The Forerunner, Volume 1 (1909-1910)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Part 7 out of 18
"That's what I thought, and I asked her about it, and she explained that
she could get a room as good for a dollar and a-half a week--she had
actually made inquiries in this very town! And she could; really a
better room, better furnished, that is, and service with it. You know
I've always meant to get the girl's room fixed more prettily, but
usually they don't seem to mind. And as to food--you see she knows all
about the cost of things, and the materials she consumes are really not
more than two dollars and a half a week, if they are that. She even
made some figures for me to prove it--see."
Mr. Porne had to laugh.
"Breakfast. Coffee at thirty-five cents per pound, one cup, one cent.
Oatmeal at fourteen cents per package, one bowl, one cent. Bread at
five cents per loaf, two slices, one-half cent. Butter at forty cents
per pound, one piece, one and a-half cents. Oranges at thirty cents per
dozen, one, three cents. Milk at eight cents per quart, on oatmeal, one
cent. Meat or fish or egg, average five cents. Total--thirteen cents."
"There! And she showed me dinner and lunch the same way. I had no idea
food, just the material, cost so little. It's the labor, she says that
makes it cost even in the cheapest restaurant."
"I see," said Mr. Porne. "And in the case of the domestic servant we
furnish the materials and she furnishes the labor. She cooks her own
food and waits on herself--naturally it wouldn't come high. What does
she make it?"
'Food, average per day . . . $0.35
Room, $1.50 per w'k, ave. per day . . . .22
Total, per month . . . $17.10
$1.50 per day, per month . . . $45.00
"'Remaining payable in cash, $28.00.' Do I still live! But my dear
Ellie, that's only what an ordinary first-class cook charges, out here,
without all this fuss!"
"I know it, Ned, but you know we think it's awful, and we're always
telling about their getting their board and lodging clear--as if we
gave'em that out of the goodness of our hearts!"
"Exactly, my dear. And this amazing and arithmetical young woman makes
us feel as if we were giving her wampum instead of money--mere primitive
barter of ancient days in return for her twentieth century services!
How does she do her work--that's the main question."
"I never saw anyone do it better, or quicker, or easier. That is, I
thought it was easy till she brought me this paper. Just read about her
work, and you'll feel as if we ought to pay her all your salary."
Mr. Porne read:
"Labor performed, average ten hours a day, as follows: Preparation of
food materials, care of fires, cooking, table service, and cleaning of
dishes, utensils, towels, stove, etc., per meal--breakfast two hours,
dinner three hours, supper or lunch one hour--six hours per day for food
service. Daily chamber work and dusting, etc., one and one-half hours
per day. Weekly cleaning for house of nine rooms, with halls, stairs,
closets, porches, steps, walks, etc., sweeping, dusting, washing
windows, mopping, scouring, etc., averaging two hours per day. Door
service, waiting on tradesmen, and extras one-half hour per day. Total
ten hours per day."
"That sounds well. Does it take that much time every day?"
"Yes, indeed! It would take me twenty!" she answered. "You know the
week I was here alone I never did half she does. Of course I had Baby,
but then I didn't do the things. I guess when it doesn't take so long
they just don't do what ought to be done. For she is quick, awfully
quick about her work. And she's thorough. I suppose it ought to be
done that way--but I never had one before."
"She keeps mighty fresh and bright-looking after these herculean
"Yes, but then she rests! Her ten hours are from six-thirty a.m., when
she goes into the kitchen as regularly as a cuckoo clock, to
eight-thirty p.m. when she is all through and her kitchen looks like
a--well it's as clean and orderly as if no one was ever in it."
"Ten hours--that's fourteen."
"I know it, but she takes out four. She claims time to eat her meals."
"Half an hour apiece, and half an hour in the morning to rest--and two
in the afternoon. Anyway she is out, two hours every afternoon, riding
in the electric cars!"
"That don't look like a very hard job. Her day laborer doesn't get two
hours off every afternoon to take excursions into the country!"
"No, I know that, but he doesn't begin so early, nor stop so late. She
does her square ten hours work, and I suppose one has a right to time
"You seem dubious about that, my dear."
"Yes, that's just where it's awkward. I'm used to girls being in all
the time, excepting their day out. You see I can't leave baby, nor
always take him--and it interferes with my freedom afternoons."
"Well--can't you arrange with her somehow?"
"See if you can. She says she will only give ten hours of time for a
dollar and a half a day--tisn't but fifteen cents an hour--I have to pay
a woman twenty that comes in. And if she is to give up her chance of
sunlight and fresh air she wants me to pay her extra--by the hour. Or
she says, if I prefer, she would take four hours every other day--and so
be at home half the time. I said it was difficult to arrange--with
baby, and she was very sympathetic and nice, but she won't alter her
"Let her go, and get a less exacting servant."
"But--she does her work so well! And it saves a lot, really. She knows
all about marketing and things, and plans the meals so as to have things
lap, and it's a comfort to have her in the house and feel so safe and
sure everything will be done right."
"Well, it's your province, my dear. I don't profess to advise. But I
assure you I appreciate the table, and the cleanness of everything, and
the rested look in your eyes, dear girl!"
She slipped her hand into his affectionately. "It does make a
difference," she said. "I _could_ get a girl for $20.00 and save nearly
$2.60 a week--but you know what they are!"
"I do indeed," he admitted fervently. "It's worth the money to have
this thing done so well. I think she's right about the wages. Better
"O--she'll only agree to stay six months even at this rate!"
"Well--keep her six months and be thankful. I thought she was too good
They looked over the offered contract again. It closed with:
"This agreement to hold for six months from date if mutually
satisfactory. In case of disagreement two weeks' notice is to be given
on either side, or two weeks' wages if preferred by the employer." It
was dated, and signed "Miss D. C. Bell."
And with inward amusement and great display of penmanship they added
"Mrs. Isabel J. Porne," and the contract was made.
Apology is due to Mr. Horace Traubel, by whose kind permission "Little
Leafy Brothers," in our February issue, was reprinted from "The
Conservator," for not giving proper acknowledgment. Also to our readers
for the same omission.
OUR ANDROCENTRIC CULTURE; or, THE MAN-MADE WORLD
When we are offered a "woman's" paper, page, or column, we find it
filled with matter supposed to appeal to women as a sex or class; the
writer mainly dwelling upon the Kaiser's four K's--Kuchen, Kinder,
Kirche, Kleider. They iterate and reiterate endlessly the discussion of
cookery, old and new; of the care of children; of the overwhelming
subject of clothing; and of moral instruction. All this is recognized
as "feminine" literature, and it must have some appeal else the women
would not read it. What parallel have we in "masculine" literature?
"None!" is the proud reply. "Men are people! Women, being 'the sex,'
have their limited feminine interests, their feminine point of view,
which must be provided for. Men, however, are not restricted--to them
belongs the world's literature!"
Yes, it has belonged to them--ever since there was any. They have
written it and they have read it. It is only lately that women,
generally speaking, have been taught to read; still more lately that
they have been allowed to write. It is but a little while since Harriet
Martineau concealed her writing beneath her sewing when visitors came
in--writing was "masculine"--sewing "feminine."
We have not, it Is true, confined men to a narrowly construed "masculine
sphere," and composed a special literature suited to it. Their effect
on literature has been far wider than that, monopolizing this form of
art with special favor. It was suited above all others to the dominant
impulse of self-expression; and being, as we have seen essentially and
continually "the sex;" they have impressed that sex upon this art
overwhelmingly; they have given the world a masculized literature.
It is hard for us to realize this. We can readily see, that if women
had always written the books, no men either writing or reading them,
that would have surely "feminized" our literature; but we have not in
our minds the concept, much less the word, for an overmasculized
Men having been accepted as humanity, women but a side-issue; (most
literally if we accept the Hebrew legend!), whatever men did or said was
human--and not to be criticized. In no department of life is it easier
to contravert this old belief; to show how the male sex as such differs
from the human type; and how this maleness has monopolized and
disfigured a great social function.
Human life is a very large affair; and literature is its chief art. We
live, humanly, only through our power of communication. Speech gives us
this power laterally, as it were, in immediate personal contact. For
permanent use speech becomes oral tradition--a poor dependence.
Literature gives not only an infinite multiplication to the lateral
spread of communion but adds the vertical reach. Through it we know the
past, govern the present, and influence the future. In its servicable
common forms it is the indispensable daily servant of our lives; in its
nobler flights as a great art no means of human inter-change goes so
In these brief limits we can touch but lightly on some phases of so
great a subject; and will rest the case mainly on the effect of an
exclusively masculine handling of the two fields of history and fiction.
In poetry and the drama the same influence is easily traced, but in the
first two it is so baldly prominent as to defy objection.
History is, or should be, the story of our racial life. What have men
made it? The story of warfare and conquest. Begin at the very
beginning with the carven stones of Egypt, the clay records of Chaldea,
what do we find of history?
"I Pharaoh, King of Kings! Lord of Lords! (etc. etc.), "went down into
the miserable land of Kush, and slew of the inhabitants thereof an
hundred and forty and two thousands!" That, or something like it, is
the kind of record early history gives us.
