The Forerunner, Volume 1 (1909-1910)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Part 3 out of 18
But no Orphanage is financed
By child labor in a mine.
The Cruel Law may send them
To Reform School's iron sway,
But it does not set small children
To hard labor by the day.
Only the Loving Family,
Which we so much admire,
Is willing to support itself
On little children's hire.
Only the Human Father,
A man, with power to think,
Will take from little children
The price of food and drink.
Only the Human Mother--
Degraded, helpless thing!
Will make her little children work
And live on what they bring!
No fledgling feeds the father-bird!
No chicken feeds the hen!
No kitten mouses for the cat--
This glory is for men.
We are the Wisest, Strongest Race--
Loud my our praise be sung!--
The only animal alive
That lives upon its young!
We make the poverty that takes
The lives of babies so.
We can awake! rebuild! remake!--
And let our children grow!
WHAT DIANTHA DID
AN UNNATURAL DAUGHTER
The brooding bird fulfills her task,
Or she-bear lean and brown;
All parent beasts see duty true,
All parent beasts their duty do,
We are the only kind that asks
For duty upside down.
The stiff-rayed windmill stood like a tall mechanical flower, turning
slowly in the light afternoon wind; its faint regular metallic squeak
pricked the dry silence wearingly. Rampant fuchsias, red-jewelled,
heavy, ran up its framework, with crowding heliotrope and nasturtiums.
Thick straggling roses hung over the kitchen windows, and a row of dusty
eucalyptus trees rustled their stiff leaves, and gave an ineffectual
shade to the house.
It was one of those small frame houses common to the northeastern
states, which must be dear to the hearts of their dwellers. For no
other reason, surely, would the cold grey steep-roofed little boxes be
repeated so faithfully in the broad glow of a semi-tropical landscape.
There was an attempt at a "lawn," the pet ambition of the transplanted
easterner; and a further attempt at "flower-beds," which merely served
as a sort of springboard to their far-reaching products.
The parlor, behind the closed blinds, was as New England parlors are;
minus the hint of cosiness given by even a fireless stove; the little
bedrooms baked under the roof; only the kitchen spoke of human living,
and the living it portrayed was not, to say the least, joyous. It was
clean, clean with a cleanness that spoke of conscientious labor and
unremitting care. The zinc mat under the big cook-stove was scoured to
a dull glimmer, while that swart altar itself shone darkly from its
There was no dust nor smell of dust; no grease spots, no litter
anywhere. But the place bore no atmosphere of contented pride, as does
a Dutch, German or French kitchen, it spoke of Labor, Economy and
In the dead quiet of the afternoon Diantha and her mother sat there
sewing. The sun poured down through the dangling eucalyptus leaves.
The dry air, rich with flower odors, flowed softly in, pushing the white
sash curtains a steady inch or two. Ee-errr!--Ee-errr!--came the faint
whine of the windmill.
To the older woman rocking in her small splint chair by the rose-draped
window, her thoughts dwelling on long dark green grass, the shade of
elms, and cows knee-deep in river-shallows; this was California--hot,
arid, tedious in endless sunlight--a place of exile.
To the younger, the long seam of the turned sheet pinned tightly to her
knee, her needle flying firmly and steadily, and her thoughts full of
pouring moonlight through acacia boughs and Ross's murmured words, it
was California--rich, warm, full of sweet bloom and fruit, of boundless
vitality, promise, and power--home!
Mrs. Bell drew a long weary sigh, and laid down her work for a moment.
"Why don't you stop it Mother dear? There's surely no hurry about these
"No--not particularly," her mother answered, "but there's plenty else to
do." And she went on with the long neat hemming. Diantha did the "over
and over seam" up the middle.
"What _do_ you do it for anyway, Mother--I always hated this job--and
you don't seem to like it."
"They wear almost twice as long, child, you know. The middle gets worn
and the edges don't. Now they're reversed. As to liking it--" She
gave a little smile, a smile that was too tired to be sarcastic, but
which certainly did not indicate pleasure.
"What kind of work do you like best--really?" her daughter inquired
suddenly, after a silent moment or two.
"Why--I don't know," said her mother. "I never thought of it. I never
tried any but teaching. I didn't like that. Neither did your Aunt
Esther, but she's still teaching."
"Didn't you like any of it?" pursued Diantha.
"I liked arithmetic best. I always loved arithmetic, when I went to
school--used to stand highest in that."
"And what part of housework do you like best?" the girl persisted.
Mrs. Bell smiled again, wanly. "Seems to me sometimes as if I couldn't
tell sometimes what part I like least!" she answered. Then with sudden
heat--"O my Child! Don't you marry till Ross can afford at least one
girl for you!"
Diantha put her small, strong hands behind her head and leaned back in
her chair. "We'll have to wait some time for that I fancy," she said.
"But, Mother, there is one part you like--keeping accounts! I never saw
anything like the way you manage the money, and I believe you've got
every bill since yon were married."
"Yes--I do love accounts," Mrs. Bell admitted. "And I can keep run of
things. I've often thought your Father'd have done better if he'd let
me run that end of his business."
Diantha gave a fierce little laugh. She admired her father in some
ways, enjoyed him in some ways, loved him as a child does if not
ill-treated; but she loved her mother with a sort of passionate pity
mixed with pride; feeling always nobler power in her than had ever had a
fair chance to grow. It seemed to her an interminable dull tragedy;
this graceful, eager, black-eyed woman, spending what to the girl was
literally a lifetime, in the conscientious performance of duties she did
She knew her mother's idea of duty, knew the clear head, the steady
will, the active intelligence holding her relentlessly to the task; the
chafe and fret of seeing her husband constantly attempting against her
judgment, and failing for lack of the help he scorned. Young as she
was, she realized that the nervous breakdown of these later years was
wholly due to that common misery of "the square man in the round hole."
She folded her finished sheet in accurate lines and laid it away--taking
her mother's also. "Now you sit still for once, Mother dear, read or
lie down. Don't you stir till supper's ready."
And from pantry to table she stepped, swiftly and lightly, setting out
what was needed, greased her pans and set them before her, and proceeded
to make biscuit.
Her mother watched her admiringly. "How easy you do it!" she said. "I
never could make bread without getting flour all over me. You don't
spill a speck!"
Diantha smiled. "I ought to do it easily by this time. Father's got to
have hot bread for supper--or thinks he has!--and I've made 'em--every
night when I was at home for this ten years back!"
"I guess you have," said Mrs. Bell proudly. "You were only eleven when
you made your first batch. I can remember just as well! I had one of
my bad headaches that night--and it did seem as if I couldn't sit up!
But your Father's got to have his biscuit whether or no. And you said,
'Now Mother you lie right still on that sofa and let me do it! I can!'
And you could!--you did! They were bettern' mine that first time--and
your Father praised 'em--and you've been at it ever since."
"Yes," said Diantha, with a deeper note of feeling than her mother
caught, "I've been at it ever since!"
"Except when you were teaching school," pursued her mother.
"Except when I taught school at Medville," Diantha corrected. "When I
taught here I made 'em just the same."
"So you did," agreed her mother. "So you did! No matter how tired you
were--you wouldn't admit it. You always were the best child!"
"If I was tired it was not of making biscuits anyhow. I was tired
enough of teaching school though. I've got something to tell you,
She covered the biscuits with a light cloth and set them on the shelf
over the stove; then poked among the greasewood roots to find what she
wanted and started a fire. "Why _don't_ you get an oil stove? Or a
gasoline? It would be a lot easier."
"Yes," her mother agreed. "I've wanted one for twenty years; but you
know your Father won't have one in the house. He says they're
dangerous. What are you going to tell me, dear? I do hope you and Ross
"No indeed we haven't, Mother. Ross is splendid. Only--"
"Only what, Dinah?"
"Only he's so tied up!" said the girl, brushing every chip from the
hearth. "He's perfectly helpless there, with that mother of his--and
those four sisters."
