The Forerunner, Volume 1 (1909-1910)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Part 8 out of 18
had had so and so two days before, till I asked her if she'd like to
order, and she said she'd be willing to try, and now I just sit down to
the table without knowing what's going to be there."
"But I should think that would interfere with your sense of freedom,"
said Mrs. Ellen A Dankshire, "A woman should be mistress of her own
"Why I am! I order whenever I specially want anything. But she really
does it more--more scientifically. She has made a study of it. And the
bills are very much lower."
"Well, I think you are the luckiest woman alive!" sighed Mrs. Ree. "I
wish I had her!"
Many a woman wished she had her, and some, calling when they knew Mrs.
Porne was out, or descending into their own kitchens of an evening when
the strange Miss Bell was visiting "the help," made flattering
propositions to her to come to them. She was perfectly polite and
agreeable in manner, but refused all blandishments.
"What are you getting at your present place--if I may ask?" loftily
inquired the great Mrs. Thaddler, ponderous and beaded.
"There is surely no objection to your asking, madam," she replied
politely. "Mrs. Porne will not mind telling you, I am sure."
"Hm!" said the patronizing visitor, regarding her through her lorgnette.
"Very good. Whatever it is I'll double it. When can you come?"
"My engagement with Mrs. Porne is for six months," Diantha answered,
"and I do not wish to close with anyone else until that time is up.
Thank you for your offer just the same."
"Peculiarly offensive young person!" said Mrs. Thaddler to her husband.
"Looks to me like one of these literary imposters. Mrs. Porne will
probably appear in the magazines before long."
Mr. Thaddler instantly conceived a liking for the young person, "sight
Diantha acquired quite a list of offers; places open to her as soon as
she was free; at prices from her present seven dollars up to the
"Fourteen dollars a week and found!--that's not so bad," she meditated.
"That would mean over $650 clear in a year! It's a wonder to me girls
don't try it long enough to get a start at something else. With even
two or three hundred ahead--and an outfit--it would be easier to make
good in a store or any other way. Well--I have other fish to fry!"
So she pursued her way; and, with Mrs. Porne's permission--held a sort
of girl's club in her spotless kitchen one evening a week during the
last three months of her engagement. It was a "Study and Amusement
Club." She gave them short and interesting lessons in arithmetic, in
simple dressmaking, in easy and thorough methods of housework. She gave
them lists of books, referred them to articles in magazines, insidiously
taught them to use the Public Library.
They played pleasant games in the second hour, and grew well acquainted.
To the eye or ear of any casual visitor it was the simplest and most
natural affair, calculated to "elevate labor" and to make home happy.
Diantha studied and observed. They brought her their poor confidences,
painfully similar. Always poverty--or they would not be there. Always
ignorance, or they would not stay there. Then either incompetence in
the work, or inability to hold their little earnings--or both; and
further the Tale of the Other Side--the exactions and restrictions of
the untrained mistresses they served; cases of withheld wages; cases of
endless requirements; cases of most arbitrary interference with their
receiving friends and "followers," or going out; and cases, common
enough to be horrible, of insult they could only escape by leaving.
"It's no wages, of course--and no recommendation, when you leave like
that--but what else can a girl do, if she's honest?"
So Diantha learned, made friends and laid broad foundations.
The excellence of her cocking was known to many, thanks to the weekly
"entertainments." No one refused. No one regretted acceptance. Never
had Mrs. Porne enjoyed such a sense of social importance.
All the people she ever knew called on her afresh, and people she never
knew called on her even more freshly. Not that she was directly
responsible for it. She had not triumphed cruelly over her less happy
friends; nor had she cried aloud on the street corners concerning her
good fortune. It was not her fault, nor, in truth anyone's. But in a
community where the "servant question" is even more vexed than in the
country at large, where the local product is quite unequal to the
demand, and where distance makes importation an expensive matter, the
fact of one woman's having, as it appeared, settled this vexed question,
was enough to give her prominence.
Mrs. Ellen A. Dankshire, President of the Orchardina Home and Culture
Club, took up the matter seriously.
"Now Mrs. Porne," said she, settling herself vigorously into a
comfortable chair, "I just want to talk the matter over with you, with a
view to the club. We do not know how long this will last--"
"Don't speak of it!" said Mrs. Porne.
"--and it behooves us to study the facts while we have them."
"So much is involved!" said little Mrs. Ree, the Corresponding
Secretary, lifting her pale earnest face with the perplexed fine lines
in it. "We are all so truly convinced of the sacredness of the home
"Well, what do you want me to do?" asked their hostess.
"We must have that remarkable young woman address our club!" Mrs.
Dankshire announced. "It is one case in a thousand, and must be
"So noble of her!" said Mrs. Ree. "You say she was really a
school-teacher? Mrs. Thaddler has put it about that she is one of these
dreadful writing persons--in disguise!"
"O no," said Mrs. Porne. "She is perfectly straightforward about it,
and had the best of recommendations. She was a teacher, but it didn't
agree with her health, I believe."
"Perhaps there is a story to it!" Mrs. Ree advanced; but Mrs. Dankshire
disagreed with her flatly.
"The young woman has a theory, I believe, and she is working it out. I
respect her for it. Now what we want to ask you, Mrs. Porne, is this:
do you think it would make any trouble for you--in the household
relations, you know--if we ask her to read a paper to the Club? Of
course we do not wish to interfere, but it is a remarkable
opportunity--very. You know the fine work Miss Lucy Salmon has done on
this subject; and Miss Frances Kellor. You know how little data we
have, and how great, how serious, a question it is daily becoming! Now
here is a young woman of brains and culture who has apparently grappled
with the question; her example and influence must not be lost! We must
hear from her. The public must know of this."
"Such an ennobling example!" murmured Mrs. Ree. "It might lead numbers
of other school-teachers to see the higher side of the home duties!"
"Furthermore," pursued Mrs. Dankshire, "this has occured to me. Would
it not be well to have our ladies bring with them to the meeting the
more intelligent of their servants; that they might hear and see
the--the dignity of household labor--so ably set forth?
"Isn't it--wouldn't that be a--an almost dangerous experiment?" urged
Mrs. Ree; her high narrow forehead fairly creped with little wrinkles:
"She might--say something, you know, that they might--take advantage
"Nonsense, my dear!" replied Mrs. Dankshire. She was very fond of Mrs.
Ree, but had small respect for her judgment. "What could she say? Look
at what she does! And how beautifully--how perfectly--she does it! I
would wager now--_may_ I try an experiment Mrs. Porne?" and she stood
up, taking out her handkerchief.
"Certainly," said Mrs. Porne, "with pleasure! You won't find any!"
Mrs. Dankshire climbed heavily upon a carefully selected chair and
passed her large clean plain-hemmed handkerchief across the top of a
"I knew it!" she proclaimed proudly from her eminence, and showed the
cloth still white. "That," she continued in ponderous descent, "that is
Knowledge, Ability and Conscience!"
"I don't see how she gets the time!" breathed Mrs. Ree, shaking her head
in awed amazement, and reflecting that she would not dare trust Mrs.
Dankshire's handkerchief on her picture tops.
"We must have her address the Club," the president repeated. "It will
do worlds of good. Let me see--a paper on--we might say 'On the True
Nature of Domestic Industry.' How does that strike you, Mrs. Ree?"
"Admirable!" said Mrs. Ree. "So strong! so succinct."
"That certainly covers the subject," said Mrs. Porne. "Why don't you
"We will. We have come for that purpose. But we felt it right to ask
you about it first," said Mrs. Dankshire.
"Why I have no control over Miss Bell's movements, outside of working
hours," answered Mrs. Porne. "And I don't see that it would make any
difference to our relations. She is a very self-poised young woman, but
extremely easy to get along with. And I'm sure she could write a
splendid paper. You'd better ask her, I think."
"Would you call her in?" asked Mrs. Dankshire, "or shall we go out to
"Come right out; I'd like you to see how beautifully she keeps
The kitchen was as clean as the parlor; and as prettily arranged. Miss
Bell was making her preparation for lunch, and stopped to receive the
visitors with a serenely civil air--as of a country store-keeper.
"I am very glad to meet you, Miss Bell, very glad indeed," said Mrs.
Dankshire, shaking hands with her warmly. "We have at heard so much of
your beautiful work here, and we admire your attitude! Now would you be
willing to give a paper--or a talk--to our club, the Home and Culture
Club, some Wednesday, on The True Nature of Domestic Industry?"
Mrs. Ree took Miss Bell's hand with something of the air of a Boston
maiden accosting a saint from Hindoostan. "If you only would!" she
said. "I am sure it would shed light on this great subject!"