The story of Conquering Kings, who and how many they killed and
enslaved; the grovelling adulation of the abased; the unlimited
jubilation of the victor; from the primitive state of most ancient
kings, and the Roman triumphs where queens walked in chains, down to our
omni present soldier's monuments: the story of war and conquest--war and
conquest--over and over; with such boasting and triumph, such cock-crow
and flapping of wings as show most unmistakably the natural source.
All this will strike the reader at first as biased and unfair. "That
was the way people lived in those days!" says the reader.
No--it was not the way women lived.
"O, women!" says the reader, "Of course not! Women are different."
Yea, women are different; and _men are different!_ Both of them, as
sexes, differ from the human norm, which is social life and all social
development. Society was slowly growing in all those black blind years.
The arts, the sciences, the trades and crafts and professions,
religion, philosophy, government, law, commerce, agriculture--all the
human processes were going on as well as they were able, between wars.
The male naturally fights, and naturally crows, triumphs over his rival
and takes the prize--therefore was he made male. Maleness means war.
Not only so; but being male, he cares only for male interests. Men,
being the sole arbiters of what should be done and said and written,
have given us not only a social growth scarred and thwarted from the
beginning by continual destruction; but a history which is one unbroken
record of courage and red cruelty, of triumph and black shame.
As to what went on that was of real consequence, the great slow steps of
the working world, the discoveries and inventions, the real progress of
humanity--that was not worth recording, from a masculine point of view.
Within this last century, "the woman's century," the century of the
great awakening, the rising demand for freedom, political, economic, and
domestic, we are beginning to write real history, human history, and not
merely masculine history. But that great branch of literature--Hebrew,
Greek, Roman, and all down later times, shows beyond all question, the
influence of our androcentric culture.
Literature is the most powerful and necessary of the arts, and fiction
is its broadest form. If art "holds the mirror up to nature" this art's
mirror is the largest of all, the most used. Since our very life
depends on some communication; and our progress is in proportion to our
fullness and freedom of communication; since real communication requires
mutual understanding; so in the growth of the social consciousness, we
note from the beginning a passionate interest in other people's lives.
The art which gives humanity consciousness is the most vital art. Our
greatest dramatists are lauded for their breadth of knowledge of "human
nature," their range of emotion and understanding; our greatest poets
are those who most deeply and widely experience and reveal the feelings
of the human heart; and the power of fiction is that it can reach and
express this great field of human life with no limits but those of the
When fiction began it was the legitimate child of oral tradition; a
product of natural brain activity; the legend constructed instead of
remembered. (This stage is with us yet as seen in the constant changes
in repetition of popular jokes and stories.)
Fiction to-day has a much wider range; yet it is still restricted,
heavily and most mischievously restricted.
What is the preferred subject matter of fiction?
There are two main branches found everywhere, from the Romaunt of the
Rose to the Purplish Magazine;--the Story of Adventure, and the Love
The Story-of-Adventure branch is not so thick as the other by any means,
but it is a sturdy bough for all that. Stevenson and Kipling have
proved its immense popularity, with the whole brood of detective stories
and the tales of successful rascality we call "picaresque" Our most
popular weekly shows the broad appeal of this class of fiction.
All these tales of adventure, of struggle and difficulty; of hunting and
fishing and fighting; of robbing and murdering, catching and punishing,
are distinctly and essentially masculine. They do not touch on human
processes, social processes, but on the special field of predatory
excitement so long the sole province of men.
It is to be noted here that even in the overwhelming rise of industrial
interests to-day, these, when used as the basis for a story, are forced
into line with one, or both, of these two main branches of
fiction;--conflict or love. Unless the story has one of these
"interests" in it, there is no story--so holds the editor; the dictum
being, put plainly, "life has no interests except conflict and love!"
It is surely something more than a coincidence that these are the two
essential features of masculinity--Desire and Combat--Love and War.
As a matter of fact the major interests of life are in line with its
major processes; and these--in our stage of human development--are more
varied than our fiction would have us believe. Half the world consists
of women, we should remember, who are types of human life as well as
men, and their major processes are not those of conflict and adventure,
their love means more than mating. Even on so poor a line of
distinction as the "woman's column" offers, if women are to be kept to
their four Ks, there should be a "men's column" also; and all the
"sporting news" and fish stories be put in that; they are not world
interests; they are male interests.
Now for the main branch--the Love Story. Ninety per cent. of fiction is
In this line; this is preeminently the major interest of life--given in
fiction. What is the love-story, as rendered by this art?
It is the story of the pre-marital struggle. It is the Adventures of
Him in Pursuit of Her--and it stops when he gets her! Story after
story, age after age, over and over and over, this ceaseless repetition
of the Preliminaries.
Here is Human Life. In its large sense, its real sense, it is a matter
of inter-relation between individuals and groups, covering all emotions,
all processes, all experiences. Out of this vast field of human life
fiction arbitrarily selects one emotion, one process, one experience, as
its necessary base.
"Ah! but we are persons most of all!" protests the reader. "This is
personal experience--it has the universal appeal!"
Take human life personally then. Here is a Human Being, a life,
covering some seventy years; involving the changing growth of many
faculties; the ever new marvels of youth, the long working time of
middle life, the slow ripening of age. Here is the human soul, in the
human body, Living. Out of this field of personal life, with all of its
emotions, processes, and experiences, fiction arbitrarily selects one
emotion, one process, one experience, mainly of one sex.
The "love" of our stories is man's love of woman. If any dare dispute
this, and say it treats equally of woman's love for man, I answer, "Then
why do the stories stop at marriage?"
There is a current jest, revealing much, to this effect:
The young wife complains that the husband does not wait upon and woo her
as he did before marriage; to which he replies, "Why should I run after
the street-car when I've caught it?"
Woman's love for man, as currently treated in fiction is largely a
reflex; it is the way he wants her to feel, expects her to feel; not a
fair representation of how she does feel. If "love" is to be selected
as the most important thing in life to write about, then the mother's
love should be the principal subject: This is the main stream. This is
the general underlying, world-lifting force. The "life-force," now so
glibly chattered about, finds its fullest expression in motherhood; not
in the emotions of an assistant in the preliminary stages.
What has literature, what has fiction, to offer concerning mother-love,
or even concerning father-love, as compared to this vast volume of
excitement about lover-love? Why is the search-light continually
focussed upon a two or three years space of life "mid the blank miles
round about?" Why indeed, except for the clear reason, that on a
starkly masculine basis this is his one period of overwhelming interest
If the beehive produced literature, the bee's fiction would be rich and
broad; full of the complex tasks of comb-building and filling; the care
and feeding of the young, the guardian-service of the queen; and far
beyond that it would spread to the blue glory of the summer sky, the
fresh winds, the endless beauty and sweetness of a thousand thousand
flowers. It would treat of the vast fecundity of motherhood, the
educative and selective processes of the group-mothers; and the passion
of loyalty, of social service, which holds the hive together.
But if the drones wrote fiction, it would have no subject matter save
the feasting of many; and the nuptial flight, of one.
To the male, as such, this mating instinct is frankly the major interest
of life; even the belligerent instincts are second to it. To the
female, as such, it is for all its intensity, but a passing interest.
In nature's economy, his is but a temporary devotion, hers the slow
processes of life's fulfillment.
In Humanity we have long since, not outgrown, but overgrown, this stage
of feeling. In Human Parentage even the mother's share begins to pale
beside that ever-growing Social love and care, which guards and guides
the children of to-day.
The art of literature in this main form of fiction is far too great a
thing to be wholly governed by one dominant note. As life widened and
intensified, the artist, if great enough, has transcended sex; and in
the mightier works of the real masters, we find fiction treating of
life, life in general, in all its complex relationships, and refusing to
be held longer to the rigid canons of an androcentric past.
This was the power of Balzac--he took in more than this one field. This
was the universal appeal of Dickens; he wrote of people, all kinds of
people, doing all kinds of things. As you recall with pleasure some
preferred novel of this general favorite, you find yourself looking
narrowly for the "love story" in it. It is there--for it is part of
life; but it does not dominate the whole scene--any more than it does in
The thought of the world is made and handed out to us in the main. The
makers of books are the makers of thoughts and feelings for people in
general. Fiction is the most popular form in which this world-food is
taken. If it were true, it would teach us life easily, swiftly, truly;
teach not by preaching but by truly re-presenting; and we should grow up
becoming acquainted with a far wider range of life in books than could
even be ours in person. Then meeting life in reality we should be
wise--and not be disappointed.
As it is, our great sea of fiction is steeped and dyed and flavored all
one way. A young man faces life--the seventy year stretch, remember,
and is given book upon book wherein one set of feelings is continually
vocalized and overestimated. He reads forever of love, good love and
bad love, natural and unnatural, legitimate and illegitimate; with the
unavoidable inference that there is nothing else going on.
If he is a healthy young man he breaks loose from the whole thing,
despises "love stories" and takes up life as he finds it. But what
impression he does receive from fiction is a false one, and he suffers
without knowing it from lack of the truer broader views of life it
failed to give him.
A young woman faces life--the seventy year stretch remember; and is
given the same books--with restrictions. Remember the remark of
Rochefoucauld, "There are thirty good stories in the world and
twenty-nine cannot be told to women." There is a certain broad field of
literature so grossly androcentric that for very shame men have tried to
keep it to themselves. But in a milder form, the spades all named
teaspoons, or at the worst appearing as trowels--the young woman is
given the same fiction. Love and love and love--from "first sight" to
marriage. There it stops--just the fluttering ribbon of announcement,
"and lived happily ever after."