"Ross is a good son," said Mrs. Bell, "and a good brother. I never saw
a better. He's certainly doing his duty. Now if his father'd lived you
two could have got married by this time maybe, though you're too young
Diantha washed and put away the dishes she had used, saw that the pantry
was in its usual delicate order, and proceeded to set the table, with
light steps and no clatter of dishes.
"I'm twenty-one," she said.
"Yes, you're twenty-one," her mother allowed. "It don't seem possible,
but you are. My first baby!" she looked at her proudly
"If Ross has to wait for all those girls to marry--and to pay his
father's debts--I'll be old enough," said Diantha grimly.
Her mother watched her quick assured movements with admiration, and
listened with keen sympathy. "I know it's hard, dear child. You've
only been engaged six months--and it looks as if it might be some years
before Ross'll be able to marry. He's got an awful load for a boy to
"I should say he had!" Diantha burst forth. "Five helpless women!--or
three women, and two girls. Though Cora's as old as I was when I began
to teach. And not one of 'em will lift a finger to earn her own
"They weren't brought up that way," said Mrs. Bell. "Their mother don't
approve of it. She thinks the home is the place for a woman--and so
does Ross--and so do I," she added rather faintly.
Diantha put her pan of white puff-balls into the oven, sliced a quantity
of smoked beef in thin shavings, and made white sauce for it, talking
the while as if these acts were automatic. "I don't agree with Mrs.
Warden on that point, nor with Ross, nor with you, Mother," she said,
"What I've got to tell you is this--I'm going away from home. To work."
Mrs. Bell stopped rocking, stopped fanning, and regarded her daughter
with wide frightened eyes.
"Why Diantha!" she said. "Why Diantha! You wouldn't go and leave your
Diantha drew a deep breath and stood for a moment looking at the feeble
little woman in the chair. Then she went to her, knelt down and hugged
"It's not because I don't love you, Mother. It's because I do. And
it's not because I don't love Ross either:--it's because I _do._ I want
to take care of you, Mother, and make life easier for you as long as you
live. I want to help him--to help carry that awful load--and I'm
She stood up hastily, for a step sounded on the back porch. It was only
her sister, who hurried in, put a dish on the table, kissed her mother
and took another rocking-chair.
"I just ran in," said she, "to bring those berries. Aren't they
beauties? The baby's asleep. Gerald hasn't got in yet. Supper's all
ready, and I can see him coming time enough to run back. Why, Mother!
What's the matter? You're crying!"
"Am I?" asked Mrs. Bell weakly; wiping her eyes in a dazed way.
"What are you doing to Mother, Diantha?" demanded young Mrs. Peters.
"Bless me! I thought you and she never had any differences! I was always
the black sheep, when I was at home. Maybe that's why I left so early!"
She looked very pretty and complacent, this young matron and mother of
nineteen; and patted the older woman's hand affectionately, demanding,
"Come--what's the trouble?"
"You might as well know now as later," said her sister. "I have decided
to leave home, that's all."
"To leave home!" Mrs. Peters sat up straight and stared at her. "To
leave home!--And Mother!"
"Well?" said Diantha, while the tears rose and ran over from her
mother's eyes. "Well, why not? You left home--and Mother--before you
"That's different!" said her sister sharply. "I left to be married,--to
have a home of my own. And besides I haven't gone far! I can see
Mother every day."
"That's one reason I can go now better than later on," Diantha said.
"You are close by in case of any trouble."
"What on earth are you going for? Ross isn't ready to marry yet, is
"No--nor likely to be for years. That's another reason I'm going."
"But what _for,_ for goodness sake."
"To earn money--for one thing."
"Can't you earn money enough by teaching?" the Mother broke in eagerly.
"I know you haven't got the same place this fall--but you can get
another easy enough."
Diantha shook her head. "No, Mother, I've had enough of that. I've
taught for four years. I don't like it, I don't do well, and it
exhausts me horribly. And I should never get beyond a thousand or
fifteen hundred dollars a year if I taught for a lifetime."
"Well, I declare!" said her sister. "What do you _expect_ to get? I
should think fifteen hundred dollars a year was enough for any woman!"
Diantha peered into the oven and turned her biscuit pan around.
"And you're meaning to leave home just to make money, are you?"
"Why not?" said Diantha firmly. "Henderson did--when he was eighteen.
None of you blamed him."
"I don't see what that's got to do with it," her mother ventured.
"Henderson's a boy, and boys have to go, of course. A mother expects
that. But a girl--Why, Diantha! How can I get along without you! With
"I should think you'd be ashamed of yourself to think of such a thing!"
said young Mrs. Peters.
A slow step sounded outside, and an elderly man, tall, slouching,
carelessly dressed, entered, stumbling a little over the rag-mat at the
"Father hasn't got used to that rug in fourteen years!" said his
youngest daughter laughingly. "And Mother will straighten it out after
him! I'm bringing Gerald up on better principles. You should just see
him wait on me!"
"A man should be master in his own household," Mr. Bell proclaimed,
raising a dripping face from the basin and looking around for the
towel--which his wife handed him.
"You won't have much household to be master of presently," said Mrs.
Peters provokingly. "Half of it's going to leave."
Mr. Bell came out of his towel and looked from one to the other for some
explanation of this attempted joke, "What nonsense are you talking?" he
"I think it's nonsense myself," said the pretty young woman--her hand on
the doorknob. "But you'd better enjoy those biscuits of Di's while you
can--you won't get many more! There's Gerald--good night!" And off she
Diantha set the plateful on the table, puffy, brown, and crisply
crusted. "Supper's ready," she said. "Do sit down, Mother," and she
held the chair for her. "Minnie's quite right, Father, though I meant
not to tell you till you'd had supper. I am going away to work."
Mr. Bell regarded his daughter with a stern, slow stare; not so much
surprised as annoyed by an untimely jesting. He ate a hot biscuit in
two un-Fletcherized mouthfuls, and put more sugar in his large cup of
tea. "You've got your Mother all worked up with your nonsense," said
he. "What are you talking about anyway?"
Diantha met his eyes unflinchingly. He was a tall old man, still
handsome and impressive in appearance, had been the head of his own
household beyond question, ever since he was left the only son of an
idolizing mother. But he had never succeeded in being the head of
anything else. Repeated failures in the old New England home had
resulted in his ruthlessly selling all the property there; and bringing
his delicate wife and three young children to California. Vain were her
protests and objections. It would do her good--best place in the world
for children--good for nervous complaints too. A wife's duty was to
follow her husband, of course. She had followed, willy nilly; and it
was good for the children--there was no doubt of that.
Mr. Bell had profited little by his venture. They had the ranch, the
flowers and fruit and ample living of that rich soil; but he had failed
in oranges, failed in raisins, failed in prunes, and was now failing in
But Mrs. Bell, though an ineffectual housekeeper, did not fail in the
children. They had grown up big and vigorous, sturdy, handsome
creatures, especially the two younger ones. Diantha was good-looking
enough. Roscoe Warden thought her divinely beautiful. But her young
strength had been heavily taxed from childhood in that complex process
known as "helping mother." As a little child she had been of constant
service in caring for the babies; and early developed such competence in
the various arts of house work as filled her mother with fond pride, and
even wrung from her father some grudging recognition. That he did not
value it more was because he expected such competence in women, all
women; it was their natural field of ability, their duty as wives and
mothers. Also as daughters. If they failed in it that was by illness
or perversity. If they succeeded--that was a matter of course.
He ate another of Diantha's excellent biscuits, his greyish-red whiskers
slowly wagging; and continued to eye her disapprovingly. She said
nothing, but tried to eat; and tried still harder to make her heart go
quietly, her cheeks keep cool, and her eyes dry. Mrs. Bell also strove
to keep a cheerful countenance; urged food upon her family; even tried
to open some topic of conversation; but her gentle words trailed off
into unnoticed silence.
Mr. Bell ate until he was satisfied and betook himself to a comfortable
chair by the lamp, where he unfolded the smart local paper and lit his
pipe. "When you've got through with the dishes, Diantha," he said
coldly, "I'll hear about this proposition of yours."