Miss Bell smiled at them both and looked at Mrs. Porne inquiringly.
"I should be delighted to have you do it," said her employer. "I know
it would be very useful."
"Is there any date set?" asked Miss Bell.
"Any Wednesday after February," said Mrs. Dankshire.
"Well--I will come on the first Wednesday in April. If anything should
happen to prevent I will let you know in good season, and if you should
wish to postpone or alter the program--should think better of the
idea--just send me word. I shall not mind in the least."
They went away quite jubilant, Miss Bell's acceptance was announced
officially at the next club-meeting, and the Home and Culture Club felt
that it was fulfilling its mission.
I gave myself to God.--
With humility and contrition,
In sacrifice and submission.
"Take me! Do not refuse me!
Order me--govern me--use me!
Nothing I ask for my own--
I pray to be thine alone!--"
And God smiled.
I gave myself to mankind.--
With sorrow and sympathy deep,
With pity that would not sleep.
"To serve you and save you, brothers!
To give my life for the others!
I ask no price--no place--
I seek but to help the race!--"
And God smiled.
I gave myself to Myself.--
In the knowledge that opens power;
In the truth's unfolding hour;
In the glory of service free;
The joy that such life can be:--
My life--that is never done!
For my neighbor and I are One!--
And God smiled.
OUR ANDROCENTRIC CULTURE; or, THE MAN-MADE WORLD
GAMES AND SPORTS
One of the sharpest distinctions both between the essential characters
and the artificial positions of men and women, is in the matter of games
and sports. By far the greater proportion of them are essentially
masculine, and as such alien to women; while from those which are
humanly interesting, women have been largely debarred by their arbitrary
The play instinct is common to girls and boys alike; and endures in some
measure throughout life. As other young animals express their abounding
energies in capricious activities similar to those followed in the
business of living, so small children gambol, physically, like lambs and
kids; and as the young of higher kinds of animals imitate in their play
the more complex activities of their elders, so do children imitate
whatever activities they see about them. In this field of playing there
is no sex.
Similarly in adult life healthy and happy persons, men and women,
naturally express surplus energy in various forms of sport. We have
here one of the most distinctively human manifestations. The great
accumulation of social energy, and the necessary limitations of one kind
of work, leave a human being tired of one form of action, yet still
uneasy for lack of full expression; and this social need has been met by
our great safety valve of games and sports.
In a society of either sex, or in a society without sex, there would
still be both pleasure and use in games; they are vitally essential to
human life. In a society of two sexes, wherein one has dictated all the
terms of life, and the other has been confined to an extremely limited
fraction of human living, we may look to see this great field of
enjoyment as disproportionately divided.
It is not only that we have reduced the play impulse in women by
restricting them to one set of occupations, and overtaxing their
energies with mother-work and housework combined; and not only that by
our androcentric conventions we further restrict their amusements; but
we begin in infancy, and forcibly differentiate their methods of play
long before any natural distinction would appear.
Take that universal joy the doll, or puppet, as an instance. A small
imitation of a large known object carries delight to the heart of a
child of either sex. The worsted cat, the wooden horse, the little
wagon, the tin soldier, the wax doll, the toy village, the "Noah's Ark,"
the omnipresent "Teddy Bear," any and every small model of a real thing
is a delight to the young human being. Of all things the puppet is the
most intimate, the little image of another human being to play with.
The fancy of the child, making endless combinations with these visible
types, plays as freely as a kitten in the leaves; or gravely carries out
some observed forms of life, as the kitten imitates its mother's
So far all is natural and human.
Now see our attitude toward child's play--under a masculine culture.
Regarding women only as a sex, and that sex as manifest from infancy, we
make and buy for our little girls toys suitable to this view. Being
females--which means mothers, we must needs provide them with babies
before they cease to be babies themselves; and we expect their play to
consist in an imitation of maternal cares. The doll, the puppet, which
interests all children, we have rendered as an eternal baby; and we
foist them upon our girl children by ceaseless millions.
The doll, as such, is dear to the little boy as well as the girl, but
not as a baby. He likes his jumping-jack, his worsted Sambo, often a
genuine rag-doll; but he is discouraged and ridiculed in this. We do
not expect the little boy to manifest a father's love and care for an
imitation child--but we do expect the little girl to show maternal
feelings for her imitation baby. It has not yet occurred to us that
this is monstrous.
Little children should not be expected to show, in painful precocity,
feelings which ought never to be experienced till they come at the
proper age. Our kittens play at cat-sports, little Tom and Tabby
together; but little Tabby does not play she is a mother!
Beyond the continuous dolls and their continuous dressing, we provide
for our little girls tea sets and kitchen sets, doll's houses, little
work-boxes--the imitation tools of their narrow trades. For the boy
there is a larger choice. We make for them not only the essentially
masculine toys of combat--all the enginery of mimic war; but also the
models of human things, like boats, railroads, wagons. For them, too,
are the comprehensive toys of the centuries, the kite, the top, the
ball. As the boy gets old enough to play the games that require skill,
he enters the world-lists, and the little sister, left inside, with her
everlasting dolls, learns that she is "only a girl," and "mustn't play
with boys--boys are so rough!" She has her doll and her tea set. She
"plays house." If very active she may jump rope, in solitary
enthusiasm, or in combination of from two to four. Her brother is
playing games. From this time on he plays the games of the world. The
"sporting page" should be called "the Man's Page" as that array of
recipes, fashions and cheap advice is called "the Woman's Page."
One of the immediate educational advantages of the boy's position is
that he learns "team work." This is not a masculine characteristic, it
is a human one; a social power. Women are equally capable of it by
nature; but not by education. Tending one's imitation baby is not
team-work; nor is playing house. The little girl is kept forever within
the limitations of her mother's "sphere" of action; while the boy learns
life, and fancies that his new growth is due to his superior sex.
Now there are certain essential distinctions in the sexes, which would
manifest themselves to some degree even in normally reared children; as
for instance the little male would be more given to fighting and
destroying; the little female more to caring for and constructing
"Boys are so destructive!" we say with modest pride--as if it was in
some way a credit to them. But early youth is not the time to display
sex distinction; and they should be discouraged rather than approved.
The games of the world, now the games of men, easily fall into two broad
classes--games of skill and games of chance.
The interest and pleasure in the latter is purely human, and as such is
shared by the two sexes even now. Women, in the innocent beginnings or
the vicious extremes of this line of amusement, make as wild gamblers as
men. At the races, at the roulette wheel, at the bridge table, this is
In games of skill we have a different showing. Most of these are
developed by and for men; but when they are allowed, women take part in
them with interest and success. In card games, in chess, checkers, and
the like, in croquet and tennis, they play, and play well if
well-trained. Where they fall short in so many games, and are so wholly
excluded in others, is not for lack of human capacity, but for lack of
masculinity. Most games are male. In their element of desire to win,
to get the prize, they are male; and in their universal attitude of
competition they are male, the basic spirit of desire and of combat
working out through subtle modern forms.
There is something inherently masculine also in the universal dominance
of the projectile in their games. The ball is the one unescapable
instrument of sport. From the snapped marble of infancy to the flying
missile of the bat, this form endures. To send something forth with
violence; to throw it, bat it, kick it, shoot it; this impulse seems to
date back to one of the twin forces of the universe--the centrifugal and
centripetal energies between which swing the planets.
The basic feminine impulse is to gather, to put together, to construct;
the basic masculine impulse to scatter, to disseminate, to destroy. It
seems to give pleasure to a man to bang something and drive it from him;
the harder he hits it and the farther it goes the better pleased he is.
Games of this sort will never appeal to women. They are not wrong; not
necessarily evil in their place; our mistake is in considering them as
human, whereas they are only masculine.
Play, in the childish sense is an expression of previous habit; and to
be studied in that light. Play in the educational sense should be
encouraged or discouraged to develop desired characteristics. This we
know, and practice; only we do it under androcentric canons; confining
the girl to the narrow range we consider proper for women, and assisting
the boy to cover life with the expression of masculinity, when we should
be helping both to a more human development.
Our settled conviction that men are people--the people, and that
masculine qualities are the main desideratam in life, is what keeps up
this false estimate of the value of our present games. Advocates of
football, for instance, proudly claim that it fits a man for life.
Life--from the wholly male point of view--is a battle, with a prize. To
want something beyond measure, and to fight to get--that is the simple
proposition. This view of life finds its most naive expression in
predatory warfare; and still tends to make predatory warfare of the
later and more human processes of industry. Because they see life in
this way they imagine that skill and practice in the art of fighting,
especially in collective fighting, is so valuable in our modern life.