Is that kind of fiction any sort of picture of a woman's life? Fiction,
under our androcentric culture, has not given any true picture of
woman's life, very little of human life, and a disproportioned section
of man's life.
As we daily grow more human, both of us, this noble art is changing for
the better so fast that a short lifetime can mark the growth. New
fields are opening and new laborers are working in them. But it is no
swift and easy matter to disabuse the race mind from attitudes and
habits inculcated for a thousand years. What we have been fed upon so
long we are well used to, what we are used to we like, what we like we
think is good and proper.
The widening demand for broader, truer fiction is disputed by the slow
racial mind: and opposed by the marketers of literature on grounds of
visible self-interest, as well as lethargic conservatism.
It is difficult for men, heretofore the sole producers and consumers of
literature; and for women, new to the field, and following masculine
canons because all the canons were masculine; to stretch their minds to
a recognition of the change which is even now upon us.
This one narrow field has been for so long overworked, our minds are so
filled with heroes and heroes continually repeating the one-act play,
that when a book like David Harum is offered the publisher refuses it
repeatedly, and finally insists on a "heart interest" being injected by
Did anyone read David Harum for that heart interest? Does anyone
remember that heart interest? Has humanity no interests but those of
Robert Ellesmere was a popular book--but not because of its heart
Uncle Tom's Cabin appealed to the entire world, more widely than any
work of fiction that was ever written; but if anybody fell in love and
married in it they have been forgotten. There was plenty of love in
that book, love of family, love of friends, love of master for servant
and servant for master; love of mother for child; love of married people
for each other; love of humanity and love of God.
It was extremely popular. Some say it was not literature. That opinion
will live, like the name of Empedocles.
The art of fiction is being re-born in these days. Life is discovered
to be longer, wider, deeper, richer, than these monotonous players of
one June would have us believe.
The humanizing of woman of itself opens five distinctly fresh fields of
fiction: First the position of the young woman who is called upon to
give up her "career"--her humanness--for marriage, and who objects to
it; second, the middle-aged woman who at last discovers that her
discontent is social starvation--that it is not more love that she
wants, but more business in life: Third the interrelation of women with
women--a thing we could never write about before because we never had it
before: except in harems and convents: Fourth the inter-action between
mothers and children; this not the eternal "mother and child," wherein
the child is always a baby, but the long drama of personal relationship;
the love and hope, the patience and power, the lasting joy and triumph,
the slow eating disappointment which must never be owned to a living
soul--here are grounds for novels that a million mothers and many
million children would eagerly read: Fifth the new attitude of the
full-grown woman who faces the demands of love with the high standards
of conscious motherhood.
There are other fields, broad and brilliantly promising, but this
chapter is meant merely to show that our one-sided culture has, in this
art, most disproportionately overestimated the dominant instincts of the
male--Love and War--an offense against art and truth, and an injury to
We who were born of water, in the warm slow ancient years,
Love it to-day for all we pay
Of terror and loss and tears.
The child laughs loud at the fountain, laughs low in the April rain,
And the sea's bright brim is a lure to him
Where a lost life lives again.
COMMENT AND REVIEW
In a recent number of a leading "woman's" periodical is a disquisition
on love--a girl's ideals of love, based on Elaine and the Sleeping
This is a serious matter surely. Love being an essential preliminary to
the best parenthood, and the major element of personal happiness, is a
most commanding subject; and as the woman is the most important factor
in both lines, her ideals are worth discussing.
We note that the author says "girl" instead of woman; but as boys and
girls do have ideals they too are worth considering. What are these
ideals as discussed in this worthy periodical?
We are told that the girl is often unfit to meet "the big grave
questions of love itself;" and "to make sure that she has these ideals
from the highest sources."
"What are these sources?" pursues this sagacious monitor; and then she
offers--"fairy tales and old romance." For ideals of love--here--in
America to-day--we are referred to Grimm's Marchen; to Cinderella, the
Goose Girl, Beauty and the Beast, and the Sleeping Beauty! Various
heroines of mythology and fiction are adduced, and the crowning type of
all is Elaine, The Lily Maid of Astolat.
A careful reading of fairy tales, however worthy, does not seem to throw
much light on the problems of marriage; and right marriage is what all
this love and its ideals are for. Here is a matter calling for the
widest knowledge, the noblest purpose, the highest principles, the most
practical action; a matter concerning not only the private happiness of
two persons, but the lives of several others; a matter not only of
individual appeal, but of the very broadest social duty; and for its
ideals we are referred to old fairy tales!
The Sleeping Beauty is a most happy instance of woman's right attitude
toward love and marriage--she is to remain starkly unconscious, using
absolutely no discretion; and cheerfully marry the first man that kisses
her! In the fairy story he was a noble prince--but the average sleeping
beauty of to-day is often waked up by the wrong man!
Sometimes she is married first, and wakes up afterward; like the lady in
"There a an old man of Jamaica,
Who suddenly married a Quaker.
But she cried out, "O Lack!
I have married a Black!"
Which grieved that old man of Jamaica."
How does Elaine answer as an ideal? Almost as well as the Sleeping
Beauty. Ignorance absolute; instant surrender to the first man
appearing; no shadow of inquiry as to his being married or single; much
less as to his morals. Then the apotheosis of the tidy-making
instinct--embroidering a cover for a steel shield! a thing meant to bear
the hardest kind of blows, made for that purpose, and she so afraid it
will get "rust or soilure" that she constructs this decorated case for
Then the going forth to nurse her wounded hero, and the ingenuous
proposal, when he offers to requite her.
Being refused, what then? Any thought of her duty in the world? Of her
two good brothers? Of her aged father--very fond of her too, that old
father? Not the slightest. Not even a glimmer of purpose to live
on--if her love was so wonderful, and be of some use to the great man,
by and by.
Nothing but herself. "I want something! I can't have it! I will
die!"--and die she did, of set purpose, by a sort of flabby suicide;
making the most careful arrangements for a spectacular funeral barge,
and a letter that should wring the heart of the obdurate man.
Well, I can remember when I cried over it--at about thirteen. It does
appeal to girls; but is it therefore an ideal to be held up as a High
Source and followed?
It is time and more than time for us to recognize that marriage is for
men and women, not girls and boys; that "love" is not a rosy dream but a
responsible undertaking, with consequences; that no true ideals of love
can be formed without full recognition of its purpose.
A thin small book of verse, a booklet, called "Philemon's Verses," from
The Evergreen Press, Montrose, Pa., has been sent me for review.
Now I have a theory of my own in regard to what we are pleased to call
"minor poets"; namely, that poetry is a natural form of expression to
most human beings, and should be used as such.
Why do we imagine that the best method of ensuring our output of poetry
is to have a few huge monoliths of poets--and no more? Is the great
poet surer of recognition, safer in his unparalleled superiority because
there is nothing between him and the unpoetical? Is a vast audience of
the dumb and verseless, who do not care enough for poetry to write any
of it, the best for the great poet?
According to my theory there is as much room for short-distance poetry
as for the kind that rings around the world for centuries.
As I look over this small collection, I am impressed most with its clear
sincerity, in feeling and expression. These verses are not cooked--they
Then I feel anew the range of interests of the modern singer--so swiftly
widening, so intensely human, and yet so sympathetic with nature.
Democracy in literature is a good thing; not only in subject matter but
in universal participation.
So that the contribution be genuine, the real speech of an honest soul,
it has its own place in the literature of the day; and that is evidently
the case with Philemon's Verses.
"The Lords of High Decision" is a title more high-sounding than
descriptive. If the story had been called "The Slaves of Low Decision"
it would be more recognizable.
Here is a man who wabbles through some thirty years of life without
coming to any decision at all; a woman who at no time had any decision;
another who decided wrong, then right, then wrong again, and was finally
let out by an accident; a first-class pitcher who gives up his chosen
field to be a chauffeur and general attache of the wabbler, and finally
loses his life to save another man--perhaps he was a Lord of High
Perhaps Paddock, the settlement-running clergyman was. Or Walsh,--the
suppressed parent. Colonel Craighill, the father of the Wabbler, is
well drawn, evidently from nature.
A highly Episcopalian attitude toward divorce is taken; the heroine, who
has been for some years free of a husband casually married in youth, is
led to see her duty in going back to him; even though she deeply loves
another man. As her ex-husband has more sense than she, he refuses to
accept this living sacrifice. She succeeds in giving up something,
however, for her lover, a man of considerable wealth, makes his proposal
in this wise:
"I know I ask a great deal when I ask you to give up your work for
me--and yet I ask it. Remember, there is no gratitude in this--you are
a woman, and I am a man--and I love you."
Poor girl! She has struggled through poverty, a broken marriage, long
years of valiant endeavor for this work of hers; it was the innocent and
easily domesticated task of drawing children's faces--she was an
illustrator. Yet the first thing her "lover" does, in the very height
of his new virtue, in the very act of offering himself, is to assume as
a matter of course that she would give it up. And she did--for this
Lord of High Decision.