Diantha cleared the table, lowered the leaves, set it back against the
wall, spreading the turkey-red cloth upon it. She washed the
dishes,--her kettle long since boiling, scalded them, wiped them, set
them in their places; washed out the towels, wiped the pan and hung it
up, swiftly, accurately, and with a quietness that would have seemed
incredible to any mistress of heavy-footed servants. Then with
heightened color and firm-set mouth, she took her place by the lamplit
table and sat still.
Her mother was patiently darning large socks with many holes--a kind of
work she specially disliked. "You'll have to get some new socks,
Father," she ventured, "these are pretty well gone."
"O they'll do a good while yet," he replied, not looking at them. "I
like your embroidery, my dear."
That pleased her. She did not like to embroider, but she did like to be
Diantha took some socks and set to work, red-checked and excited, but
silent yet. Her mother's needle trembled irregularly under and over,
and a tear or two slid down her cheeks.
Finally Mr. Bell laid down his finished paper and his emptied pipe and
said, "Now then. Out with it."
This was not a felicitious opening. It is really astonishing how little
diplomacy parents exhibit, how difficult they make it for the young to
introduce a proposition. There was nothing for it but a bald statement,
so Diantha made it baldly.
"I have decided to leave home and go to work," she said.
"Don't you have work enough to do at home?" he inquired, with the same
air of quizzical superiority which had always annoyed her so intensely,
even as a little child.
She would cut short this form of discussion: "I am going away to earn my
living. I have given up school-teaching--I don't like it, and, there
isn't money enough in it. I have plans--which will speak for themselves
"So," said Mr. Bell, "Plans all made, eh? I suppose you've considered
your Mother in these plans?"
"I have," said his daughter. "It is largely on her account that I'm
"You think it'll be good for your Mother's health to lose your
assistance, do you?"
"I know she'll miss me; but I haven't left the work on her shoulders. I
am going to pay for a girl--to do the work I've done. It won't cost you
any more, Father; and you'll save some--for she'll do the washing too.
You didn't object to Henderson's going--at eighteen. You didn't object
to Minnie's going--at seventeen. Why should you object to my going--at
"I haven't objected--so far," replied her father. "Have your plans also
allowed for the affection and duty you owe your parents?"
"I have done my duty--as well as I know how," she answered. "Now I am
twenty-one, and self-supporting--and have a right to go."
"O yes. You have a right--a legal right--if that's what you base your
idea of a child's duty on! And while you're talking of rights--how
about a parent's rights? How about common gratitude! How about what
you owe to me--for all the care and pains and cost it's been to bring
you up. A child's a rather expensive investment these days."
Diantha flushed. she had expected this, and yet it struck her like a
blow. It was not the first time she had heard it--this claim of filial
"I have considered that position, Father. I know you feel that
way--you've often made me feel it. So I've been at some pains to work
it out--on a money basis. Here is an account--as full as I could make
it." She handed him a paper covered with neat figures. The totals read
Miss Diantha Bell,
To Mr. Henderson R. Bell, Dr.
To medical and dental expenses . . . $110.00
To school expenses . . . $76.00
To clothing, in full . . . $1,130.00
To board and lodging at $3.00 a week . . . $2,184.00
To incidentals . . . $100.00
He studied the various items carefully, stroking his beard, half in
anger, half in unavoidable amusement. Perhaps there was a tender
feeling too, as he remembered that doctor's bill--the first he ever
paid, with the other, when she had scarlet fever; and saw the exact
price of the high chair which had served all three of the children, but
of which she magnanimously shouldered the whole expense.
The clothing total was so large that it made him whistle--he knew he had
never spent $1,130.00 on one girl's clothes. But the items explained
Materials, three years at an average of $10 a year . . . $30.00
Five years averaging $20 each year . . . $100.00
Five years averaging $30 each year . . . $50.00
Five years averaging $50 each year . . . $250.00
The rest was "Mother's labor, averaging twenty full days a year at $2 a
day, $40 a year. For fifteen years, $600.00. Mother's labor--on one
child's, clothes--footing up to $600.00. It looked strange to see cash
value attached to that unfailing source of family comfort and advantage.
The school expenses puzzled him a bit, for she had only gone to public
schools; but she was counting books and slates and even pencils--it
brought up evenings long passed by, the sewing wife, the studying
children, the "Say, Father, I've got to have a new slate--mine's broke!"
"Broken, Dina," her Mother would gently correct, while he demanded, "How
did you break it?" and scolded her for her careless tomboy ways.
Slates--three, $1.50--they were all down. And slates didn't cost so
much come to think of it, even the red-edged ones, wound with black,
that she always wanted.
Board and lodging was put low, at $3.00 per week, but the items had a
footnote as to house-rent in the country, and food raised on the farm.
Yes, he guessed that was a full rate for the plain food and bare little
bedroom they always had.
"It's what Aunt Esther paid the winter she was here," said Diantha.
Circuses--three . . . $1.50
Share in melodeon . . . $50.00
Yes, she was one of five to use and enjoy it.
Music lessons . . . $30.00
And quite a large margin left here, called miscellaneous, which he
smiled to observe made just an even figure, and suspected she had put in
for that purpose as well as from generosity.
"This board account looks kind of funny," he said--"only fourteen years
"I didn't take table-board--nor a room--the first year--nor much the
second. I've allowed $1.00 a week for that, and $2.00 for the
third--that takes out two, you see. Then it's $156 a year till I was
fourteen and earned board and wages, two more years at $156--and I've
paid since I was seventeen, you know."
"Well--I guess you did--I guess you did." He grinned genially. "Yes,"
he continued slowly, "I guess that's a fair enough account. 'Cording to
this, you owe me $3,600.00, young woman! I didn't think it cost that
much to raise a girl."
"I know it," said she. "But here's the other side."
It was the other side. He had never once thought of such a side to the
case. This account was as clear and honest as the first and full of
exasperating detail. She laid before him the second sheet of figures
and watched while he read, explaining hurriedly:
"It was a clear expense for ten years--not counting help with the
babies. Then I began to do housework regularly--when I was ten or
eleven, two hours a day; three when I was twelve and thirteen--real work
you'd have had to pay for, and I've only put it at ten cents an hour.
When Mother was sick the year I was fourteen, and I did it all but the
washing--all a servant would have done for $3.00 a week. Ever since
then I have done three hours a day outside of school, full grown work
now, at twenty cents an hour. That's what we have to pay here, you
Thus it mounted up:
Mr. Henderson R. Bell,
To Miss Diantha Bell, Dr.
For labor and services--
Two years, two hours a day at 10c. an hour . . . $146.00
Two years, three hours a day at 10c. an hour . . . $219.00
One year, full wages at $5.00 a week . . . $260.00
Six years and a half, three hours a day at 20c . . . $1423.50
Mr. Bell meditated carefully on these figures. To think of that child's
labor footing up to two thousand dollars and over! It was lucky a man
had a wife and daughters to do this work, or he could never support a
Then came her school-teaching years. She had always been a fine scholar
and he had felt very proud of his girl when she got a good school
position in her eighteenth year.
California salaries were higher than eastern ones, and times had changed
too; the year he taught school he remembered the salary was only
$300.00--and he was a man. This girl got $600, next year $700, $800,
$900; why it made $3,000 she had earned in four years. Astonishing.
Out of this she had a balance in the bank of $550.00. He was pleased to
see that she had been so saving. And her clothing account--little
enough he admitted for four years and six months, $300.00. All
incidentals for the whole time, $50.00--this with her balance made just
$900. That left $2,100.00.
"Twenty-one hundred dollars unaccounted for, young lady!--besides this
nest egg in the bank--I'd no idea you were so wealthy. What have you
done with all that?"
"Given it to you, Father," said she quietly, and handed him the third
sheet of figures.
Board and lodging at $4.00 a week for 4 1/2 years made $936.00, that he
could realize; but "cash advance" $1,164 more--he could not believe it.
That time her mother was so sick and Diantha had paid both the doctor
and the nurse--yes--he had been much cramped that year--and nurses come
high. For Henderson, Jr.'s, expenses to San Francisco, and again for
Henderson when he was out of a job--Mr. Bell remembered the boy's
writing for the money, and his not having it, and Mrs. Bell saying she
could arrange with Diantha.