This is an archaism which would be laughable if it were not so dangerous
in its effects.
The valuable processes to-day are those of invention, discovery, all
grades of industry, and, most especially needed, the capacity for honest
service and administration of our immense advantages. These are not
learned on the football field. This spirit of desire and combat may be
seen further in all parts of this great subject. It has developed into
a cult of sportsmanship; so universally accepted among men as of
superlative merit as to quite blind them to other standards of judgment.
In the Cook-Peary controversy of 1909, this canon was made manifest.
Here, one man had spent a lifetime in trying to accomplish something;
and at the eleventh hour succeeded. Then, coming out in the rich
triumph long deferred, he finds another man, of character well known to
him, impudently and falsely claiming that he had done it first. Mr.
Peary expressed himself, quite restrainedly and correctly, in regard to
the effrontery and falsity of this claim--and all the country rose up
and denounced him as "unsportsmanlike!"
Sport and the canons of sport are so dominant in the masculine mind that
what they considered a deviation from these standards was of far more
importance than the question of fact involved; to say nothing of the
moral obliquity of one lying to the whole world, for money; and that at
the cost of another's hard-won triumph.
If women had condemned the conduct of one or the other as "not good
house-wifery," this would have been considered a most puerile comment.
But to be "unsportsmanlike" is the unpardonable sin.
Owing to our warped standards we glaringly misjudge the attitude of the
two sexes in regard to their amusements. Of late years more women than
ever before have taken to playing cards; and some, unfortunately, play
for money. A steady stream of comment and blame follows upon this. The
amount of card playing among men--and the amount of money lost and won,
does not produce an equivalent comment.
Quite aside from this one field of dissipation, look at the share of
life, of time, of strength, of money, given by men to their wide range
of recreation. The primitive satisfaction of hunting and fishing they
maintain at enormous expense. This is the indulgence of a most
rudimentary impulse; pre-social and largely pre-human, of no service
save as it affects bodily health, and of a most deterring influence on
real human development. Where hunting and fishing is of real human
service, done as a means of livelihood, it is looked down upon like any
other industry; it is no longer "sport."
The human being kills to eat, or to sell and eat from the returns; he
kills for the creature's hide or tusks, for use of some sort; or to
protect his crops from vermin, his flocks from depredation; but the
sportsman kills for the gratification of a primeval instinct, and under
rules of an arbitrary cult. "Game" creatures are his prey; bird, beast
or fish that is hard to catch, that requires some skill to slay; that
will give him not mere meat and bones, but "the pleasure of the chase."
The pleasure of the chase is a very real one. It is exemplified, in its
broad sense in children's play. The running and catching games, the
hiding and finding games, are always attractive to our infancy, as they
are to that of cubs and kittens. But the long continuance of this
indulgence among mature civilized beings is due to their masculinity.
That group of associated sex instincts, which in the woman prompts to
the patient service and fierce defence of the little child, in the man
has its deepest root in seeking, pursuing and catching. To hunt is more
than a means of obtaining food, in his long ancestry; it is to follow at
any cost, to seek through all difficulties, to struggle for and secure
the central prize of his being--a mate.
His "protective instincts" are far later and more superficial. To
support and care for his wife, his children, is a recent habit, in plain
sight historically; but "the pleasure of the chase" is older than that.
We should remember that associate habits and impulses last for ages upon
ages in living forms; as in the tree climbing instincts of our earliest
years, of Simian origin; and the love of water, which dates back through
unmeasured time. Where for millions of years the strongest pleasure a
given organism is fitted for, is obtained by a certain group of
activities, those activities will continue to give pleasure long after
their earlier use is gone.
This is why men enjoy "the ardor of pursuit" far more than women. It is
an essentially masculine ardor. To come easily by what he wants does
not satisfy him. He wants to want it. He wants to hunt it, seek it,
chase it, catch it. He wants it to be "game." He is by virtue of his
sex a sportsman.
There is no reason why these special instincts should not be gratified
so long as it does no harm to the more important social processes; but
it is distinctly desirable that we should understand their nature. The
reason why we have the present overwhelming mass of "sporting events,"
from the ball game to the prize fight, is because our civilization is so
overwhelmingly masculine. We shall criticize them more justly when we
see that all this mass of indulgence is in the first place a form of
sex-expression, and in the second place a survival of instincts older
than the oldest savagery.
Besides our games and sports we have a large field of "amusements" also
worth examining. We not only enjoy doing things, but we enjoy seeing
them done by others. In these highly specialized days most of our
amusement consists in paying two dollars to sit three hours and see
other people do things.
This in its largest sense is wholly human. We, as social creatures, can
enjoy a thousand forms of expression quite beyond the personal. The
birds must each sing his own song; the crickets chirp in millionfold
performance; but human being feels the deep thrill of joy in their
special singers, actors, dancers, as well as in their own personal
attempts. That we should find pleasure in watching one another is
humanly natural, but what it is we watch, the kind of pleasure and the
kind of performance, opens a wide field of choice.
We know, for instance, something of the crude excesses of aboriginal
Australian dances; we know more of the gross license of old Rome; we
know the breadth of the jokes in medieval times, and the childish
brutality of the bull-ring and the cockpit. We know, in a word, that
amusements vary; that they form a ready gauge of character and culture;
that they have a strong educational influence for good or bad. What we
have not hitherto observed is the predominant masculine influence on our
amusements. If we recall once more the statement with regard to
entertaining anecdotes, "There are thirty good stories in the world, and
twenty-nine of them cannot be told to women," we get a glaring sidelight
on the masculine specialization in jokes.
"Women have no sense of humor" has been frequently said, when "Women
have not a masculine sense of humor" would be truer. If women had
thirty "good stories" twenty-nine of which could not be told to men, it
is possible that men, if they heard some of the twenty-nine, would not
find them funny. The overweight of one sex has told in our amusements
as everywhere else.
Because men are further developed in humanity than women are as yet,
they have built and organized great places of amusement; because they
carried into their humanity their unchecked masculinity, they have made
these amusements to correspond. Dramatic expression, is in its true
sense, not only a human distinction, but one of our noblest arts. It is
allied with the highest emotions; is religious, educational, patriotic,
covering the whole range of human feeling. Through it we should be able
continually to express, in audible, visible forms, alive and moving,
whatever phase of life we most enjoyed or wished to see. There was a
time when the drama led life; lifted, taught, inspired, enlightened.
Now its main function is to amuse. Under the demand for amusement, it
has cheapened and coarsened, and now the thousand vaudevilles and
picture shows give us the broken fragments of a degraded art of which
our one main demand is that it shall make us laugh.
There are many causes at work here; and while this study seeks to show
in various fields one cause, it does not claim that cause is the only
one. Our economic conditions have enormous weight upon our amusements,
as on all other human phenomena; but even under economic pressure the
reactions of men and women are often dissimilar. Tired men and women
both need amusement, the relaxation and restful change of irresponsible
gayety. The great majority of women, who work longer hours than any
other class, need it desperately and never get it. Amusement,
entertainment, recreation, should be open to us all, enjoyed by all.
This is a human need, and not a distinction of either sex. Like most
human things it is not only largely monopolized by men, but masculized
throughout. Many forms of amusement are for men only; more for men
mostly; all are for men if they choose to go.
The entrance of women upon the stage, and their increased attendance at
theatres has somewhat modified the nature of the performance; even the
"refined vaudeville" now begins to show the influence of women. It
would be no great advantage to have this department of human life
feminized; the improvement desired is to have it less masculized; to
reduce the excessive influence of one, and to bring out those broad
human interests and pleasures which men and women can equally
participate in and enjoy.
A Human Being goes past my house
Day after day, hour after hour,
Screaming in agony.
It is dreadful to hear him.
He beats the air with his hands, blindly, despairingly.
He shrieks with pain.
The passers-by do not notice him.
The woman who is with him does not notice him.
The policeman does not notice him.
No ambulance comes ringing.
No doctor rushes out of a house--no crowd collects.
He screams and screams.
No one notices him.
I bear him coming again.
It is terrible--one day after another.
I look out of my window.
Yes--the same Human Being--the same agony.
I cannot bear it. I rush down--out into the street.
I say to the woman who is with him--
"Why do you not do something?"
She says there is nothing to be done. She resents my interference.
She is a hired person, hired by the owner of the Human Being.
That is why no one does anything--
We dare not interfere with the Owner.
He is a very young Human Being,
That is why no one notices--
We are used to the sound of agony and the indifference of hired persons.