"The Lords of High Decision," by Meredith Nicholson. Doubleday, Page &
Here is a "Personal" of distinct interest.
May it reach its mark!
"By a Socialist woman of mature years, a congenial person of similar
sex, education and tastes to share with her the expense of a country
home in the mountains, and the study--as far as may be agreeable--of
nature, music, literature, sociology and socialism. No objection to
Suffragette or Vegetarian, but advocates of Anarchism or Free Love are
hereby contra-indicated. Credentials to be frankly exchanged with
personal history. Address: The Widow Baucis, Care of The Forerunner, 67
Wall St., New York City."
Apropos of the above, there are no more intimate and pressing problems
than those of the business of living, the mere every day processes.
We are still so hampered by the customs and habits of the proprietary
family that we assume as a matter of course that one must live, first,
in childhood and youth, with one's parental family; second, in middle
life, with one's matrimonial family; and third in age, with one's
Now suppose one is of age, unmarried, and not fond of living with one's
parents. This is not wicked. It is not extremely unusual. One may be
very fond of one's parents, as parents, yet prefer other society in
daily life. Enforced residence in the same home of a number of grown
people of widely different ages, interests, and ideas, is not made happy
by the fact of blood-relationship.
There are many indications to show an increasing divergence of tastes
between our rapidly changing generations. Each set of young people seem
to differ more sharply from their parents than they, in their youth,
Moreover, there are a number of persons who do not marry, and yet have a
right to live--yes, and to enjoy living.
Men have long ago solved this problem to their own satisfaction. They
leave home early; they have learned in cabin, camp and club to live in
groups, without women; and many, with an apartment of their own as a
base, seem to find enough society in visits among their friends.
But women are only beginning to realize that it is possible to live,
yes, and to have a "home," even if one has not, in the original sense,
"a family." The amount of happiness that really congenial friends can
find in living together is fully as great as that of some marriages; and
quite outside of daily contact in the household remains that boundless
field of strength, stimulus and delight which comes of true social
But the machinery of life is all arranged for married couples; who
rightly constitute the majority; and the unmarried woman is not allowed
for. She is, however, rapidly awakening to the fact that she has an
actual individual existence--as well as a potential marital existence;
and is learning how to use and enjoy it.
(This was done by two persons, in alternate lines, as a game.)
Seven days had Aunt Eliza
Read the Boston Advertiser,
Seven days on end;
But in spite of her persistence
Still she met with some resistance
From her bosom friend.
Thomas Brown, the Undertaker,
Who declared he'd have to shake her,
Daily called at ten;
Asking if dear Aunt's condition
Would allow of his admission,
With his corps of men.
Aunt Eliza heard him pleading,
Ceased an instant from her reading,
Softly downward stole;
Soon broke up the conversation,
Punctuating Brown's oration,
With a shower of coal.
There are such things as feet, human feet;
But these she does not use;
Firm and supple, white and sweet,
Softly graceful, lightly fleet,
For comfort, beauty, service meet--
There are feet, human feet,
These she does with scorn refuse--
There are such things as shoes--human shoes;
Though scant and rare the proof;
Serviceable, soft and strong,
Pleasant, comely, wearing long,
Easy as a well-known song--
There are shoes, human shoes,
But from these she holds aloof--
Prefers the hoof!
There are such things as hoofs, sub-human hoofs,
High-heeled, sharp anomalies;
Small and pinching, hard and black,
Shiny as a beetle's back,
Cloven, clattering on the track,
There are hoofs, sub-human hoofs,
She cares not for truth, nor ease--
A MONTHLY MAGAZINE
CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
AUTHOR, OWNER & PUBLISHER
1.00 A YEAR
.10 A COPY
Volume 1. No. 6
Copyright for 1910
C. P. Gilman
The human soul is built for the love and service of the whole world.
We confine it to the love and service of five or six persons, and the
salvation of one.
WHEN THOU GAINEST HAPPINESS
When thou gainest happiness,
Life's full cup of sweetest wine;
Dost thou stop in grieving blind
Over those dark years behind?
Bitter now, rebellious, mad,
For the things thou hast not had--
Before everything was thine?
Dost not rather wonder why
Nearing blaze of joy like this,
Some prevision had not lit
Those dark hours with hope of it?
That thou couldst in patient strength
Have endured that sorrow's length--
_Nothing_--to the coming bliss!
Now, awaken! Look ahead!
See the earth one garden fair!
See the evils of to-day
Like a child's faults put away!
See our little history seem
Like a short forgotten dream!
See a full-grown rising race
Find our joy their commonplace!
Find such new joy of their own
As our best hopes have not known!
And take shame for thy despair!
It was nine feet long.
It was eight feet high.
It was six feet wide.
There was a closet, actually!--a closet one foot deep--that was why she
took this room. There was the bed, and the trunk, and just room to open
the closet door part way--that accounted for the length. There was the
bed and the bureau and the chair--that accounted for the width. Between
the bedside and the bureau and chair side was a strip extending the
whole nine feet. There was room to turn around by the window. There
was room to turn round by the door. Martha was thin.
One, two, three, four--turn.
One, two, three, four--turn.
She managed it nicely.
"It is a stateroom," she always said to herself. "It is a luxurious,
large, well-furnished stateroom with a real window. It is _not_ a
Martha had a vigorous constructive imagination. Sometimes it was the
joy of her life, her magic carpet, her Aladdin's lamp. Sometimes it
frightened her--frightened her horribly, it was so strong.
The cell idea had come to her one gloomy day, and she had foolishly
allowed it to enter--played with it a little while. Since then she had
to keep a special bar on that particular intruder, so she had arranged a
stateroom "set," and forcibly kept it on hand.
Martha was a stenographer and typewriter in a real estate office. She
got $12 a week, and was thankful for it. It was steady pay, and enough
to live on. Seven dollars she paid for board and lodging, ninety cents
for her six lunches, ten a day for carfare, including Sundays;
seventy-five for laundry; one for her mother--that left one dollar and
sixty-five cents for clothes, shoes, gloves, everything. She had tried
cheaper board, but made up the cost in doctor's bills; and lost a good
place by being ill.
"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor hall bedrooms a cage," said she
determinedly. "Now then--here is another evening--what shall I do?
Library? No. My eyes are tired. Besides, three times a week is
enough. 'Tisn't club night. Will _not_ sit in the parlor. Too wet to
walk. Can't sew, worse'n reading--O good _land!_ I'm almost ready to
go with Basset!"
She shook herself and paced up and down again.
Prisoners form the habit of talking to themselves--this was the
suggestion that floated through her mind--that cell idea again.
"I've got to get out of this!" said Martha, stopping short. "It's
enough to drive a girl crazy!"
The driving process was stayed by a knock at the door. "Excuse me for
coming up," said a voice. "It's Mrs. MacAvelly."
Martha knew this lady well. She was a friend of Miss Podder at the
Girls' Trade Union Association. "Come in. I'm glad to see you!" she
said hospitably. "Have the chair--or the bed's really more
"I was with Miss Podder this evening and she was anxious to know whether
your union has gained any since the last meeting--I told her I'd find
out--I had nothing else to do. Am I intruding?"
"Intruding!" Martha, gave a short laugh. "Why, it's a godsend, Mrs.
MacAvelly! If you knew how dull the evenings are to us girls!"
"Don't you--go out much? To--to theaters--or parks?" The lady's tone
was sympathetic and not inquisitive.
"Not very much," said Martha, rather sardonically. "Theaters--two
girls, two dollars, and twenty cents carfare. Parks, twenty cents--walk
your feet off, or sit on the benches and be stared at. Museums--not
"But don't you have visitors--in the parlor here?"
"Did you see it?" asked Martha.
Mrs. MacAvelly had seen it. It was cold and also stuffy. It was ugly
and shabby and stiff. Three tired girls sat there, two trying to read
by a strangled gaslight overhead; one trying to entertain a caller in a
social fiction of privacy at the other end of the room.
"Yes, we have visitors--but mostly they ask us out. And some of us
don't go," said Martha darkly.
"I see, I see!" said Mrs. MacAvelly, with a pleasant smile; and Martha
wondered whether she did see, or was just being civil.
"For instance, there's Mr. Basset," the girl pursued, somewhat
recklessly; meaning that her visitor should understand her.
"Yes, 'Pond & Basset'--one of my employers."
Mrs. MacAvelly looked pained. "Couldn't you--er--avoid it?" she
"You mean shake him?" asked Martha. "Why, yes--I could. Might lose my
job. Get another place--another Basset, probably."
"I see!" said Mrs. MacAvelly again. "Like the Fox and the Swarm of
Flies! There ought to be a more comfortable way of living for all you
girls! And how about the union--I have to be going back to Miss
Martha gave her the information she wanted, and started to accompany her
downstairs. They heard the thin jangle of the door-bell, down through
the echoing halls, and the dragging feet of the servant coming up. A
kinky black head was thrust in at the door.
"Mr. Basset, callin' on Miss Joyce," was announced formally.
Martha stiffened. "Please tell Mr. Basset I am not feeling well
to-night--and beg to be excused.
She looked rather defiantly at her guest, as Lucy clattered down the
long stairs; then stole to the railing and peered down the narrow well.