Arrange! And that girl had kept this niggardly account of it! For
Minnie's trip to the Yosemite--and what was this?--for his raisin
experiment--for the new horse they simply had to have for the drying
apparatus that year he lost so much money in apricots--and for the
spraying materials--yes, he could not deny the items, and they covered
that $1,164.00 exactly.
Then came the deadly balance, of the account between them:
Her labor . . . $2,047.00
Her board . . . $936.00
Her "cash advanced" . . . $1,164.00
His expense for her . . . $3,600
Due her from him . . . $547.00
Diantha revolved her pencil between firm palms, and looked at him rather
quizzically; while her mother rocked and darned and wiped away an
occasional tear. She almost wished she had not kept accounts so well.
Mr. Bell pushed the papers away and started to his feet.
"This is the most shameful piece of calculation I ever saw in my life,"
said he. "I never heard of such a thing! You go and count up in cold
dollars the work that every decent girl does for her family and is glad
to! I wonder you haven't charged your mother for nursing her?"
"You notice I haven't," said Diantha coldly.
"And to think," said he, gripping the back of a chair and looking down
at her fiercely, "to think that a girl who can earn nine hundred dollars
a year teaching school, and stay at home and do her duty by her family
besides, should plan to desert her mother outright--now she's old and
sick! Of course I can't stop you! You're of age, and children nowadays
have no sense of natural obligation after they're grown up. You can go,
of course, and disgrace the family as you propose--but you needn't
expect to have me consent to it or approve of it--or of you. It's a
shameful thing--and you are an unnatural daughter--that's all I've got
Mr. Bell took his hat and went out--a conclusive form of punctuation
much used by men in discussions of this sort.
THE POOR RELATION
A certain man had a Poor Relation, who was only kept in the family as a
Servant, who was certainly open to criticism, and who got it.
"He is so dirty!" said the Head of the Family, "That is why we make him
sleep over the stable."
"He is careless and clumsy--he soils, breaks and loses things--that is
why his furniture and clothing are so poor."
"He is a stupid fellow--not to be trusted with any important
business--that is why he does the scullery work!"
"He is a sickly wretch too--it costs us a deal of money to have him
cared for in the hospital and his defects attended to."
"Worst of all he has criminal tendencies--he is a disgrace and an
expense to the Family on this account alone."
"Why do you keep him at all?" I asked.
"We have to--he is after all a relation. Besides--someone must do the
"What do you pay him?" I asked.
"We don't really pay him anything; we just keep him alive--and
clothed--so that he can do his work."
"Was he born defective?" I asked.
"No--I've heard my mother say he was as good a baby as I."
"And what relation did you say he was?"
"I rather hate to own it--but he's my brother!"
Why should the Stronger Sex require,
To hold him to his tasks,
Two medicines of varied fire?
The Weaker Vessel asks.
Hobbling between the rosy cup
And dry narcotic brown,--
One daily drug to stir him up
And one to soothe him down.
OUR ANDROCENTRIC CULTURE; or, THE MAN-MADE WORLD
THE MAN-MADE FAMILY.
The family is older than humanity, and therefore cannot be called a
human institution. A post office, now, is wholly human; no other
creature has a post office, but there are families in plenty among birds
and beasts; all kinds permanent and transient; monogamous, polygamous
We are now to consider the growth of the family in humanity; what is its
rational development in humanness; in mechanical, mental and social
lines; in the extension of love and service; and the effect upon it of
this strange new arrangement--a masculine proprietor.
Like all natural institutions the family has a purpose; and is to be
measured primarily as it serves that purpose; which is, the care and
nurture of the young. To protect the helpless little ones, to feed and
shelter them, to ensure them the benefits of an ever longer period of
immaturity, and so to improve the race--this is the original purpose of
When a natural institution becomes human it enters the plane of
consciousness. We think about it; and, in our strange new power of
voluntary action do things to it. We have done strange things to the
family; or, more specifically, men have.
Balsac, at his bitterest, observed, "Women's virtue is man's best
invention." Balsac was wrong. Virtue--the unswerving devotion to one
mate--is common among birds and some of the higher mammals. If Balsac
meant celibacy when he said virtue, why that is one of man's
inventions--though hardly his best.
What man has done to the family, speaking broadly, is to change it from
an institution for the best service of the child to one modified to his
own service, the vehicle of his comfort, power and pride.
Among the heavy millions of the stirred East, a child--necessarily a
male child--is desired for the credit and glory of the father, and his
fathers; in place of seeing that all a parent is for is the best service
of the child. Ancestor worship, that gross reversal of all natural law,
is of wholly androcentric origin. It is strongest among old patriarchal
races; lingers on in feudal Europe; is to be traced even in America
today in a few sporadic efforts to magnify the deeds of our ancestors.
The best thing any of us can do for our ancestors is to be better than
they were; and we ought to give our minds to it. When we use our past
merely as a guide-book, and concentrate our noble emotions on the
present and future, we shall improve more rapidly.
The peculiar changes brought about in family life by the predominance of
the male are easily traced. In these studies we must keep clearly in
mind the basic masculine characteristics: desire, combat,
self-expression--all legitimate and right in proper use; only
mischievous when excessive or out of place. Through them the male is
led to strenuous competition for the favor of the female; in the
overflowing ardours of song, as in nightingale and tomcat; in wasteful
splendor of personal decoration, from the pheasant's breast to an
embroidered waistcoat; and in direct struggle for the prize, from the
stag's locked horns to the clashing spears of the tournament.
It is earnestly hoped that no reader will take offence at the
necessarily frequent, reference to these essential features of maleness.
In the many books about women it is, naturally, their femaleness that
has been studied and enlarged upon. And though women, after thousands
of years of such discussion, have become a little restive under the
constant use of the word female: men, as rational beings, should not
object to an analogous study--at least not for some time--a few
centuries or so.
How, then, do we find these masculine tendencies, desire, combat and
self-expression, affect the home and family when given too much power?
First comes the effect in the preliminary work of selection. One of the
most uplifting forces of nature is that of sex selection. The males,
numerous, varied, pouring a flood of energy into wide modifications,
compete for the female, and she selects the victor, this securing to the
race the new improvements.
In forming the proprietary family there is no such competition, no such
selection. The man, by violence or by purchase, does the choosing--he
selects the kind of woman that pleases him. Nature did not intend him
to select; he is not good at it. Neither was the female intended to
compete--she is not good at it.
If there is a race between males for a mate--the swiftest gets her
first; but if one male is chasing a number of females he gets the
slowest first. The one method improves our speed: the other does not.
If males struggle and fight with one another for a mate, the strongest
secures her; if the male struggles and fights with the female--(a
peculiar and unnatural horror, known only among human beings) he most
readily secures the weakest. The one method improves our strength--the
other does not.
When women became the property of men; sold and bartered; "given away"
by their paternal owner to their marital owner; they lost this
prerogative of the female, this primal duty of selection. The males
were no longer improved by their natural competition for the female; and
the females were not improved; because the male did not select for
points of racial superiority, but for such qualities as pleased him.
There is a locality in northern Africa, where young girls are
deliberately fed with a certain oily seed, to make them fat,--that they
may be the more readily married,--as the men like fat wives. Among
certain more savage African tribes the chief's wives are prepared for
him by being kept in small dark huts and fed on "mealies' and molasses;
precisely as a Strasbourg goose is fattened for the gourmand. Now
fatness is not a desirable race characteristic; it does not add to the
woman's happiness or efficiency; or to the child's; it is merely an
accessory pleasant to the master; his attitude being much as the amorous
monad ecstatically puts it, in Sill's quaint poem, "Five Lives,"
"O the little female monad's lips!
O the little female monad's eyes!
O the little, little, female, female monad!"
This ultra littleness and ultra femaleness has been demanded and
produced by our Androcentric Culture.