COMMENT AND REVIEW
The spread of social ethics among the medical profession is cause for
great rejoicing. Long and justly celebrated as benefactors of humanity,
and upholding with devotion the high ideals of their profession, they
have now begun to widen their usefulness and extend their ideals under
the general social awakening of our time.
Social sanitation is a rapidly extending process; as fast as our
discoveries reveal the nature of disease or new remedies therefor, our
governments, local and national, are beginning to safeguard the
In the general movement to lengthen and strengthen human life, doctors
are necessarily most prominent because of their special knowledge. They
have long been necessary. they have become more and more valuable, but
their usefulness is still checked (as is true of all of us) by the
persistence of conservatism and old ideas.
Very recently the advance of bacteriological science has thrown new
light on a group of especially dangerous diseases; and still more
recently the doctors themselves, with a splendid exertion of social
conscience against tradition and habit, have begun to disseminate this
new light to the general public.
Those special payments of the "wages of sin," spoken of in varying
euphemisms, most commonly as "social diseases" are now better understood
by physicians; and they are making noble efforts to spread this
understanding among the people. Their efforts are gravely hindered by
two obstacles; one the professional tradition known as "the medical
secret," the other the universal prevalence of that primordial
superstition--the sex tabu.
This last belongs to the very deepest sedimentary deposit in the human
mind. The first rules the lowest savage peoples began to make were the
sex tabus and food tabus. Secrecy, mystery, all manner of childish
hocus pocus, were used to establish these primitive ideas; and the
weight of that black past is upon its yet.
The less developed a race, the less educated a class, the more solemn
and earnest they are in preserving the sex tabus; whereas with wide
scientific knowledge this field of facts is seen to be like others;
important and worth understanding; but not as special arcana to be
concealed and avoided.
If the doctors come forward to tell us how the typhoid bacillus is
disseminated, how dangerous it is, and how it is to be avoided, we are
interested, grateful, and more or less willing to profit by the
instruction. But when they try to tell us how the gonococcus attacks
humanity, how dangerous it, and how it is to be avoided, we say, "Sh!
That is something you mustn't talk about!"
To the credit of the profession they have kept on talking, many of them.
To the credit of some of our bravest and wisest editors the talk has
been widely published. And right here I wish to pay a well deserved
tribute to the "Ladies' Home Journal," which ought to have a Nobel prize
for great public service.
That paper--long scorned by me as the arch-type of all small
ultra-feminine backwardness, did the bravest thing a paper can do,
risked its whole position by flying in the face of the public and
printing the clearest, fullest, most enlightening accounts of the
present status of these "social diseases," their terrible effects, and
our duty toward them. It lost subscribers by the thousand and hundred
thousand, but it did the work; and did it better than any other
publication could; not only on account of its enormous circulation, but
because it went into the homes of pious and unenlightened persons who
would never have seen the information in more progressive magazines.
The negative inertia and positive resistance of the popular mind cannot
forever resist the constantly increasing pressure of knowledge now
poured forth on this subject.
But there is that other obstacle--the tradition of secrecy in the
Doctors take the Hipprocratic oath. They solemnly swear not to reveal
the confidences of their patients; or, more properly their innocent
confidences. They are not bound like priests in the confessional; if a
patient tells the doctor he has poisoned his mother or is about to
poison his father, the doctor is not bound to conceal the facts.
Nevertheless, if a patient afflicted with one of these highly contagious
diseases tells his doctor that he has poisoned his wife, or is to poison
his child--the doctor feels professionally bound to keep silence.
What puzzles an outsider is to see why the medical mind discriminates so
sharply here between the conduct required in cases of small pox or
scarlet fever, and in this case. If you tell the doctor you have
leprosy--there's nothing sacred about that. Off with you to the pest
house, at any cost of pain and shame to you or your family. Is the
whole community to be exposed to infection just to save your feelings?
So even with measles, with diphtheria, with yellow fever. The privacy
of the home is invaded, families are ruthlessly separated, the strong
arm of the law is reached out to protect the public against this danger;
and the doctor, so far from conniving with the patient, is legally
required to record all cases of this sort.
Now where is the difference?
These special diseases are more dangerous--and far more common, than
most of these mentioned above; and their effects, hereditary as well as
contagious, of measureless evil.
We are told that the difference is one of moral obliquity.
But surely there is no veil of secrecy about moral obliquity! If a man
is a thief or a murderer we do not respect his confidence and conceal
his offence. The papers justify their fierce blazonry of crimes and
sins by saying that it strengthens public opinion--protects the people.
No, it is not because of moral obliquity.
It is for precisely the same reason that you must not make inquiries of
a Chinaman as to his wife's health, or see a Turkish lady without her
veil--it is "improper!"
The doctors and the boards of health together can soon change this silly
convention, and the physician be required to register every case of this
sort as he does in other contagious diseases.
All this is called up at this time by a little book named "Never Told
Tales," sent me by the author, Dr. William Robinson of New York City.
It is a brave little book. Dr. Robinson is not a novelist by
profession, but his heart is so wrung and his brain so roused by the
hidden tragedy he sees all about him that he has reached out into
literature for aid. Everywhere this mischief creeps about, centering
rankly in every large city; carried everywhere by those infected;
bringing death, deformity, and hideous diseases into thousands of
innocent families; spreading, growing, and nobody saying anything about
Dr. Robinson has said something. He has thrown out the little book of
stories, hoping that in the vivid narrative form it may reach and appeal
to those who would not read "medical literature"; or even the new and
impressive books now to be had on this subject.
For solid information of a clear and serious sort, readable and clean,
Dr. Prince Morrow's book, "Social Diseases and Marriage" is the best I
know. Dr. Morrow is the founder of the American Society of Sanitary and
Moral Prophylaxis in New York City; a splendid effort on the part of the
medical profession to spread even to unwilling ears this necessary
The New York Federation of Women's Clubs has lately taken action on the
subject; passing resolutions urging in this state an amendment to the
Domestic Relations law requiring every marriage certificate to be
accompanied by a medical certificate also, certifying the applicant to
be free from contagious disease. This is already required in several
western states. It seems a simple and righteous proposition. If a man
wishes to join the army or navy, or to have his life insured, he has to
pass a physical examination, and is refused if he is unfit. Is not
marriage and parenthood as important as carrying life insurance?
There is a large and growing interest in these matters among intelligent
women; and it is a natural and proper one. If a woman is to unite her
life with a man, she surely has a right to know whether her own life is
to be risked by the union. If she looks forward to motherhood as every
normal woman should, she should be safeguarded from this terrible
It is time there was wide, full public knowledge on this subject.
This from a recent newspaper: "When a reporter called at the address,
Miss Doe or Mrs. Roe appeared in a highly nervous state as a result of
her struggles during the day to keep out of the way of reporters. It
took half an hour's argument to induce her to acknowledge the marriage."
As the whole story treats of this lady's marriage, the calling her
"Miss" appears to be a needlessly elaborate insult; but what seems most
prominent here is the naive brutality of the inquisitor.
Here is a runaway match; the groom being a student and the son of a
somewhat prominent man; it is a bit of gossip, of no general importance
whatever, the publication of which is sure to cause intense distress to
the bride, the groom, the father, and the heads of the institution where
the young man was being educated.
In pursuit of this utterly unnecessary "news" the young bride is hounded
into a "highly nervous condition" by the person hired to meddle in
private affairs for trade purposes. The effect of her previous
"struggle to keep out of the way" is calmly noted by the successful
intruder; he forces himself in where he was not wanted; he remains
admittedly against the will of the occupier; he talks like a book-agent
and wears out the already nervous woman till he makes her "acknowledge
As a personal problem, why should any citizen submit to be exploited in
this manner for trade purposes?
As a public problem, why should any tradesman be allowed to practice
this sort of psychic assault and battery?
The position was well expressed by a wise man as follows: "If the
newspaper is a public business for public service, by what right do
personal owners make fortunes out of it? If it is a personal business
for personal profit, by what right does it meddle with my private
This might be made an extremely debatable question: What right has
anyone to keep to himself some process, drug, or special knowledge of
real value to humanity? Patents or royalties may be allowed, with full
freedom to use, but has he the right to conceal and withhold his
benefaction? Or suppose again, that one has some distinction of no use
to humanity, yet of sufficient interest to the gaping crowd to command a
price for exhibition; if one is a Bearded Lady, say, or a Living
Skeleton, or a Fat Boy, and if one makes a living by exhibiting these
peculiarities and selling one's photograph--then would it be just to
allow any and every photographer to forcibly take one's picture and sell
Further, suppose one has a private history rich in biographical
revelations, and intended to publish the same, after the manner of those
major and minor ego-maniacs of the astounding "confessions"; then is it
right that the public scandal pedlars be allowed to chase their prey
into his or her private house, and by a sort of "third degree" process
wring from the exhausted and irritated victim these biographical
tidbits, that they may go and sell them to their own profit?