She heard the message given with pompous accuracy, and then heard the
clear, firm tones of Mr. Basset:
"Tell Miss Joyce that I will wait."
Martha returned to her room in three long steps, slipped off her shoes
and calmly got into bed. "Good-night, Mrs. MacAvelly," she said. "I'm
so sorry, but my head aches and I've gone to bed! Would you be so very
good as to tell Lucy so as you're going down."
Mrs. MacAvelly said she would, and departed, and Martha lay
conscientiously quiet till she heard the door shut far below.
She was quiet, but she was not contented.
Yet the discontent of Martha was as nothing to the discontent of Mrs.
Joyce, her mother, in her rural home. Here was a woman of fifty-three,
alert, vigorous, nervously active; but an automobile-agitated horse had
danced upon her, and her usefulness, as she understood it, was over.
She could not get about without crutches, nor use her hands for
needlework, though still able to write after a fashion. Writing was not
her _forte,_ however, at the best of times.
She lived with a widowed sister in a little, lean dusty farmhouse by the
side of the road; a hill road that went nowhere in particular, and was
too steep for those who were going there.
Brisk on her crutches, Mrs. Joyce hopped about the little house, there
was nowhere else to hop to. She had talked her sister out long
since--Mary never had never much to say. Occasionally they quarreled
and then Mrs. Joyce hopped only in her room, a limited process.
She sat at the window one day, staring greedily out at the lumpy
rock-ribbed road; silent, perforce, and tapping the arms of her chair
with nervous intensity. Suddenly she called out, "Mary! Mary Ames!
Come here quick! There's somebody coming up the road!"
Mary came in, as fast as she could with eggs in her apron. "It's Mrs.
Holmes!" she said. "And a boarder, I guess."
"No, it ain't," said Mrs. Joyce, eagerly. "It's that woman that's
visiting the Holmes--she was in church last week, Myra Slater told me
about her. Her name's MacDowell, or something."
"It ain't MacDowell," said her sister. "I remember; it's MacAvelly."
This theory was borne out by Mrs. Holmes' entrance and introduction of
"Have you any eggs for us, Mrs. Ames?" she said.
"Set down--set down," said Mrs. Ames cordially. "I was just getting in
my eggs--but here's only about eight yet. How many was you wantin'?"
"I want all you can find," said Mrs. Holmes. "Two dozen, three
dozen--all I can carry."
"There's two hens layin' out--I'll go and look them up. And I ain't
been in the woodshed chamber yet. I'll go'n hunt. You set right here
with my sister." And Mrs. Ames bustled off.
"Pleasant view you have here," said Mrs. MacAvelly politely, while Mrs.
Holmes rocked and fanned herself.
"Pleasant! Glad you think so, ma'am. Maybe you city folks wouldn't
think so much of views if you had nothing else to look at!"
"What would you like to look at?"
"Folks!" said Mrs. Joyce briefly. "Lots of folks! Somethin' doin'."
"You'd like to Iive in the city?"
"Yes, ma'am--I would so! I worked in the city once when I was a girl.
Waitress. In a big restaurant. I got to be cashier--in two years! I
like the business!"
"And then you married a farmer?" suggested Mrs. Holmes.
"Yes, I did. And I never was sorry, Mrs. Holmes. David Joyce was a
mighty good man. We was engaged before I left home--I was workin' to
help earn, so 't we could marry."
"There's plenty of work on a farm, isn't there?" Mrs. MacAvelly
Mrs. Joyce's eager eyes kindled. "There is _so!_" she agreed. "Lots to
do. And lots to manage! We kept help then, and the farm hands, and the
children growin' up. And some seasons we took boarders."
"Did you like that?"
"I did. I liked it first rate. I like lots of people, and to do for
'em. The best time I ever had was one summer I ran a hotel."
"Ran a hotel! How interesting!"
"Yes'm--it was interesting! I had a cousin who kept a summer hotel up
here in the mountains a piece--and he was short-handed that summer and
got me to go up and help him out. Then he was taken sick, and I had the
whole thing on my shoulders! I just enjoyed it! And the place cleared
more that summer'n it ever did! He said 'twas owin' to his advantageous
buyin'. Maybe 'twas! But I could 'a bought more advantageous than he
did--I could a' told him that. Point o' fact, I did tell him that--and
he wouldn't have me again."
"That was a pity!" said Mrs. Holmes. "And I suppose if it wasn't for
your foot you would do that now--and enjoy it!"
"Of course I could!" protested Mrs. Joyce. "Do it better 'n ever, city
or country! But here I am, tied by the leg! And dependent on my sister
and children! It galls me terribly!"
Mrs. Holmes nodded sympathetically. "You are very brave, Mrs. Joyce,"
she said. "I admire your courage, and--" she couldn't say patience, so
she said, "cheerfulness."
Mrs. Ames came in with more eggs. "Not enough, but some," she said, and
the visitors departed therewith.
Toward the end of the summer, Miss Podder at the Girls' Trade Union
Association, sweltering in the little office, was pleased to receive a
call from her friend, Mrs. MacAvelly.
"I'd no idea you were in town," she said.
"I'm not, officially," answered her visitor, "just stopping over between
visits. It's hotter than I thought it would be, even on the upper west
"Think what it is on the lower east side!" answered Miss Podder,
eagerly. "Hot all day--and hot at night! My girls do suffer so! They
are so crowded!"
"How do the clubs get on?" asked Mrs. MacAvelly. "Have your girls any
residence clubs yet?"
"No--nothing worth while. It takes somebody to run it right, you know.
The girls can't; the people who work for money can't meet our wants--and
the people who work for love, don't work well as a rule."
Mrs. McAvelly smiled sympathetically. "You're quite right about that,"
she said. "But really--some of those 'Homes' are better than others,
"The girls hate them," answered Miss Podder. "They'd rather board--even
two or three in a room. They like their independence. You remember
Mrs. MacAvelly remembered. "Yes," she said, "I do--I met her mother
"She's a cripple, isn't she?" asked Miss Podder. "Martha's told me
"Why, not exactly. She's what a Westerner might call 'crippled up
some,' but she's livelier than most well persons." And she amused her
friend with a vivid rehearsal of Mrs. Joyce's love of the city and her
former triumphs in restaurant and hotel.
"She'd be a fine one to run such a house for the girls, wouldn't she?"
suddenly cried Miss Podder.
"Why--if she could," Mrs. MacAvelly admitted slowly.
"_Could!_ Why not? You say she gets about easily enough. All she's
have to do is _manage,_ you see. She could order by 'phone and keep the
"I'm sure she'd like it," said Mrs. MacAvelly. "But don't such things
Miss Podder was somewhat daunted. "Yes--some; but I guess we could
raise it. If we could find the right house!"
"Let's look in the paper," suggested her visitor. "I've got a
"There's one that reads all right," Miss Podder presently proclaimed.
"The location's good, and it's got a lot of rooms--furnished. I suppose
it would cost too much."
Mrs. MacAvelly agreed, rather ruefully.
"Come," she said, "it's time to close here, surely. Let's go and look
at that house, anyway. It's not far."
They got their permit and were in the house very shortly. "I remember
this place," said Miss Podder. "It was for sale earlier in the summer."
It was one of those once spacious houses, not of "old," but at least of
"middle-aged" New York; with large rooms arbitrarily divided into
"It's been a boarding-house, that's clear," said Mrs. MacAvelly.
"Why, of course," Miss Podder answered, eagerly plunging about and
examining everything. "Anybody could see that! But it's been done
over--most thoroughly. The cellar's all whitewashed, and there's a new
furnace, and new range, and look at this icebox!" It was an ice-closet,
as a matter of fact, of large capacity, and a most sanitary aspect.
"Isn't it too big?" Mrs. MacAvelly inquired.
"Not for a boarding-house, my dear," Miss Podder enthusiastically
replied. "Why, they could buy a side of beef with that ice-box! And
look at the extra ovens! Did you ever see a place better furnished--for
what we want? It looks as if it had been done on purpose!"
"It does, doesn't it?" said Mrs. MacAvelley.
Miss Podder, eager and determined, let no grass grow under her feet.
The rent of the place was within reason.
"If they had twenty boarders--and some "mealers," I believe it could be
done! she said. "It's a miracle--this house. Seems as if somebody had
done it just for us!"
Armed with a list of girls who would agree to come, for six and seven
dollars a week, Miss Podder made a trip to Willettville and laid the
matter before Martha's mother.
"What an outrageous rent!" said that lady.
"Yes--New York rents _are_ rather inconsiderate," Miss Podder admitted.
"But see, here's a guaranteed income if the girls stay--and I'm sure
they will; and if the cooking's good you could easily get table boarders
Mrs. Joyce hopped to the bureau and brought out a hard, sharp-pointed
pencil, and a lined writing tablet.
"Let's figger it out," said she. "You say that house rents furnished at
$3,200. It would take a cook and a chambermaid!"
"And a furnace man," said Miss Podder. "They come to about fifty a
year. The cook would be thirty a month, the maid twenty-five, if you
got first-class help, and you'd need it."
"That amounts to $710 altogether," stated Mrs. Joyce.
"Fuel and light and such things would be $200," Miss Podder estimated,
"and I think you ought to allow $200 more for breakage and extras
"That's $4,310 already," said Mrs. Joyce.