Following this, and part of it, comes the effect on motherhood. This
function was the original and legitimate base of family life; and its
ample sustaining power throughout the long early period of "the
mother-right;" or as we call it, the matriarchate; the father being her
assistant in the great work. The patriarchate, with its proprietary
family, changed this altogether; the woman, as the property of the man
was considered first and foremost as a means of pleasure to him; and
while she was still valued as a mother, it was in a tributary capacity.
Her children were now his; his property, as she was; the whole enginery
of the family was turned from its true use to this new one, hitherto
unknown, the service of the adult male.
To this day we are living under the influence of the proprietary family.
The duty of the wife is held to involve man-service as well as
child-service, and indeed far more; as the duty of the wife to the
husband quite transcends the duty of the mother to the child.
See for instance the English wife staying with her husband in India and
sending the children home to be brought up; because India is bad for
children. See our common law that the man decides the place of
residence; if the wife refuses to go with him to howsoever unfit a place
for her and for the little ones, such refusal on her part constitutes
"desertion" and is ground for divorce.
See again the idea that the wife must remain with the husband though a
drunkard, or diseased; regardless of the sin against the child involved
in such a relation. Public feeling on these matters is indeed changing;
but as a whole the ideals of the man-made family still obtain.
The effect of this on the woman has been inevitably to weaken and
overshadow her sense of the real purpose of the family; of the
relentless responsibilities of her duty as a mother. She is first
taught duty to her parents, with heavy religious sanction; and then duty
to her husband, similarly buttressed; but her duty to her children has
been left to instinct. She is not taught in girlhood as to her
preeminent power and duty as a mother; her young ideals are all of
devotion to the lover and husband: with only the vaguest sense of
The young girl is reared in what we call "innocence;" poetically
described as "bloom;" and this condition is held one of her chief
"charms." The requisite is wholly androcentric. This "innocence" does
not enable her to choose a husband wisely; she does not even know the
dangers that possibly confront her. We vaguely imagine that her father
or brother, who do know, will protect her. Unfortunately the father and
brother, under our current "double standard" of morality do not judge
the applicants as she would if she knew the nature of their offenses.
Furthermore, if her heart is set on one of them, no amount of general
advice and opposition serves to prevent her marrying him. "I love him!"
she says, sublimely. "I do not care what he has done. I will forgive
him. I will save him!"
This state of mind serves to forward the interests of the lover, but is
of no advantage to the children. We have magnified the duties of the
wife, and minified the duties of the mother; and this is inevitable in a
family relation every law and custom of which is arranged from the
From this same viewpoint, equally essential to the proprietary family,
comes the requirement that the woman shall serve the man. Her service
is not that of the associate and equal, as when she joins him in his
business. It is not that of a beneficial combination, as when she
practices another business and they share the profits; it is not even
that of the specialist, as the service of a tailor or barber; it is
personal service--the work of a servant.
In large generalization, the women of the world cook and wash, sweep and
dust, sew and mend, for the men.
We are so accustomed to this relation; have held it for so long to be
the "natural" relation, that it is difficult indeed to show that it is
distinctly unnatural and injurious. The father expects to be served by
the daughter, a service quite different from what he expects of the son.
This shows at once that such service is no integral part of motherhood,
or even of marriage; but is supposed to be the proper industrial
position of women, as such.
Why is this so? Why, on the face of it, given a daughter and a son,
should a form of service be expected of the one, which would be
considered ignominious by the other?
The underlying reason is this. Industry, at its base, is a feminine
function. The surplus energy of the mother does not manifest itself in
noise, or combat, or display, but in productive industry. Because of
her mother-power she became the first inventor and laborer; being in
truth the mother of all industry as well as all people.
Man's entrance upon industry is late and reluctant; as will be shown
later in treating his effect on economics. In this field of family
life, his effect was as follows:
Establishing the proprietary family at an age when the industry was
primitive and domestic; and thereafter confining the woman solely to the
domestic area, he thereby confined her to primitive industry. The
domestic industries, in the hands of women, constitute a survival of our
remotest past. Such work was "woman's work" as was all the work then
known; such work is still considered woman's work because they have been
prevented from doing any other.
The term "domestic industry" does not define a certain kind of labor,
but a certain grade of labor. Architecture was a domestic industry
once--when every savage mother set up her own tepee. To be confined to
domestic industry is no proper distinction of womanhood; it is an
historic distinction, an economic distinction, it sets a date and limit
to woman's industrial progress.
In this respect the man-made family has resulted in arresting the
development of half the field. We have a world wherein men,
industrially, live in the twentieth century; and women, industrially,
live in the first--and back of it.
To the same source we trace the social and educational limitations set
about women. The dominant male, holding his women as property, and
fiercely jealous of them, considering them always as _his,_ not
belonging to themselves, their children, or the world; has hedged them
in with restrictions of a thousand sorts; physical, as in the crippled
Chinese lady or the imprisoned odalisque; moral, as in the oppressive
doctrines of submission taught by all our androcentric religions;
mental, as in the enforced ignorance from which women are now so swiftly
This abnormal restriction of women has necessarily injured motherhood.
The man, free, growing in the world's growth, has mounted with the
centuries, filling an ever wider range of world activities. The woman,
bound, has not so grown; and the child is born to a progressive
fatherhood and a stationary motherhood. Thus the man-made family reacts
unfavorably upon the child. We rob our children of half their social
heredity by keeping the mother in an inferior position; however
legalized, hallowed, or ossified by time, the position of a domestic
servant is inferior.
It is for this reason that child culture is at so low a level, and for
the most part utterly unknown. Today, when the forces of education are
steadily working nearer to the cradle, a new sense is wakening of the
importance of the period of infancy, and its wiser treatment; yet those
who know of such a movement are few, and of them some are content to
earn easy praise--and pay--by belittling right progress to gratify the
prejudices of the ignorant.
The whole position is simple and clear; and easily traceable to its
root. Given a proprietary family, where the man holds the woman
primarily for his satisfaction and service--then necessarily he shuts
her up and keeps her for these purposes. Being so kept, she cannot
develop humanly, as he has, through social contact, social service, true
social life. (We may note in passing, her passionate fondness for the
child-game called "society" she has been allowed to entertain herself
withal; that poor simiacrum of real social life, in which people
decorate themselves and madly crowd together, chattering, for what is
called "entertainment.") Thus checked in social development, we have
but a low grade motherhood to offer our children; and the children,
reared in the primitive conditions thus artificially maintained, enter
life with a false perspective, not only toward men and women, but toward
life as a whole.
The child should receive in the family, full preparation for his
relation to the world at large. His whole life must be spent in the
world, serving it well or ill; and youth is the time to learn how. But
the androcentric home cannot teach him. We live to-day in a
democracy-the man-made family is a despotism. It may be a weak one; the
despot may be dethroned and overmastered by his little harem of one; but
in that case she becomes the despot--that is all. The male is esteemed
"the head of the family;" it belongs to him; he maintains it; and the
rest of the world is a wide hunting ground and battlefield wherein he
competes with other males as of old.
The girl-child, peering out, sees this forbidden field as belonging
wholly to men-kind; and her relation to it is to secure one for
herself--not only that she may love, but that she may live. He will
feed, clothe and adorn her--she will serve him; from the subjection of
the daughter to that of the wife she steps; from one home to the other,
and never enters the world at all--man's world.
The boy, on the other hand, considers the home as a place of women, an
inferior place, and longs to grow up and leave it--for the real world.
He is quite right. The error is that this great social instinct,
calling for full social exercise, exchange, service, is considered
masculine, whereas it is human, and belongs to boy and girl alike.
The child is affected first through the retarded development of his
mother, then through the arrested condition of home industry; and
further through the wrong ideals which have arisen from these
conditions. A normal home, where there was human equality between
mother and father, would have a better influence.
We must not overlook the effect of the proprietary family on the
proprietor himself. He, too, has been held back somewhat by this
reactionary force. In the process of becoming human we must learn to
recognize justice, freedom, human rights; we must learn self-control and
to think of others; have minds that grow and broaden rationally; we must
learn the broad mutual interservice and unbounded joy of social
intercourse and service. The petty despot of the man-made home is
hindered in his humanness by too much manness.