"The public is interested in these things," we are gravely told by these
who thus make a living.
The Public might, conceivably, be interested in the table manners of
certain noted persons, or their expressions while shaving, or "doing
Is it therefore permissible that dealers in picture post-cards, or
makers of moving picture. shows, come in with cameras at mealtimes or
toilette hours, and photograph the lifted soupspoon, the purchased hair,
or cheek stretched under the razor?
The right of society to the best service of all, we must accept as
paramount; but what right has a private individual to exploit the
secrets of other private individuals merely for his own financial
profit? And how can he claim "social service" as his excuse, when what
he does is no benefit but an injury to society?
Do we not need a wide and thorough revision of our ideas as to social
and personal rights?
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 fantasty, comment and review. It is written
entirely by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
_What is it For?_ It is to stimulate thought: to arouse hope, courage
and impatience; to offer practical suggestions and solutions, to voice
the strong assurance of better living, here, now, in our own hands to
_What is it about?_ It is about people, principles, and the questions
of every-day life; the personal and public problems of to-day. It gives
a clear, consistent view of human life and how to live it.
_Is it a Woman's magazine?_ It will treat all three phases of our
existence--male, female and human. It will discuss Man, in his true
place in life; Woman, the Unknown Power; the Child, the most important
_Is it a Socialist Magazine?_ It is a magazine for humanity, and
humanity is social. It holds that Socialism, the economic theory, is
part of our gradual Socialization, and that the duty of conscious
humanity is to promote Socialization.
_Why is it published?_ It is published to express ideas which need a
special medium; and in the belief that there are enough persons
interested in those ideas to justify the undertaking.
AS TO ADVERTISING:
We have long heard that "A pleased customer is the best advertiser."
The Forerunner offers to its advertisers and readers the benefit of this
authority. In its advertising department, under the above heading, will
be described articles personally known and used. So far as individual
experience and approval carry weight, and clear truthful description
command attention, the advertising pages of The Forerunner will be
useful to both dealer and buyer. If advertisers prefer to use their own
statements The Forerunner will publish them if it believes them to be
AS TO CONTENTS:
The main feature of the first year is a new book on a new subject with a
_"Our Androcentric Culture."_ this is a study of the historic effect on
normal human development of a too exclusively masculine civilization.
It shows what man, the male, has done to the world: and what woman, the
more human, may do to change it.
_"What Diantha Did."_ This is a serial novel. It shows the course of
true love running very crookedly--as it so often does--among the
obstructions and difficulties of the housekeeping problem--and solves
that problem. (NOT by co-operation.)
Among the short articles will appear:
"Private Morality and Public Immorality."
"The Beauty Women Have Lost"
"Our Overworked Instincts."
"The Nun in the Kitchen."
"Genius: Domestic and Maternal."
"A Small God and a Large Goddess."
"Animals in Cities."
"How We Waste Three-Fourths Of Our Money."
There will be short stories and other entertaining matter in each issue.
The department of "Personal Problems" does not discuss etiquette,
fashions or the removal of freckles. Foolish questions will not be
answered, unless at peril of the asker.
AS TO VALUE:
If you take this magazine one year you will have:
One complete novel . . . By C. P. Gilman
One new book . . . By C. P. Gilman
Twelve short stories . . . By C. P. Gilman
Twelve-and-more short articles . . . By C. P. Gilman
Twelve-and-more new poems . . . By C. P. Gilman
Twelve Short Sermons . . . By C. P. Gilman
Besides "Comment and Review" . . . By C. P. Gilman
"Personal Problems" . . . By C. P. Gilman
And many other things . . . By C. P. Gilman
DON'T YOU THINK IT'S WORTH A DOLLAR?
CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN'S MAGAZINE
CHARLTON CO., 67 WALL ST., NEW YORK
Please find enclosed $_____ as subscription to "The Forerunner" from
_____ 19___ to _____ 19___
A Summer Cottage
on Lake Champlain
Near the Adirondacks
This is a six-room two-story cottage, natural wood finish, unplastered,
on two and a half acres of land, 600 feet on the lake, with an old apple
orchard and many other trees. It has on two sides covered piazzas,
outside blinds, open fireplaces in two rooms; and new white enameled
open plumbing, with hot and cold water. It is about a mile and a half
from Essex Village, and about one-quarter of a mile from the post
office, at the Crater Club, an exclusive summer colony. Access by boat
I have not seen this cottage, but I've seen plans, elevations and
photographs of it, and of views from it. It stands on a bluff, close to
the lake, the Green Mountains far in the east, and the Adirondacks some
twelve miles to the west. The people who own it will answer further
questions and state facts fully on request, both advantages and
The list of furnishings is accurate and circumstantial, as follows:
INVENTORY OF CONTENTS OF COTTAGE
Mahogany sofa, small mahogany table
Marble-topped table and "Crowning of Esther"
4 rosewood chairs, steamer chair
Whatnot, wall-bracket, books, basket
Mahogany table, small round 3-legged
Long mantel mirror, gilt frame
3 oil paintings, 3 engravings
Rustic seat (filled with wood)
Old-fashioned heating stove, crated
Candle-lantern, 2 Japanese trays
Tongs-holder, hearth brush
Child's garden tools
2 sofa cushions
Various small ornaments
Ironing Table, stand, wax, bosom board
Tin pail, dipper, basin
1 new broom, 1 old broom
Tool box, tools, nails, saw, hatchet
Hammock, barrel hammock, tie ropes
Soap rack, dustpan, scrap basket
Folding hat rack, ladder
Carving set, 6 knives (very old)
Coffee pot, toaster, egg whip, egg beater
5 large white china plates
5 medium and 6 small ditto
6 demi tasse and saucers, same
2 tea cups, 6 saucers, same
2 egg stands, green; 2 sugar bowls
1 butterfly cup and saucer
6 glasses, 1 lemon squeezer
1 mechanical red-glass lamp
2 reading lamps, 3 small hand lamps
3 small bracket lamps, 1 shade
White shades at all windows
Green bedstead (three-quarter)
2 mattresses, 2 pillows, madras cover
Green bureau; green washstand
Green table; green rocking chair
Oak chair; 2 pictures; 1 chamber
LARGE EAST BEDROOM
Oak bedstead (double)
Oak bureau, oak washstand
2 mattresses, 2 feather beds, 1 bolster
2 pillows, madras spread
1 box cot, 1 mattress, straw pillow
2 chairs, 2 towel racks
Bureau cover, pen cushion, etc.
Black walnut single bedstead
1 hair mattress and bolster
1 pillow, 1 feather bed, 1 madras spread
Bureau (mirror broken), 2 towel racks
Mahogany washstand, mirror
Small 3-legged table
3 rosewood chairs
Bureau cover, pin cushion, etc.
Shoebag on wall
Oil painting, on copper
Brass stair rods, in closet
2 mahogany bureaus, empty trunk
Portable bath-tub, clothes basket
On shelves: 7 sheets, 7 pillow cases
3 table cloths, 10 doilies
4 towels, dish cloths and towels
Bureau and tray cloths
Curtains, enough for doors
Curtains for some windows
Apply to "Summer Cottage," care of The Forerunner or to John B. Burnham,
Agent, Essex, N.Y.
A MONTHLY MAGAZINE
CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
AUTHOR, OWNER & PUBLISHER
1.00 A YEAR
.10 A COPY
Volume 1. No. 7
Copyright for 1910
C. P. Gilman
Having made pockets, we need not carry so many things in our hands.
Having made books, we need not carry so many things in our heads.
We offer our hearts to God, contrite and broken;
Why not offer our brains, whole and alive?
Why follow the grovelling words wailing old races have spoken?
Bow and submit, when we ought to resist and strive!
What is this "heart" that you offer? A circulator,
An organ that quivers and starts at the fears of the hour.
Why not offer your head? And hold it straighter?
Bring to the service of God your noblest power?
When we learn to credit Him with our great ideals, and greater--
When we all stand up at last, stop kissing the rod--
When we bring the brains of to-day to seek and serve the Creator--
God will look better to us, and we shall look better to God.
WHEN I WAS A WITCH
If I had understood the terms of that one-sided contract with Satan, the
Time of Witching would have lasted longer--you may be sure of that. But
how was I to tell? It just happened, and has never happened again,
though I've tried the same preliminaries as far as I could control them.