Then there's the food," Miss Podder went on. "How much do you think it
would cost to feed twenty girls, two meals a day, and three Sundays?"
"And three more," Mrs. Joyce added, "with me, and the help,
twenty-three. I could do it for $2.00 a week apiece."
"Oh!" said Miss Podder. "_Could_ you? At New York prices?"
"See me do it!" said Mrs. Joyce.
"That makes a total expense of $6,710 a year. Now, what's the income,
The income was clear--if they could get it. Ten girls at $6.00 and ten
at $7.00 made $130.00 a week--$6,700.00 a year.
"There you are!" said Mrs. Joyce triumphantly. "And the 'mealers'--if
my griddle-cakes don't fetch 'em I'm mistaken! If I have ten--at $5.00
a week and clear $3.00 off 'em--that'll be another bit--$1,560.00 more.
Total income $8,320.00. More'n one thousand clear! Maybe I can feed
'em a little higher--or charge less!"
The two women worked together for an hour or so; Mrs. Ames drawn in
later with demands as to butter, eggs, and "eatin' chickens."
"There's an ice-box as big as a closet," said Miss Podder.
Mrs. Joyce smiled triumphantly. "Good!" she said. "I can buy my
critters of Judson here and have him freight 'em down. I can get apples
here and potatoes, and lots of stuff."
"You'll need, probably, a little capital to start with," suggested Miss
Podder. "I think the Association could--"
"It don't have to, thank you just the same," said Mrs. Joyce. "I've got
enough in my stocking to take me to New York and get some fuel.
Besides, all my boarders is goin' to pay in advance--that's the one sure
way. The mealers can buy tickets!"
Her eyes danced. She fairly coursed about the room on her nimble
"My!" she said, "it will seem good to have my girl to feed again."
The house opened in September, full of eager girls with large appetites
long unsatisfied. The place was new-smelling, fresh-painted,
beautifully clean. The furnishing was cheap, but fresh, tasteful, with
minor conveniences dear to the hearts of women.
The smallest rooms were larger than hall bedrooms, the big ones were
shared by friends. Martha and her mother had a chamber with two beds
and space to spare!
The dining-room was very large, and at night the tables were turned into
"settles" by the wall and the girls could dance to the sound of a hired
pianola. So could the "mealers," when invited; and there was soon a
waiting list of both sexes.
"I guess I can make a livin'," said Mrs. Joyce, "allowin' for bad
"I don't understand how you feed us so well--for so little," said Miss
Podder, who was one of the boarders.
"'Sh!" said Mrs. Joyce, privately. "Your breakfast don't really cost
more'n ten cents--nor your dinner fifteen--not the way I order! Things
taste good 'cause they're _cooked_ good--that's all!"
"And you have no troubles with your help?"
"'Sh!" said Mrs. Joyce again, more privately. "I work 'em hard--and pay
'em a bonus--a dollar a week extra, as long as they give satisfaction.
It reduces my profits some--but it's worth it!"
"It's worth it to us, I'm sure!" said Miss Podder.
Mrs. MacAvelly called one evening in the first week, with warm interest
and approval. The tired girls were sitting about in comfortable rockers
and lounges, under comfortable lights, reading and sewing. The untired
ones were dancing in the dining-room, to the industrious pianola, or
having games of cards in the parlor.
"Do you think it'll be a success?" she asked her friend.
"It _is_ a success!" Miss Podder triumphantly replied. "I'm immensely
proud of it!"
"I should think you would be," aid Mrs. MacAvelly.
The doorbell rang sharply.
Mrs. Joyce was hopping through the hall at the moment, and promptly
"Does Miss Martha Joyce board here?" inquired a gentleman.
"I should like to see her," said he, handing in his card.
Mrs. Joyce read the card and looked at the man, her face setting in hard
lines. She had heard that name before.
"Miss Joyce is engaged," she replied curtly, still holding the door.
He could see past her into the bright, pleasant rooms. He heard the
music below, the swing of dancing feet, Martha's gay laugh from the
The little lady on crutches blocked his path.
"Are you the housekeeper of this place?" he asked sharply.
"I'm more'n that!" she answered. "I'm Martha's mother."
Mr. Basset concluded he would not wait.
For fear of prowling beasts at night
They blocked the cave;
Women and children hid from sight,
Men scarce more brave.
For fear of warrior's sword and spear
They barred the gate;
Women and children lived in fear,
Men lived in hate.
For fear of criminals to-day
We lock the door;
Women and children still to stay
Come out! You need no longer hide!
What fear ye now?
No wolf nor lion waits outside--
Only a cow.
Come out! The world approaches peace,
War nears its end;
No warrior watches your release--
Only a friend.
Come out! The night of crime his fled--
Day is begun;
Here is no criminal to dread--
Only your son!
The world, half yours, demands your care,
Waken, and come!
Make it a woman's world, safe, fair,
Garden and home!
Where do we get our first training in the field of common behavior, our
earliest and strongest impressions of ethics?
In the nursery, in the early environment of the little child, in the
daily influences that affect the opening mind; or, to put it in a phrase
hallowed by poetic imagery, "at our mother's knee." We are accustomed
to think highly of these early influences. Almost any man will say that
his mother taught him what was right--it was his own evil nature that
drove him wrong. So believing, we perpetuate these influences unchanged
from age to age, and it is small wonder we think human nature to be
inherently perverse if it continues to show such poor results from such
Suppose for a moment we take down one more old idol, and look into his
record, examining the environment of the little child as dispassionately
as we would examine the environment of a college student.
The child is born into an atmosphere of personality, which is essential,
and reared continuously in that atmosphere, which is not so essential.
Owing to these early impressions; so deep and ineffaceable, he grows to
look at human life with a huge "I," and an almost as large "My Family,"
in his immediate foreground; so out of drawing as to throw the whole
world into false perspective, seen as a generality, dim, confused and
In this atmosphere of unbroken personality, he repeats continually the
mistakes of the early savage, the animistic tendency we should as a race
have long since outgrown. The family with the male head was the great
hotbed of early religions.
In this primitive group, unchecked by any higher authority of king or
governor, arose ancestor-worship--that unnatural religion which erases
the laws of life and bids the chicken feed the hen--or rather the
rooster. No matriarchal cult would have made that mistake. The
patriarch owned his women, owned his children, owned all the property;
he gave and took away at his pleasure. Therefore, looming vast in
unchecked pride, he erected sacrificial religions all his own, demanding
sons to perform sacred rites in his honor; and grew so inflated with
superiority that he thanked his patriarchal God and Father every day
that he was not born a woman.
This Personality has cast its shadow across heaven. It has deified its
own traits and worships them. Through blind and selfish eyes it has
mis-seen and misrepresented God, and forced dark dogmas on its children,
age after age. Each child of us, though really born to the broad light
of a democratic age, is reared in the patriarchate. Each child of us
sees the father, dispenser of benefits, arbiter and ruler of the family;
and, so reared, each child of us repeats from generation to generation
the mistakes of personality.
The basic law of the patriarchal system was obedience, and is yet. The
child's first ethical lesson is in the verb "to obey." Not with any
convincing instance of right or wrong, though life bristles with them,
but as the duty of submission. He is not taught to observe, to relate,
to make his inference, to act, and to note results. He is taught that
his one duty is not to think, observe, or experiment, but to do what he
This is a convenient habit for those in authority; but not conducive to
any true development of the ethical sense. We are turned out into a
world of cause and effect, with no knowledge, no experience, no guide
whatever, but the painfully acquired habit of doing what some one else
tells us. We are not taught to study right and wrong conduct, to
understand it, to see the wisdom of the one and the folly of the other.
The child's first notion of "being good" is either sheer inaction or
prompt submission. What we call "a good baby" is one who does
absolutely nothing. Here we have an explanation of the amazing inertia
of people in general; of the smug immobility of those shining lights
"the best people." We all have been taught--rigorously taught in our
infancy--that to "keep quiet" was a virtue; and we keep quiet through
life. This is one clear instance of our nursery-mindedness.
We are reared in a black and white world: sharp wrong,--to do almost
anything amusing, and particularly and most of all, To Disobey; sharp
right,--to do nothing whatever, and particularly and best of all, To
Obey. We come out into a world that is all colors of the rainbow in
every shade and blending, where the things people tell us to do are
mostly wrong, and to do right requires the most strenuous and
independent activity. Greatly are we hindered in the work of life
to-day by our mis-taught infancy.
In the narrow round of family life, the inevitable repetitions, the
natural ruts of usage, the child has forced upon him the conservatism he
should have every help to out-grow. Habit uncriticized and unresisted;
convention an unquestioned good; these are the rules of the little
world. How he hates it! How he longs for something different--for
something to happen! The world is full of differences and happenings,
but he is helpless to meet them--he has been only trained in narrow
The oldest status in life, that of serving woman, is about him in his
infancy. That mother should do for him is right and natural, but why
should his mother be waiting on these other persons? Why is she the
house-servant as well as the mother? If she is but a fashionable person
in gay attire, he still has about him women servants. He cannot think
as yet, but he accepts from daily contact this serving womanhood as
natural and right, grows up to demand it in his household and to rear
his children in its shadow; and so perpetuate from age to age the
Then deep into this infant soul sinks the iron weight of what we call
Discipline. We women, having small knowledge of child-nature or
world-nature, never studying nature at all, but each girl-mother handed
on from nursery to nursery, a child teaching children, we undertake to
introduce the new soul to life!