For each man to have one whole woman to cook for and wait upon him is a
poor education for democracy. The boy with a servile mother, the man
with a servile wife, cannot reach the sense of equal rights we need
to-day. Too constant consideration of the master's tastes makes the
master selfish; and the assault upon his heart direct, or through that
proverbial side-avenue, the stomach, which the dependent woman needs
must make when she wants anything, is bad for the man, as well as for
We are slowly forming a nobler type of family; the union of two, based
on love and recognized by law, maintained because of its happiness and
use. We are even now approaching a tenderness and permanence of love,
high pure enduring love; combined with the broad deep-rooted
friendliness and comradeship of equals; which promises us more happiness
in marriage than we have yet known. It will be good for all the parties
concerned--man, woman and child: and promote our general social progress
If it needs "a head" it will elect a chairman pro tem. Friendship does
not need "a head." Love does dot need "a head." Why should a family?
COMMENT AND REVIEW
I watched and waited for Margharita's Soul through eleven glittering
chapters of fair words; and when it appeared at last, in the twelfth
chapter, it was the funniest little by-product, born of imminent peril
A beautiful great body had Margharita and a beautiful great voice; but
her long-delayed soul was the size of a small island and one family.
Funny notion of a soul! A hen might have it. No, not a hen--she is a
light-minded promiscuous creature; but a stork, let us say; she is
monogamous and quite bound up in her family. No--not a stork
either--storks migrate; no island would satisfy her. Apparently it
takes a human creature to be proud of a soul that size.
It is a very pretty story.
Thesis: the only thing a woman is for is matrimony and much
childbearing! If she don't like it--no soul.
To develop thesis: Some unusual conditions; and a weird feminine
product, of such sort that her lover's sudden surrender and frantic
marriage is as it were involuntary. It is of the kind that requires no
soul in the beloved object, a soul might have been a little in the way
in that violent attack.
Then--to sharply accent and enforce the thesis, our soulless
charmer--(her overwhelming allure for the men about her, during this
period, casts a sharp sidelight on the value of Soul as an Attraction!)
is given a Golden Voice.
This Voice is evidently one to give measureless pleasure to thousands;
not only so, but is shown to have such power as to touch hard hearts and
lead them heavenward; she with no soul assisting the souls of others;
long careful chapters are given to this voice; evidently as one decks
out a sacrifice; for the world comforting voice is only given her that
she may give it up--for Roger!
It seems a pity--with all this arranged, to ruin that voice by the shock
and exposure which aroused her Soul, She herself regretted it--having so
much less to give up--for Roger. She meant to give it up anyway, she
said. Perhaps the author didn't trust that new Soul completely--knowing
her previous character. Anyway there she is, plus a soul and minus a
voice; living on the island and populating it as rapidly as possible,
perfectly happy, and a lesson for us all.
But is there not also Madam Schumann-Heinck? A great sweet voice and a
great sweet mother too? Has she not a Soul?
This Duty of Childbearing is evidently weighing on the minds of men, in
these days. The thing must be done--they cant do it themselves, and
they are mightily afraid we won't, if we have half a chance to do
anything else. If a woman was by way of being a Dante or a Darwin, she
had better give it up--for Roger--and take to replenishing the earth.
She can't do both--that is the main assumption; and if she chooses to
serve the world outside of the home that is sheer loss.
Says this wise Searcher of Feminine Souls: "For if all the wisdom and
experience and training that the wonderful sex is to gain by its exodus
from the home does not get back into it ultimately, I can't (in my
masculine stupidity) quite see how it's going to get back into the race
at all! And then what good has it done?"
The gentleman does not see any way of advancing the human race except by
physical heredity--or by domestic influence.
What Shakespeare wrought into the constitution and character of his
daughter Judy is all that matters of his life and work. Keats, having
no children, contributed nothing to the world. George Washington,
childless, was of no social service. Lincoln is to be measured by the
number and quality of his offspring. Florence Nightingale, in lifting
the grade of nursing for the world, accomplished nothing. Uncle Tom's
Cabin was of no service except as it might in some mysterious way "get
back into the home." What mortal perversity is it that cannot see
Humanity in women as well as Sex; see that Social Service is something
in itself, quite over and above all the domestic and personal relations.
This getting back into the race means only the boys. It would do no
good for generations of Margaritas to inherit that Golden Voice--each
and all must give it up--for Roger. The race gets no music till the
bass, barytone or tenor appear.
Books like this are pathetic in their little efforts to check social
We suspect the author's name to be Mr. Partington.
(The Life and Times of Anne Royall. By Sarah Harvey Porter, M.A. 12mo.
Cloth, 209 pp. $1.50 net; postage 12 cents.)
Biography has never been a favorite study with me; but I was interested
in this book because the woman whose life it described seemed worth
while. Reading it, I found not only the life of Anne Royall, but the
life of America in the early part of the nineteenth century, in our
young, crude, dangerous days of national formation. A novel has been
defined as "a corner of life seen through a temperament." If that is a
true definition, then this is a novel, for Anne Royall had "temperament"
if ever anyone had, and she saw a large corner of life through it.
Who was Anne Royall? An American woman, pioneer born and bred, familiar
with the life-and-death struggle of the frontier, and full of the spirit
of '76. She was born in 1769, and lived through the War of the
Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and almost up to the Civil
War, dying in 1854. In 1797 she was married to Captain William Royall,
an exceptional man, a Virginian, cultivated, liberal, singularly
broad-minded and public-spirited, and life with him added years of
genuine culture to the energy of a naturally bright mind. Left a widow
at the age of forty-four, and, after ten years of travel and experience,
defrauded of the property left to her by her husband, she began to live
a brave self-supporting independent life at an age when most of the
women of her years were white-capped grandmothers.
Instead of sinking into the position of a dependent female relative, she
insisted on earning her own living. This she did as so many women do
to-day, by the use of her pen, a rarer profession in those times. The
more remarkable thing is that in the face of overwhelming odds she stood
for a religion, at a period when old-fashioned Calvinism was still a
dominant power. The most remarkable, is her absolute devotion to the
public interests, to social service as she saw it.
There were a good many women writers even at that time, some of high
merit, but there were few publicists among them. Some espoused this or
that "Cause" and gave to it the passionate devotion so natural to a
woman's heart. But Anne Royall, while she also was passionately devoted
to several well-defined "Causes," was unique in that she kept in view
the general situation of her country, political, economic, geographic,
and educational, and wrote steadily for thirty-one years on matters of
It is not a question of whether she was right or wrong--though she was
mostly right, as history has proved; but the impressive thing is that
this old woman, with "troubles of her own," was overwhelmingly
interested in her country and its service. There are not so many,
either men or women, of this mind, that we can afford to overlook this
sturdy pioneer "new woman." She had virtues, too, good solid Christian
virtues of the rarer sort; she visited the sick and afflicted, gave to
him that asked, and from him that would borrow turned not away. Even to
her own weaker sisters she was a strength and comfort, greatly injuring
her own position by this unusual charity. Also she was brave, honest,
truthful, persevering, industrious--"manly" virtues these.
But--and here we have the reason why Anne Royall made no greater mark,
why she was "unsuccessful," why most of us never heard of her--she
attacked great powers, and she fought unwisely. Her abusive writing
sounds abominably to-day, but must be judged, of course, by the standard
of her time. The worst things she said were not as bad as things
Shelley said--as the bitter invective and scurrilous attacks common to
pamphleteers of the time. If our newspapers are yellow, theirs were
orange in the matter of personalities.
But even then this woman had a keen-cutting weapon, and used it
unsparingly. Being alone, with no male relative to defend her; being
poor, and so further defenceless; being old, thus lacking weak woman's
usual protection of beauty, she had absolutely nothing to fall back on
when her enemies retaliated.
This picture of one lone woman defying and blackguarding what was almost
an established church, is much like Jack the Giantkiller--with a
different result. It was deemed necessary to crush this wasp that stung
so sharply; and in 1829, in the capitol city of the United States of
America, a court of men tried--and convicted--this solitary woman of
sixty as a Common Scold. They raked up obsolete laws, studied and
strove to wrest their meanings to apply to this case, got together some
justification, or what seemed to them justification for their deeds, and
succeeded in irretrievably damaging her reputation.