The thing began all of a sudden, one October midnight--the 30th, to be
exact. It had been hot, really hot, all day, and was sultry and
thunderous in the evening; no air stirring, and the whole house stewing
with that ill-advised activity which always seems to move the steam
radiator when it isn't wanted.
I was in a state of simmering rage--hot enough, even without the weather
and the furnace--and I went up on the roof to cool off. A top-floor
apartment has that advantage, among others--you can take a walk without
the mediation of an elevator boy!
There are things enough in New York to lose one's temper over at the
best of times, and on this particular day they seemed to all happen at
once, and some fresh ones. The night before, cats and dogs had broken
my rest, of course. My morning paper was more than usually mendacious;
and my neighbor's morning paper--more visible than my own as I went down
town--was more than usually salacious. My cream wasn't cream--my egg
was a relic of the past. My "new" napkins were giving out.
Being a woman, I'm supposed not to swear; but when the motorman
disregarded my plain signal, and grinned as he rushed by; when the
subway guard waited till I was just about to step on board and then
slammed the door in my face--standing behind it calmly for some minutes
before the bell rang to warrant his closing--I desired to swear like a
At night it was worse. The way people paw one's back in the crowd! The
cow-puncher who packs the people in or jerks them out--the men who smoke
and spit, law or no law--the women whose saw-edged cart-wheel hats,
swashing feathers and deadly pins, add so to one's comfort inside.
Well, as I said, I was in a particularly bad temper, and went up on the
roof to cool off. Heavy black clouds hung low overhead, and lightning
flickered threateningly here and there.
A starved, black cat stole from behind a chimney and mewed dolefully.
Poor thing! She had been scalded.
The street was quiet for New York. I leaned over a little and looked up
and down the long parallels of twinkling lights. A belated cab drew
near, the horse so tired he could hardly hold his head up.
Then the driver, with a skill born of plenteous practice, flung out his
long-lashed whip and curled it under the poor beast's belly with a
stinging cut that made me shudder. The horse shuddered too, poor
wretch, and jingled his harness with an effort at a trot.
I leaned over the parapet and watched that man with a spirit of
"I wish," said I, slowly--and I did wish it with all my heart--"that
every person who strikes or otherwise hurts a horse unnecessarily, shall
feel the pain intended--and the horse not feel it!"
It did me good to say it, anyhow, but I never expected any result. I
saw the man swing his great whip again, and--lay on heartily. I saw him
throw up his hands--heard him scream--but I never thought what the
matter was, even then.
The lean, black cat, timid but trustful, rubbed against my skirt and
"Poor Kitty" I said; "poor Kitty! It is a shame!" And I thought
tenderly of all the thousands of hungry, hunted cats who stink and
suffer its a great city.
Later, when I tried to sleep, and up across the stillness rose the
raucous shrieks of some of these same sufferers, my pity turned cold.
"Any fool that will try to keep a cat in a city!" I muttered, angrily.
Another yell--a pause--an ear-torturing, continuous cry. "I wish," I
burst forth, "that every cat in the city was comfortably dead!"
A sudden silence fell, and in course of time I got to sleep.
Things went fairly well next morning, till I tried another egg. They
were expensive eggs, too.
"I can't help it!" said my sister, who keeps house.
"I know you can't," I admitted. "But somebody could help it. I wish
the people who are responsible had to eat their old eggs, and never get
a good one till they sold good ones!"
"They'd stop eating eggs, that's all," said my sister, "and eat meat."
"Let 'em eat meat!" I said, recklessly. "The meat is as bad as the
eggs! It's so long since we've had a clean, fresh chicken that I've
forgotten how they taste!"
"It's cold storage," said my sister. She is a peaceable sort; I'm not.
"Yes, cold storage!" I snapped. "It ought to be a blessing--to tide
over shortages, equalize supplies, and lower prices. What does it do?
Corner the market, raise prices the year round, and make all the food
My anger rose. "If there was any way of getting at them!" I cried.
"The law don't touch 'em. They need to be cursed somehow! I'd like to
do it! I wish the whole crowd that profit by this vicious business
might taste their bad meat, their old fish, their stale milk--whatever
they ate. Yes, and feel the prices as we do!"
"They couldn't you know; they're rich," said my sister.
"I know that," I admitted, sulkily. "There's no way of getting at 'em.
But I wish they could. And I wish they knew how people hated 'em, and
felt that, too--till they mended their ways!"
When I left for my office I saw a funny thing. A man who drove a
garbage cart took his horse by the bits and jerked and wrenched
brutally. I was amazed to see him clap his hands to his own jaws with a
moan, while the horse philosophically licked his chops and looked at
The man seemed to resent his expression, and struck him on the head,
only to rub his own poll and swear amazedly, looking around to see who
had hit him. the horse advanced a step, stretching a hungry nose toward
a garbage pail crowned with cabbage leaves, and the man, recovering his
sense of proprietorship, swore at him and kicked him in the ribs. That
time he had to sit down, turning pale and weak. I watched with growing
wonder and delight.
A market wagon came clattering down the street; the hard-faced young
ruffian fresh for his morning task. He gathered the ends of the reins
and brought them down on the horse's back with a resounding thwack. The
horse did not notice this at all, but the boy did. He yelled!
I came to a place where many teamsters were at work hauling dirt and
crushed stone. A strange silence and peace hung over the scene where
usually the sound of the lash and sight of brutal blows made me hurry
by. The men were talking together a little, and seemed to be exchanging
notes. It was too good to be true. I gazed and marvelled, waiting for
It came, merrily running along. It was not full. There was one not far
ahead, which I had missed in watching the horses; there was no other
near it in the rear.
Yet the coarse-faced person in authority who ran it, went gaily by
without stopping, though I stood on the track almost, and waved my
A hot flush of rage surged to my face. "I wish you felt the blow you
deserve," said I, viciously, looking after the car. "I wish you'd have
to stop, and back to here, and open the door and apologize. I wish that
would happen to all of you, every time you play that trick."
To my infinite amazement, that car stopped and backed till the front
door was before me. The motorman opened it. holding his hand to his
cheek. "Beg your pardon, madam!" he said.
I passed in, dazed, overwhelmed. Could it be? Could it possibly be
that--that what I wished came true. The idea sobered me, but I
dismissed it with a scornful smile. "No such luck!" said I.
Opposite me sat a person in petticoats. She was of a sort I
particularly detest. No real body of bones and muscles, but the
contours of grouped sausages. Complacent, gaudily dressed, heavily
wigged and ratted, with powder and perfume and flowers and jewels--and a
A poor, wretched, little, artificial dog--alive, but only so by virtue
of man's insolence; not a real creature that God made. And the dog had
clothes on--and a bracelet! His fitted jacket had a pocket--and a
pocket-handkerchief! He looked sick and unhappy.
I meditated on his pitiful position, and that of all the other poor
chained prisoners, leading unnatural lives of enforced celibacy, cut off
from sunlight, fresh air, the use of their limbs; led forth at stated
intervals by unwilling servants, to defile our streets; over-fed,
under-exercised, nervous and unhealthy.
"And we say we love them!" said I, bitterly to myself. "No wonder they
bark and howl and go mad. No wonder they have almost as many diseases
as we do! I wish--" Here the thought I had dismissed struck me agin.
"I wish that all the unhappy dogs in cities would die at once!"
I watched the sad-eyed little invalid across the car. He dropped his
head and died. She never noticed it till she got off; then she made
The evening papers were full of it. Some sudden pestilence had struck
both dogs and cats, it would appear. Red headlines struck the eye, big
letters, and columns were filled out of the complaints of those who had
lost their "pets," of the sudden labors of the board of health, and
interviews with doctors.
All day, as I went through the office routine, the strange sense of this
new power struggled with reason and common knowledge. I even tried a
few furtive test "wishes"--wished that the waste basket would fall over,
that the inkstand would fill itself; but they didn't.
I dismissed the idea as pure foolishness, till I saw those newspapers,
and heard people telling worse stories.
One thing I decided at once--not to tell a soul. "Nobody'd believe me
if I did," said I to myself. "And I won't give 'em the chance. I've
scored on cats and dogs, anyhow--and horses."
As I watched the horses at work that afternoon, and thought of all their
unknown sufferings from crowded city stables, bad air and insufficient
food, and from the wearing strain of asphalt pavements in wet and icy
weather, I decided to have another try on horses.
"I wish," said I, slowly and carefully, but with a fixed intensity of
purposes, "that every horse owner, keeper, hirer and driver or rider,
might feel what the horse feels, when he suffers at our hands. Feel it
keenly and constantly till the case is mended."