We show him, as "life," the nursery, kitchen and parlor group in which
we live. We try to teach him the behavior required by these
surroundings. Two of the heaviest crosses to both the child and mother
lie in his bi- and tri-daily difficulties with clothing, and prolonged
initiation to the sacred mysteries of the table. We seek, as best we
may, to bend the new soul visiting this world to a correct fulfilment of
the polite functions of our domestic shrine; and we succeed unhappily
well. We rear a world of people who put manners before morals,
conventions before principles, conformity before initiative. Sorely do
we strive with the new soul, to choke questionings and crush its
"Why?" says the child, "Why?" protesting with might and main against the
mummery into which he is being forced.
"Because Mother says so!" is the reason given. "Because you must obey!"
is the duty given; and to enforce the command comes punishment.
Punishment is a pitiful invention arbitrarily inserted in place of
consequence. Its power is in giving pain. Its appeal is to terror.
We, immovable and besotted in our ancient sanctuaries, deliberately give
pain to little children, deliberately arouse in them that curse of old
savagery, blind fear. To compel behavior which we cannot explain even
to ourselves, to force the new wine of their young lives into the old
bottles of our traditional habits, we keep alive in the little child an
attitude of mind the whole world should seek to outgrow and forget
The ethics of the nursery does not give us laws to be learned and
understood; relations of cause and effect for instructive practice;
matters of general use and welfare not to know and practice which argues
a foolish ignorance. It gives command purely arbitrary and
disconnected; their profit is not visible to the child; and their
penalties, while painfully conspicuous, bear no real relation to
Besides being arbitrary and disconnected, the penalties we give our
children have this alarming weakness--they are wholly contingent upon
discovery. No whipped child is too young to learn that his whipping did
not follow on the act--unless his mother knew he did it. Thus with
elaborate care, with trouble to ourselves and anguish to the child, we
develop in him the attitude of mind with which our criminals, big and
little, face the world--it is not what you do that matters--it is being
found out. This is not the position of the thinking being--it is
Pain and terror we teach our babies, and also shame. The child is pure,
innocent, natural. One of the first efforts of nursery culture is to
smear that white page with our self-made foulness. We labor
conscientiously and with patience, to teach our babies shame. We
degrade the human body, we befoul the habits of nature, we desecrate
life, teaching evil and foolish falsehood to our defenceless little
children. The "sex-taboos" of darkest savagery, the decencies and
indecencies of primitive convention, we have preserved throughout the
ages in our guarded temple of ancient idols, and in that atmosphere we
rear the child.
The heaviest drag on progress is the persistence of race-habits and
traditions, once natural and useful, but long since outgrown. The main
stronghold of this body of tradition is in that uneducated, undeveloped,
unorganized, lingering rudiment of earlier social forms--the
woman-servant group of primitive industries, in which our children grow.
We have cried out against the crushing restriction of old religions;
and, going farther, have seen that these religions have their strongest
hold on the woman and the child. It is here suggested that it is not
the religion that keeps down the woman and renews its grip on each new
generation of children, but that it is the degraded status of the woman
and her influence on the child which made possible such religions in the
first instance, and which accounts for their astonishing persistence in
In the atmosphere of the nursery each child re-learns continually the
mental habits of a remote and lowly past. His sense of duty is a
personal one, it is obligation; and justified when we attempt to justify
it by the beneficent services of the parent. This parental religion
naturally pictures God as a parent--a father of course, and people as
his children. We, as his children, are to love and serve and glorify
him, and he to take care of us, parentally.
Coming out into the world of which he has been taught nothing, the young
man finds no corroboration whatever for this theory. He does not see
the alleged grounds of the religious views given him, and so he drops
his religion altogether.
If he had early been shown God in a thousand beautiful common instances,
as ever-present, unescapable, and beneficent Law--the sure, sound
constant force of life, then he would find the same God still visibly at
work in the world of love and labor, and not lose his religion by
outgrowing his nursery.
Instead of personal gratitude for personal service as a cause for good
behavior, he should be shown that his parents and teachers serve him and
other children because so best is the human race improved; and that he,
and the other children, owe their life's service to the same great body,
to the human race. This ideal would need neither patching nor
enlargement, but would last unbroken through life.
Our nursery-bred consciences suffer personally for personal sins, with
morbid keenness, but are stone blocks of indifference to the collective
sins which are the major evils of life to-day. A man may pointed out to
us as a wholesale malefactor, a dealer in bad meat, a poisoner of the
public mind through a degraded press, an extortioner, liar, doer of
uncounted evil; we reply that he is a "moral man"--that his personal
relations are excellent; and, if one continues to complain, we say,
"What has he done to you?"
Personality is the limit of our moral sense, the steady check to growth
in ethical understanding, as it is in economics, and in art. The normal
growth of the human soul to-day is into a wide, fluent, general relation
with mankind; and a deeper more satisfying and _workable_ conception of
God than we ever knew before. In our nursery-mindedness we face the
problems of civic morality, catching visible offenders and shutting them
in a closet, sending them supperless to bed, hurting and depriving them
in various ways, as blindly, stupidly and unprofitably as a woman spanks
Children reared in a democratic, scientific, broadly educative
atmosphere, would grow up able to see the absurdity of our primitive
institutions--but such an atmosphere does not originate in and cannot be
brought into the nursery.
As an inevitable reaction from nursery-government, the child finds
joyous relief in sheer riot and self-will. The behavior of our boys in
college shows well their previous uneducated and ill-educated condition.
The persistence of "hazing" among twentieth century persons old enough
to go to school, shows the weakness of nursery culture. This is a
custom prevalent among low savage races, known as "initiation by
torture." Its reason--if it ever had any--was to outdo nature's
cruelest and most wasteful methods, and to prepare for a life of
struggle and pain by a worse experience to begin with. About the age of
puberty, when body and mind are both sensitive, this pleasant rite took
place. Those who survived it, habituated to cruelty and unreason, were
thereby fitted to live cruel and unreasonable lives--and did so.
Race-customs, as old as this, die hard. They have to be understood,
condemned, opposed, and educated out of us. Our small children get no
such education. They, as a class, get no influence tending to uplift
and develop their sociological status. Clever and "well-trained" they
may be; well-loved and well--at least, expensively-dressed. But as soon
as they escape the nursery bounds, out pops the primeval savage,
unrestrained. These young students, with their revolting practices,
ought to know that they are in the social stage with cannibalism,
voudooism, fetich-worship; and to be hot with shame at their condition.
It is the race's babyhood,--a drooling, fumbling, infantile
folly--manifested almost to adult age. That it endures is due to our
About the little child should cluster and concentrate the noblest forces
of our latest days, our highest wisdom and deepest experience, our most
subtle skill. Such wisdom, skill and experience do not exist in the
average young woman, albeit a mother; still less in her low-class,
ignorant serving-maids. A wider, deeper love would desire better
environment for the child, more foresight and more power would provide
it. But our love, though intense, is narrow and largely childish--the
mother has not long left the influence of her own nursery; and neither
wisdom nor power grew there. Some day our women will see this. They
will understand at last what womanhood is for, and the power and glory
of civilized motherhood. They will see that the educative influences of
the first few years are pre-eminently important, and prepare for them as
assiduously as they prepare to give a college education to older
The baby is a new human soul, learning Life. He should have about him
from the first, Truth and Order, with a sequence of impressions which
great minds have labored to prepare. He should have his mother's love,
his father's care, his brother's and sister's society; his home's
seclusion; and he should also have from his earliest days, a place to
share with many other children, and the love and care and service of
such guides and teachers as are most fit to help the growing of the
We have gone far indeed in those things we learn after we leave home.
In our trades and professions, our arts and sciences, in the broad
avenues of the world's life, we have made great progress--albeit
hampered always to some extent by our nursery-mindedness.
But in our own personal relations we are stagnant, hide-bound, inert.
Our littleness, our morbidness, our self-consciousness, our narrowness,
our short-sightedness, our oppressive, insistent, omnipresent
personality--all these still crush us down. Bumptious with a good
child's complacency, grieving with a bad child's remorse, indifferent
and rebellious as ill-trained children are, we live unawakened among
social laws. We enjoy when we can; we suffer much--and needlessly; but
we seem incapable of taking hold of our large world-questions and
It is only an apparent limitation. We are quite capable were we but
taught so. What hinders us is Nursery-Mindedness.
A VILLAGE OF FOOLS
There was a certain village, a little village on a little stream; and
the inhabitants thereof were Fools.
By profession they were tillers of the soil; and they kept beasts,
beasts of burden, and beasts to furnish meat. They lived upon the
products of their tillage, and upon the beasts, and upon fish from the
The Wise said, "This is a good village. There is land to furnish food,
and beasts in plenty, and a good stream flowing steadily from the
tree-clothed hills. These people should prosper well."