She was not to be extinguished, however. In 1831 she started a
newspaper, with the ill-chosen name of PAUL PRY. In 1836 another took
its place, called THE HUNTRESS. And on the sale of these newspapers and
her books, the indomitable old lady lived to fight and fought to live
till she was eighty-five.
She is well worth reading about. The history of her times rises and
lives around her. In her vivid description we see the new rugged
country, over which she travelled from end to end; in her accounts of
current literature we pick up stray bits of information as to new
authors and new words. "Playfulness," for instance, is one which she
stigmatizes as "silly in sound and significance," and declares that she
does not read the new novels "with the exception of Walter Scott's."
More interesting still to most of us is to study over the long lists of
her pen-portraits and see our ancestors as the others saw them. Few
Americans of three generations but can find some grandfather or great
uncle halo-ed or pilloried by this clear-eyed observer.
Miss Porter has done her work well. It is clear, strong and
entertaining--this biography. If the writer seems more enthusiastic
about Anne Royall than the reader becomes, that is clearly due to an
unusual perception of life-values; a recognition of the noble devotion
and high courage of her subject, and an intense sympathy with such
The discussion as to whether we should or should not teach children the
Santa Claus myth pops up anew with Christmas time; and puzzles anew
anyone who regards this festival from a religious viewpoint.
If it was a choice between Santa Claus and nothing, we might prefer
Santa Claus; but here we have before us three things: first, the basis
of fact, the world old festival of the turn of the year, the coming of
the sun; second, a history of rejoicing peoples throughout all the ages,
keeping up the celebration under changing gods and dogmas; and third,
the story of beauty and wonder about the birth of Jesus.
Any child could be taught the meaning of the Coming of the Sun. The
growing light, the longer days, the beautiful future of flowers and
birds and playing in the grass; the joy of the young year. If we want
legends and stories, every religion behind us is full of them; stories
of sun-gods and their splendid triumph; stories of the great earth
mother and her bounty; stories of elves and gnomes and druids and all
manner of fairy tales.
But why avoid our own religion--the first which has emphatically taught
Love as the Law of Life--peace on earth and good-will to men. Are we
ashamed of our religion or don't we believe it any more? If we do
accept it in all the long-told tales of miracle and wonder, then we have
stories enough to tell our children; stories of simple human beauty,
stories of heavenly glory, stories of mystery and magic and delight.
If we do not wish to tell them these things as literally true; or even
as beautiful legends, there remains enough historic foundation to begin
with; and enough of the enduring glory of human love to last us a
"What is Christmas, Mama?"
"Christmas is a festival as old as the world, dear child--as old as our
human world; historic people have feasted and danced and sung for
thousands upon thousands of years, at this time of the year; and offered
"Why do they give things at Christmas, Mama?"
"Because they are happy, dear; because they feel rich and glad and
loving now that the sun is coming back. As if Mama had been away--and
you could just see her--a long, long way off. You had seen her go--and
go--and go--farther and farther; and then she stopped a while--with her
back to you--and then all of a sudden she turned round and came toward
you! Wouldn't you be glad?"
Then if the child wants to know about the tree and the candles and all
the details of ceremony, there are facts and fancies to account for them
But if he says, "Why do they call it Christmas, Mama?"--then you must
tell him the secret of Christianity--which is love.
Now, can anyone explain--or defend, in face of all this, our preference
for a shallow local myth about St. Nicholas, and the corruption of that
into a mere comic supplement character; a bulbous benevolent goblin,
red-nosed and gross, doing impossible tricks with reindeers and
chimneys, and half the time degraded to a mere adjunct of nursery
government? Why do we think it beautiful? Or interesting? Or
beneficial? The children like it, we say.
Children like what they are used to, generally. Also, like older
people, they are prone to like what isn't good for them. They like
brandy-drops among sweetmeats, but that is no reason we should supply
This brings us to a strange characteristic of most of us; we seem to
prefer small cheap shallow outside things to the deep glowing beauty of
life. We seem afraid to take life at its splendid best; choosing rather
to live in a litter of petty ideas and feelings, and save the big ones
for Sundays--or annual holidays.
Yet in our hearts we all love great sweeps of emotion; and children
especially. Prof. Thomas, of Chicago, has given us a sidelight on this
in his clever book about women, "Sex and Society." He shows how in our
long pre-social period we were accustomed to strong excitement, long
hours of quivering suspense, mad rushes of blind fear, and orgies of
wild triumph. Our nerve channels were like the beds of mountain
streams, in dry warm lands; lying shallow or even empty at times; and
again roaring torrents. So that nowadays, on the paved levels of our
civilized life, the well-graduated dribble of small steady feelings, the
organism itself cries out for a change in the pressure.
Children and young people feel this more than older ones; the very old,
indeed, resent an unusual emotion. Yet when the young grow restless and
fretfully "wish something would happen!" we rebuke them; from the
heights of our enforced contentment; and call this natural and healthy
feeling a mere "thirst for excitement."
We need excitement. We have a vast capacity for it. It is a most
useful thing--this excitement; and we ought to have more of it, much
more. These young people are perfectly right in their uneasy feeling
that it would be nice to have something happen!
With all this to bank on, why so overlook the splendid possibilities of
Christmas? Why continue to make our helpless children's minds the
submissive channels for poor worn-out thin old stories? Are there no
gorgeous glowing truths in life--real life--now?
Then we tired aged people--born and reared in this atmosphere of cold
weariness; shake our heads and say--
"No. Life is hard. Life is dreary. Life is one long grind!"
That is where we are wrong, and the children are right. They come in
new every time. The earth is as young to them as it was to Adam.
If we would but once face the dignity and beauty of childhood instead of
looking down on it as we do--then we could take advantage of that
constant influx of force, instead of doing our best to crush it down.
This brings us sharply back to our Christmas--the festival of the Child.
It is. If celebrates the real new year; the new-born year, the opening
of another season of Life.
Dimly, very dimly, we have glimpsed this now and then, in the old triune
godhead of Isis, Osiris and Horus; and in our modern worship of the
Madonna and Child.
The time is coming very near when we shall see the meaning of The Child
more fully; and make our worship wiser.
What we see in all our thousand homes is "my child." What the
doll-taught mother sees is a sweet pretty dressable object; far more
time and effort being given--even before its birth--to the making of
clothing, than to the making of its constitution or character.
Then we see children as "a care," and a care they are to our worldwide
incompetence. How pathetic is the inadequacy of the young mother! She
would never dare to undertake to run a racing stable with no more
knowledge and experience than she brings to run a family.
She loves them--?
Yes, she loves them. And Mother love is so mighty a power that we all
love and honor Motherhood--in spite of its obvious deficiencies. But
none of these feelings; not even the deepest mother-love, is all that we
should give the child.
He needs Understanding--and Honor.
He needs to be recognized as the forefront of the world--the world of
to-morrow--the world we are making.
As we bear and rear him--and her!--as we guide and teach them both, so
stand the Men and Women who follow us.
Of course we do the best we can for our own little ones. That goes
So does a monkey.
It is far more than that the child needs.
This Young Life, celebrated in our Christian Festival; this New Life,
Better Life, Life to Come, deserves more respect.
And the first meed of honor which we owe to our Successor, is to tell
him the truth!
That ought to put an end to our paltry old story of the Benign Chimney
What we are here for, all of us, is to make the world better and the
people better. It is an easy and a pleasant game, if we would but give
our minds to it. The whole swiftly spreading enchantment of our varied
arts and industries is making a garden out of a wilderness; and even the
limited and defective education we now offer to our children, makes
better people than we used to have.
But what we have done for them is nothing to what we may do! The best
brains in the world should proudly serve the child. We should consider
him as a nation does its crown Prince--not a mere pet and darling--but a
Christmas will have a rejuvenation when it is recognized in this sense
as the Child's Festival. Every beautiful myth of the past remains to
decorate it; every beautiful truth to vivify it. It should be a
domestic, religious, civic, national and international festival.