I wasn't able to verify this attempt for some time; but the effect was
so general that it got widely talked about soon; and this "new wave of
humane feeling" soon raised the status of horses in our city. Also it
diminished their numbers. People began to prefer motor drays--which was
a mighty good thing.
Now I felt pretty well assured in my own mind, and kept my assurance to
self. Also I began to make a list of my cherished grudges, with a fine
sense of power and pleasure.
"I must be careful," I said to myself; "very careful; and, above all
things, make the punishment fit the crime."
The subway crowding came to my mind next; both the people who crowd
because they have to, and the people who make them. "I mustn't punish
anybody, for what they can't help," I mused. "But when it's pure
meanness!" Then I bethought me of the remote stockholders, of the more
immediate directors, of the painfully prominent officials and insolent
employees--and got to work.
"I might as well make a good job of it while this lasts," said I to
myself. "It's quite a responsibility, but lots of fun." And I wished
that every person responsible for the condition of our subways might be
mysteriously compelled to ride up and down in them continuously during
This experiment I watched with keen interest, but for the life of me I
could see little difference. There were a few more well-dressed persons
in the crowds, that was all. So I came to the conclusion that the
general public was mostly to blame, and carried their daily punishment
without knowing it.
For the insolent guards and cheating ticket-sellers who give you short
change, very slowly, when you are dancing on one foot and your train is
there, I merely wished that they might feel the pain their victims would
like to give them, short of real injury. They did, I guess.
Then I wished similar things for all manner of corporations and
officials. It worked. It worked amazingly. There was a sudden
conscientious revival all over the country. The dry bones rattled and
sat up. Boards of directors, having troubles enough of their own, were
aggravated by innumerable communications from suddenly sensitive
In mills and mints and railroads, things began to mend. The country
buzzed. The papers fattened. The churches sat up and took credit to
themselves. I was incensed at this; and, after brief consideration,
wished that every minister would preach to his congregation exactly what
he believed and what he thought of them.
I went to six services the next Sunday--about ten minutes each, for two
sessions. It was most amusing. A thousand pulpits were emptied
forthwith, refilled, re-emptied, and so on, from week to week. People
began to go to church; men largely--women didn't like it as well. They
had always supposed the ministers thought more highly of them than now
appeared to be the case.
One of my oldest grudges was against the sleeping-car people; and now I
began to consider them. How often I had grinned and borne it--with
other thousands--submitting helplessly.
Here is a railroad--a common carrier--and you have to use it. You pay
for your transportation, a good round sum.
Then if you wish to stay in the sleeping car during the day, they charge
you another two dollars and a half for the privilege of sitting there,
whereas you have paid for a seat when you bought your ticket. That seat
is now sold to another person--twice sold! Five dollars for twenty-four
hours in a space six feet by three by three at night, and one seat by
day; twenty-four of these privileges to a car--$120 a day for the rent
of the car--and the passengers to pay the porter besides. That makes
$44,800 a year.
Sleeping cars are expensive to build, they say. So are hotels; but they
do not charge at such a rate. Now, what could I do to get even?
Nothing could ever put back the dollars into the millions of pockets;
but it might be stopped now, this beautiful process.
So I wished that all persons who profited by this performance might feel
a shame so keen that they would make public avowal and apology, and, as
partial restitution, offer their wealth to promote the cause of free
Then I remembered parrots. This was lucky, for my wrath flamed again.
It was really cooling, as I tried to work out responsibility and adjust
penalties. But parrots! Any person who wants to keep a parrot should
go and live on an island alone with their preferred conversationalist!
There was a huge, squawky parrot right across the street from me, adding
its senseless, rasping cries to the more necessary evils of other
I had also an aunt with a parrot. She was a wealthy, ostentatious
person, who had been an only child and inherited her money.
Uncle Joseph hated the yelling bird, but that didn't make any difference
to Aunt Mathilda.
I didn't like this aunt, and wouldn't visit her, lest she think I was
truckling for the sake of her money; but after I had wished this time, I
called at the time set for my curse to work; and it did work with a
vengeance. There sat poor Uncle Joe, looking thinner and meeker than
ever; and my aunt, like an overripe plum, complacent enough.
"Let me out!" said Polly, suddenly. "Let me out to take a walk!"
"The clever thing!" said Aunt Mathilda. "He never said that before."
She let him out. Then he flapped up on the chandelier and sat among the
prisms, quite safe.
"What an old pig you are, Mathilda!" said the parrot.
She started to her feet--naturally.
"Born a Pig--trained a Pig--a Pig by nature and education!" said the
parrot. "Nobody'd put up with you, except for your money; unless it's
this long-suffering husband of yours. He wouldn't, if he hadn't the
patience of Job!"
"Hold your tongue!" screamed Aunt Mathilda. "Come down from there!
Polly cocked his head and jingled the prisms. "Sit down, Mathilda!" he
said, cheerfully. "You've got to listen. You are fat and homely and
selfish. You are a nuisance to everybody about you. You have got to
feed me and take care of me better than ever--and you've got to listen
to me when I talk. Pig!"
I visited another person with a parrot the next day. She put a cloth
over his cage when I came in.
"Take it off!" said Polly. She took it off.
"Won't you come into the other room?" she asked me, nervously.
"Better stay here!" said her pet. "Sit still--sit still!"
She sat still.
"Your hair is mostly false," said pretty Poll. "And your teeth--and
your outlines. You eat too much. You are lazy. You ought to exercise,
and don't know enough. Better apologize to this lady for backbiting!
You've got to listen."
The trade in parrots fell off from that day; they say there is no call
for them. But the people who kept parrots, keep them yet--parrots live
a long time.
Bores were a class of offenders against whom I had long borne undying
enmity. Now I rubbed my hands and began on them, with this simple wish:
That every person whom they bored should tell them the plain truth.
There is one man whom I have specially in mind. He was blackballed at a
pleasant club, but continues to go there. He isn't a member--he just
goes; and no one does anything to him.
It was very funny after this. He appeared that very night at a meeting,
and almost every person present asked him how he came there. "You're
not a member, you know," they said. "Why do you butt in? Nobody likes
Some were more lenient with him. "Why don't you learn to be more
considerate of others, and make some real friends?" they said. "To have
a few friends who do enjoy your visits ought to be pleasanter than being
a public nuisance."
He disappeared from that club, anyway.
I began to feel very cocky indeed.
In the food business there was already a marked improvement; and in
transportation. The hubbub of reformation waxed louder daily, urged on
by the unknown sufferings of all the profiters by iniquity.
The papers thrived on all this; and as I watched the loud-voiced
protestations of my pet abomination in journalism, I had a brilliant
Next morning I was down town early, watching the men open their papers.
My abomination was shamefully popular, and never more so than this
morning. Across the top was printing in gold letters:
All intentional lies, in adv., editorial, news, or any other column. .
All malicious matter. . .Crimson
All careless or ignorant mistakes. . .Pink
All for direct self-interest of owner. . .Dark green
All mere bait--to sell the paper. . .Bright green
All advertising, primary or secondary. . .Brown
All sensational and salacious matter. . .Yellow
All hired hypocrisy. . .Purple
Good fun, instruction and entertainment. . .Blue
True and necessary news and honest editorials. . .Ordinary print
You never saw such a crazy quilt of a paper. They were bought like hot
cakes for some days; but the real business fell off very soon. They'd
have stopped it all if they could; but the papers looked all right when
they came off the press. The color scheme flamed out only to the
I let this work for about a week, to the immense joy of all the other
papers; and then turned it on to them, all at once. Newspaper reading
became very exciting for a little, but the trade fell off. Even
newspaper editors could not keep on feeding a market like that. The
blue printed and ordinary printed matter grew from column to column and
page to page. Some papers--small, to be sure, but refreshing--began to
appear in blue and black alone.
This kept me interested and happy for quite a while; so much so that I
quite forgot to be angry at other things. There was _such_ a change in
all kinds of business, following the mere printing of truth in the
newspapers. It began to appear as if we had lived in a sort of
delirium--not really knowing the facts about anything. As soon as we
really knew the facts, we began to behave very differently, of course.
What really brought all my enjoyment to an end was women. Being a
woman, I was naturally interested in them, and could see some things
more clearly than men could. I saw their real power, their real
dignity, their real responsibility in the world; and then the way they
dress and behave used to make me fairly frantic. 'Twas like seeing
archangels playing jackstraws--or real horses only used as
rocking-horses. So I determined to get after them.
How to manage it! What to hit first! Their hats, their ugly, inane,
outrageous hats--that is what one thinks of first. Their silly,
expensive clothes--their diddling beads and jewelry--their greedy
childishness--mostly of the women provided for by rich men.