They did not know that the people of the village were Fools; Utter
Fools. Observe now their Foolishness! They cut down the trees of the
hills to make their fires withal; many and great fires, without stint or
hindrance; and presently there was no more any forest upon the hills to
cover them. Then the moist breath of the cloud-building forest was
dried away; and the thick wet sponge about the roots of the forest was
dried away; and the snow slid down the hills as it slides down steep
roof gables; and the rain ran down the narrow valleys as it runs down
gutter pipes; and the village was swept by floods in flood time, and lay
parched and thirsty in the dry season. And the people of the village
called the flood an Act of God, and they called the drought an Act of
God; for they were Fools.
Their fields they tilled continuously, for they needs must eat;
gathering from the good ground year after year, and generation after
generation, till the ground became sour and stale, and was bad ground
and bore no fruit.
"Surely," said the Wise, "they will gather from the stables of their
beasts and from the village that which shall enrich their soil and make
it bear fruit again."
They did not know that the people of the Village were Fools.
Thus did they with their beasts. They kept them thick in their village;
draught animals and burden-bearers; and from the defiled streets arose a
Plague of Flies, and tormented the people, so that they fell sick of
divers diseases. And they themselves crowded together ever more
thickly, till all the village became unsavory and unfit for human
habitation. Then they arose, wagging their heads sagaciously; and with
vast labor and expense they gathered together from their stables and
their habitations all that which should enrich the soil and produce
fruit again; and they poured it carefully into the stream. Now this was
the stream from which they drank; and when they drank their diluted
diseases they fell sick anew, and many died.
Also the fish fed upon this filth, and they also absorbed diseases; and
the people fed upon the fish which had fed upon the filth, and again
fell sick, and many died.
And those who died they carefully wrapped up in many coverings and laid
in the ground--them and their diseases with them--that the seeds thereof
might be fostered eternally, and continually came forth anew.
But the Wise burned their dead in clean fire, cherishing their memories
in their hearts, but not their slowly deteriorating remains in the dark
earth. And the wise kept their forests as a wild garden, planting as
well as reaping; having wood therefrom at need, and always the green
beauty and the cool shade, the moist winds and carpet of held water over
the hill slopes.
Their streams were pure and steady, tree shadowed and grass bordered
from end to end; for a tree beareth food as well as a field, and is
planted in a moment and the young tree cometh up as the old tree dieth.
And their fields they fed continually, so that they bore more rather
than less from year to year, and they prospered and did not die of
But they knew not their own wisdom, for these things it seemed to them
that even Fools might see, and do accordingly.
Neither did the Fools know their own foolishness.
WHAT DIANTHA DID
It's a singular thing that the commonest place
Is the hardest to properly fill;
That the labor imposed on a full half the race
Is so seldom performed with good will--
To say nothing of knowledge or skill!
What we ask of all women, we stare at in one,
And tribute of wonderment bring;
If this task of the million is once fitly done
We all hold our hands up and sing!
It's really a singular thing!
Isabel Porne was a cautious woman, and made no acclaim over her new
acquisition until its value was proven. Her husband also bided his
time; and when congratulated on his improved appearance and air of
contentment, merely vouchsafed that his wife had a new girl who could
To himself he boasted that he had a new wife who could love--so cheerful
and gay grew Mrs. Porne in the changed atmosphere of her home.
"It is remarkable, Edgar," she said, dilating repeatedly on the peculiar
quality of their good fortune. "It's not only good cooking, and good
waiting, and a clean house--cleaner than I ever saw one before; and it's
not only the quietness, and regularity and economy--why the bills have
gone down more than a third!"
"Yes--even I noticed that," he agreed.
"But what I enjoy the most is the _atmosphere,_" she continued. "When I
have to do the work, the house is a perfect nightmare to me!" She
leaned forward from her low stool, her elbows on her knees, her chin in
her hands, and regarded him intently.
"Edgar! You know I love you. And I love my baby--I'm no unfeeling
monster! But I can tell you frankly that if I'd had any idea of what
housework was like I'd never have given up architecture to try it."
"Lucky for me you hadn't!" said he fondly. "I know it's been hard for
you, little girl. I never meant that you should give up
architecture--that's a business a woman could carry on at home I
thought, the designing part anyway. There's your 'drawing-room' and all
"Yes," she said, with reminiscent bitterness, "there they are--and there
they might have stayed, untouched--if Miss Bell hadn't come!"
"Makes you call her "Miss Bell" all the time, does she?"
Mrs. Porne laughed. "Yes. I hated it at first, but she asked if I
could give her any real reason why the cook should be called by her
first name more than the seamstress or governess. I tried to say that
it was shorter, but she smiled and said that in this case it was
longer!--Her name is Diantha--I've seen it on letters. And it is one
syllable longer. Anyhow I've got used to Miss Bell now."
"She gets letters often?"
"Yes--very often--from Topolaya where she came from. I'm afraid she's
engaged." Mrs. Porne sighed ruefully.
"I don't doubt it!" said Mr. Porne. "That would account for her six
months' arrangement! Well, my dear--make hay while the sun shines!"
"I do!" she boasted. "Whole stacks! I've had a seamstress in, and got
all my clothes in order and the baby's. We've had lot of dinner-parties
and teas as you know--all my "social obligations" are cleared off!
We've had your mother for a visit, and mine's coming now--and I wasn't
afraid to have either of them! There's no fault to be found with my
housekeeping now! And there are two things better than that--yes,
"The best thing is to see you look so young and handsome and happy
again," said her husband, with a kiss.
"Yes--that's one. Another is that now I feel so easy and lighthearted I
can love you and baby--as--as I _do!_ Only when I'm tired and
discouraged I can't put my hand on it somehow.
He nodded sympathetically. "I know, dear," he said. "I feel that way
myself--sometimes. What's the other?"
"Why that's best of aIl!" she cried triumphantly. "I can Work again!
When Baby's asleep I get hours at a time; and even when he's awake I've
fixed a place where he can play--and I can draw and plan--just as I used
to--_better_ than I used to!"
"And that is even more to you than loving?" he asked in a quiet
"It's more because it means _both!_" She leaned to him, glowing, "Don't
you see? First I had the work and loved it. Then you came--and I loved
you--better! Then Baby came and I loved him--best? I don't know--you
and baby are all one somehow."
There was a brief interim and then she drew back, blushing richly. "Now
stop--I want to explain. When the housework got to be such a
nightmare--and I looked forward to a whole lifetime of it and _no_
improvement; then I just _ached_ for my work--and couldn't do it! And
then--why sometimes dear, I just wanted to run away! Actually! From
_both_ of you!--you see, I spent five years studying--I was a _real_
architect--and it did hurt to see it go. And now--O now I've got It and
You too, darling! _And_ the Baby!--O I'm so happy!"
"Thanks to the Providential Miss Bell," said he. "If she'll stay I'll
pay her anything!"
The months went by.
Peace, order, comfort, cleanliness and economy reigned in the Porne
household, and the lady of the house blossomed into richer beauty and
happiness; her contentment marred only by a sense of flying time.
Miss Bell fulfilled her carefully specified engagement to the letter;
rested her peaceful hour in the morning; walked and rode in the
afternoon; familiarized herself with the length and breadth of the town;
and visited continuously among the servants of the neighborhood,
establishing a large and friendly acquaintance. If she wore rubber
gloves about the rough work, she paid for them herself; and she washed
and ironed her simple and pretty costumes herself--with the result that
they stayed pretty for surprising periods.
She wrote letters long and loving, to Ross daily; to her mother twice a
week; and by the help of her sister's authority succeeded in maintaining
a fairly competent servant in her deserted place.
"Father was bound he wouldn't," her sister wrote her; "but I stood right
up to him, I can now I'm married!--and Gerald too--that he'd no right to
take it out of mother even if he was mad with you. He made a fuss about
your paying for the girl--but that was only showing off--_he_ couldn't
pay for her just now--that's certain. And she does very well--a good
strong girl, and quite devoted to mother." And then she scolded
furiously about her sister's "working out."
Diantha knew just how hard it was for her mother. She had faced all
sides of the question before deciding.
"Your mother misses you badly, of course," Ross wrote her. "I go in as
often as I can and cheer her up a bit. It's not just the work--she
misses you. By the way--so do I." He expressed his views on her new
Diantha used to cry over her letters quite often. But she would put
them away, dry her eyes, and work on at the plans she was maturing, with
grim courage. "It's hard on them now," she would say to herself. "Its
hard on me--some. But we'll all be better off because of it, and not
only us--but everybody!"
Meanwhile the happy and unhappy households of the fair town buzzed in
comment and grew green with envy.
In social circles and church circles and club circles, as also in
domestic circles, it was noised abroad that Mrs. Edgar Porne had "solved
the servant question." News of this marvel of efficiency and propriety
was discussed in every household, and not only so but in barber-shops
and other downtown meeting places mentioned. Servants gathered it at
dinner-tables; and Diantha, much amused, regathered it from her new
friends among the servants.
Does she keep on just the same?" asked little Mrs. Ree of Mrs. Porne in
an awed whisper.
"Just the same if not better. I don't even order the meals now, unless
I want something especial. She keeps a calendar of what we've had to
eat, and what belongs to the time of year, prices and things. When I
used to ask her to suggest (one does, you know: it is so hard to think
up a variety!), she'd always be ready with an idea, or remind me that we
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