It should mean Joy--and Hope--and Love; and teach them.
Yes, gifts. There could be no more appropriate testimony to Joy and
Hope and Love than these visible fruits. Gifts to the happy child to
make him happier. Gifts _from_ the happy child--and the new joy of
giving. Gifts everywhere--from each to each--as showing the rich
overflow of Love and joy.
And more than that--Gifts from Each to All! There is a custom worth
initiating! Not charity nor anything of that sort. Not the mere
visiting of the sick and the prisoner. But a yearly practice of giving
something to the Community--to show you love it!
And suppose you don't?
If you had been properly taught as a child you would. If you teach our
children properly they will. Should we not gratefully recognize the
care and service that gives as everything we have? It is the most
glaring lesson in life--this universal help of each to all.
Every day of our lives we are served and guarded and generally blessed
It is perfectly easy to teach this to a child. Everything that he sees
about him--that is not "a natural object," some of us dead or alive have
made. The accumulated services of all the people gone have given us the
world as it is; those now here keep it up for us; and we--and our
children may build it better.
Not love the people who have given you the world? How ungrateful!
At which you will remark disgustedly, "Given! Not much? They were paid
That is our mistake.
In the first place they never were paid for it--and are not now--not by
a long way. And further--if we had outgrown this temporary custom of
paying for this--we should still have to serve each other--to live.
If we were all multi-millionaires--and so perfectly "independent"--why
we'd have to have some millionaire sailors and house-builders and
blacksmiths--that's all. Their money would build no houses and sail no
Service is what counts--giving--the outpouring of strength and
That is what Christmas means. It is the Festival of Life. Love and
Service--Loving and Giving--for the Coming Race.
We have one, a mere sample, left over from last time.
Query: "My wife is spending more of my income on dress than I can
afford. How can I stop her? G.
Answer: G. "By letting her earn her own income and spend it as she
G. would never be content with that. G. would get back at us and say--
Query: "How can a woman do her duty as a mother and earn her own
Answer: "If your wife was doing her duty as a mother she wouldn't be
spending so much money on dress!"
Answer further: Motherhood is "piecework"--it is not done by the hour.
The value of a mother to her children is not to be measured by quantity,
but by quality. If a mother understood any business thoroughly, she
would begin to understand her mother-work better than she does now.
Query: "But how can a mother leave her children and go to work?"
Answer: "She does not have to. She could be a milliner or dressmaker at
home just as well as a cook."
But these problems are general rather than personal. Here is a personal
Query: "I am about thirty--a woman. I wish very much to be married.
All the nice men in our town have left it--or are married. There are
thirty or forty more unmarried women than men. What shall I do? X."
Answer: "Leave that town and go to some place where there are more men.
Go as a matter of business, earning your own living. Keep well, be as
good as you know how, and trust in Providence."
GET YOUR WORK DONE
Get your work DONE, to remember,--
Nothing can take it away,
Then shall the sun of December
Shine brighter than goldenest May.
What is the Spring-time of flowers for?
Why does the sunshine come down?
What are the harvest-day hours for
But fruit? In the fruit is the crown.
Why should we grieve over losses?
Why should we fret over sin?
Death is the smallest of crosses
To the worker whose harvest is in.
I speak as one who has cared little for candy of any kind and less for
I don't like chocolate cake, nor chocolate _blanc mange,_ nor chocolate
pudding, nor chocolate to drink--unless it is cocoa, very hot, not too
sweet, and strained carefully.
Nevertheless I fell in with friends, who feasted upon Lowney's; they
beguiled me into feasting upon Lowney's, and since then my attitude has
changed as to candy.
I had a box of Lowney's, a particularly well-made, attractive box, that
is still kept to put small treasures in, and brought it home for my
family to eat.
Always before, I had looked on with the unselfishness of a pelican, to
see others eat candy; but now I strove with them, like a frigate bird,
and made them give up some of it. I wanted it myself.
Furthermore, I bought a small box of Lowney's chocolate almonds in
Portland, Oregon, on the fourteenth of June, and with severe
self-denial, brought it home on the twenty-ninth of July.
Then it was eaten, largely by me, and every single one of those
chocolate almonds was fresh and good.
I can state further, on the evidence of personal friends, that all the
Lowney preparations are pure and honest and perfectly reliable.
They are as good as the best in the world.
As to the candy,--That's better.
C. P. G.
Walter M. Lowney Co.
Please mention THE FORERUNNER when purchasing
Did you ever see the Soapine Whale?
If this paper took half-tones I'd like to put in a picture of that
whale--for auld lang syne.
When I was a girl I used to paint it, making the small advertising cards
then so popular.
I could do it with a clear conscience, for my mother always used Soapine
and I used it after her.
That box, with the mercilessly scrubbed whale on it, stood on the shelf
over the sink, and was used continually; to wash dishes, wash floors,
wash clothes, wash anything. It's good stuff.
Make a pail of suds with hot water and Soapine, and apply where it's
needed--you'll be satisfied.
There are plenty of alleged "just as good"s, but give me Soapine every
IT IS MADE BY
Kendall Mfg. Co. = Providence, R.I.
Please mention THE FORERUNNER when purchasing
THE NEW MAGAZINE
OF INSPIRATION FOR
WOMEN OF AMERICA
IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN!
A monthly world-wide review of women's activities, achievements and aims
in all the broader fields of work; reviews and original, authoritative
Economics, Ethics, Civics, Arts and Crafts, Music, Literature, Club and
College Work, etc.
Among its contributors are:
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Maude Ballington Booth
Mme. Sara Anderson
Prof. Margaret Cross
Miss Emma Church
Mrs. Eva Perry Moore
Rev. Anna Shaw
And a host of other equally noted authorities in the world of women.
Initial Number out January 15, 1910
Secure each valuable number from the start. Prospectus now ready upon
Woman's Era Publishing Co.
NEW ORLEANS, LA.
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___
C A L E N D U L A
CHILDREN CEASE TO CRY FOR IT.
This is a gratuitous advertisement, benefitting
a) The Child; whose pain stops;
b) The Mother; who doesn't have to hear him cry;
c) The Nearest Druggist--a little.
CALENDULA is a good standard old drug--made of marigolds--in the
_materia medica._ You buy a little bottle of tincture of calendula, and
keep it on the shelf. Nobody will drink it by mistake--it doesn't taste
Presently Johnny falls down hard--he was running--he fell on a gritty
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Many many times has this quieted my infant anguish; also have I used it
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C A L E N D U L A
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A R A W W O U N D
A MONTHLY MAGAZINE
CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
AUTHOR, OWNER & PUBLISHER
1.00 A YEAR
.10 A COPY
Volume 1. No. 3
Copyright for 1910
C. P. Gilman
Forgive the Past--and forget it!--don't carry a grudge against
Accept the Present--you have to--here it is.
Concentrate on the Future--still yours to make--and get busy!
A CENTRAL SUN
Given a central sun--and a rolling world;
Into the light we whirl--and call it day;
Into the dark we turn--and call it night;
Glow of the dawn--glory of midday light--
Shadow of eve--rest of the fragrant night
And the dawn again!
Given a constant Power--and a passing frame;
Into the light we grow--and call it life;
Into the dark we go--and call It death;
Glory of youth--beauty and pride and power--
Shadow of age--rest of the final hour--
And are born again!
The trouble with our "New Year Resolutions" is that they are too
personal. We are always fussing about our little individual tempers and
weaknesses and bad habits.
While we, Socially, behave as badly as we do, we individually can
Says the wiseacre--"Ah! but if each of us was individually perfect
Society would be perfect!"
Not at all! You can amass any number of perfect parts of a
mechanism--or organism--but if they do not _work together right_ the
thing is no good.
And you can't learn to work together by trying to be perfect separately.
We need collective aims, collective efforts, collective attainments.
Let us collectively resolve:
That we will stop wasting our soil and our forests and our labor!
That we will stop poisoning and clogging our rivers and harbors.
That we will stop building combustible houses.
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