposition.--_London Chronicle._
A remarkable book. A work on economics that has not a dull page--the
work of a woman about women that has not a flippant word.--_Boston
Will be widely read and discussed as the cleverest, fairest, most
forcible presentation of the view of the rapidly increasing group who
look with favor on the extension of industrial employment to
women.--_Political Science Quarterly._
"Concerning Children" $1.25
WANTED:--A philanthropist, to give a copy to every English-speaking
parent.--_The Times,_ New York.
Should be read by every mother in the land.--_The Press,_ New York.
Wholesomely disturbing book that deserves to be read for its own
"In This Our World" (Poems) $1.25
There is a joyous superabundance of life, of strength, of health, in
Mrs. Gilman's verse, which seems born of the glorious sunshine and rich
gardens of California.--_Washington Times._
The poet of women and for women, a new and prophetic voice in the world.
Montaigne would have rejoiced in her.--_Mexican Herald._
"The Yellow Wall Paper" $0.50
Worthy of a place beside some of the weird masterpieces of Hawthorne and
As a short story it stands among the most powerful produced in
"The Home" $1.00
Indeed, Mrs. Gilman has not intended her book so much as a treatise for
scholars as a surgical operation on the popular mind.--_The Critic,_ New
It is safe to say that no more stimulating arraignment has ever before
taken shape and that the argument of the book is noble, and, on the
whole, convincing.--_Congregationalist,_ Boston.
"Human Work" $1.00
Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman has been writing a new book, entitled
"Human Work." It is the best thing that Mrs. Gilman has done, and it is
meant to focus all of her previous work, so to speak.--_Tribune,_
In her latest volume, "Human Work," Charlotte Perkins Gilman places
herself among the foremost students and elucidators of the problem of
social economics.--"San Francisco Star._
It is impossible to overestimate the value of the insistence on the
social aspect of human affairs as Mrs. Gilman has outlined it.--_Public
"What Diantha Did" (A Novel) $1.00
"The Man Made World": or, "Our Androcentric Culture" $1.00
Orders taken for Bound Vols. THE FORERUNNER, $1.25
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
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