Then I thought of all the other women, the real ones, the vast majority,
patiently doing the work of servants without even a servant's pay--and
neglecting the noblest duties of motherhood in favor of house-service;
the greatest power on earth, blind, chained, untaught, in a treadmill.
I thought of what they might do, compared to what they did do, and my
heart swelled with something that was far from anger.
Then I wished--with all my strength--that women, all women, might
realize Womanhood at last; its power and pride and place in life; that
they might see their duty as mothers of the world--to love and care for
everyone alive; that they might see their dirty to men--to choose only
the best, and then to bear and rear better ones; that they might see
their duty as human beings, and come right out into full life and work
I stopped, breathless, with shining eyes. I waited, trembling, for
things to happen.
You see, this magic which had fallen on me was black magic--and I had
It didn't work at all, and, what was worse, it stopped all the other
things that were working so nicely.
Oh, if I had only thought to wish permanence for those lovely
punishments! If only I had done more while I could do it, had half
appreciated my privileges when I was a Witch!
"I can understand," says Eugene Wood, "how some women want to vote. And
I can understand how some women do not want to vote."
"But I can't understand how some women do not want other women to vote."
BELIEVING AND KNOWING
What is Believing--psychologically? What does the brain do when it
"believes" that is different from what it does when it "knows"?
There is a difference. When you know a thing you don't have to believe
it. There is no effort, and no credit attached, in knowing; but this
act of "believing" has long been held as both difficult and worthy.
There seems to be not only a clearly marked distinction between knowing
and believing, but a direct incompatibility. It may be said roughly
that the less we know the more we believe, and the more we know the less
we believe. The credulity of the child, the savage, and the less
educated classes in society, is in sharp contrast with the relative
incredulity of the adult civilized human, and the more highly educated.
There is a difference also shown in our mental sensations as to a thing
believed and a thing known. If a man tells you that grass is red and
the sky yellow, you merely think him color blind--It does not anger you
nor alter your opinion. If he tells you that two and two make ten, you
think him ignorant, weak-minded, but your view is not changed, nor are
you enraged by him. But if he contradicts you on some religious dogma
you are hurt and angry. Why? As a matter of direct
physicho-psychological action, why?
To make a physical comparison, it is like the difference between being
pushed against when you stand square on your feet, and pushed when you
stand on one leg.
Or again, the thing you know is like something nailed down, or planted
and growing; the thing you believe like something held up by main force,
and quite likely to be joggled or blown away. "Do not try to shake my
faith!" protests the believer. He does not object to your trying to
shake his knowledge.
If the new knowledge you bring him is evidently a matter of fact, if his
brain rationally perceives that he was wrong about this thing, and you
are right, he removes his incorrect idea and establishes the correct
one, with no more disagreeable sensation than a little sense of
shame:--not that, if he was wise enough to admit ignorance gracefully.
But the new faith you bring him is quite another matter. He hangs on to
his old faith as if there was a virtue in the mental attitude of
belief--aha! now we are on the track! He has been taught that there is!
We receive knowledge and faith in quite different ways, with quite
different emphasis. The child learns--and learns--and learns--every day
of his life; learns year after year, as long as his brain is able to
receive impressions. This vast mass of knowledge is for the most part
received indiscriminately and assorted by the brain after its own
There are but few departments of knowledge to which we have attached
arbitrary ideas of superiority; and those fortunately, are all old ones.
Knowledge of "the classics" was once kept in the same box with social
standing, if not with orthodoxy; and to this day an error in spelling or
grammar will condemn a person far more than entire ignorance of
physiology or mechanics. Knowledge is a vast range, an unlimited range,
visibly subject to extension; each new peak surmounted showing us many
more. We learn, unlearn, and relearn, without much opposition or
criticism, so long as our little bunch of specialties is assured--the
spelling, for instance.
But when it comes to believing, disbelieving, and rebelieving--that is a
different matter. Certain things were given us to believe--in our
racial infancy--before we knew much of anything, and were therefore far
more capable of believing. These articles of belief were sincerely held
to be the most important matters; and they were too; because, if any
stronger minded race infant refused to believe them, he was
ostracised--or executed. What a man believed, or disbelieved, was the
keynote of life--in that interesting race infancy of ours. All the
other mental processes were as nothing compared to this. Knowledge?
There was none to speak of. Doubt was a crime. Inquiry was the
beginning of doubt.
The dogmas inserted did change, though slowly; but their importance in
the scheme of life did not change. Whatever else the man might or might
not be the first question was, "Art thou a Believer?" And he was. What
he believed might be the One Absolute Truth; or one of many contemptible
heresies; but he was always a believer.
They began with the helpless little children, and told them as the most
important basic truths, whatsoever religious doctrines were current at
the time; and renewed this process with every generation until this very
day--and are still at it. Many of the most pronounced free-thinkers not
only prefer to have their women still "devout," but insist on putting
their children through the old course of instruction.
So, in the course of these unbroken ages; under a combined treatment of
rigid "natural selection"--the elimination of the unfit, who were burned
or beheaded--and of the heaviest social pressure, in both education and
imitation; we have developed in the race mind a special area for
"believing" as distinct front knowing. This area is abnormally
sensitive because in those long ages behind us, it was the very vital
base of life itself. If your Belief was steady and intact, you were
permitted to live. If it was in the least degree wavering you were in
danger. Is it any wonder we object so automatically to anyone's trying
to "shake our faith?"
The change of the last century in this regard has been not only in the
sudden opening up of new fields of knowledge; not only in the adoption
of entire new methods in the acquisition of knowledge; not only in the
rapid popularization of knowledge; but most of all in a new relation of
ideas. We are beginning dimly to grasp something of the real scheme of
life; to get our sense of the basic verities from observation of facts.
That underlying scheme of life which the brain as an organ hungers for,
is now opening to us in the field of ascertained fact.
A broad deep satisfying conception of life may now be gathered from the
open book of natural law, both the perception of and the inspiration to
right living are to be found there; all matters of calm clear easily
held knowledge. When one knows enough to build a working religion on
established facts, one does not have so much need of that extra capacity
You may also believe what you know--but it isn't necessary.
It will be a wonderful thing for the world when in every mind the
beautiful truths of life shall be common knowledge. You may believe in
an alleged father you have never seen; but when you live with your
father you know him.
"Where is Heaven?" asked the Person.
"I want Heaven--to enjoy it;
I want Heaven, recompensing
For the evils I have suffered--
All the terrible injustice,
All the foolish waste and hunger--
Where is Heaven? Can I get there?"
Then the Priest expounded Heaven:
"Heaven is a place for dead men;
After you are dead you'll find it,
_If_"--and here the Priest was earnest--
"_If_ you do the things I tell you--
Do exactly what is ordered!
It will cost you quite a little--
You must pay a price for Heaven--
You must pay before you enter."
"Am I sure of what I'm getting?"
Asked the mean, suspicious Person.
"What you urge is disagreeable;
What you ask is quite expensive;
Am I sure of getting Heaven?"
Then the Priest prepared a potion,
Made of Concentrated Ages,
Made of Many Mingled Feelings--
Highest Hope and Deepest Terror--
Mixed our best and worst together,
Reverence and Love and Service,
Coward Fear and rank Self-Interest--
Gave him this when he was little,
Pumped it in before the Person
Could examine his prescription.
So the Person, thus instructed,
Now believed the things he told him;
Paid the price as he was able,
Died--the Priest said, went to Heaven--
None came back to contradict him!
"We want Heaven," said the People;
We believe in God and Heaven;
Where God is, there must be Heaven;
God is Here--and this is Heaven."
Then they saw the earth was lovely;
Life was sweet, and love eternal;
Then they learned the joy of living,
Caught a glimpse of what Life might be,
What it could be--should be--would be--
When the People chose to have it!
Then they bought no further tickets
Of the sidewalk speculators;
They no longer gave their children
The "spring medicine" of Grandma.
They said, "We will take no chances
Of what happens after dying;
We perceive that Human Beings,
Wise, and sweet, and brave, and tender,
Strong, and beautiful, and noble,
Living peaceably together,
In a universal garden,
With the Sciences for Soldiers,
With the Allied Arts for Angels,
With the Crafts and Trades for Servants,
With all Nature for the Teacher,
And all People for the Students,
Make a very pleasant Heaven.
We can see and understand it,
We believe we'd really like some;
Now we'll set to work and make it!
So they set to work, together,
In the Faith that rests on Knowledge,
In the Hope that's born of Wisdom.
In the Love that grows with Practise
And proceeded to make Heaven.
And God smiled. He had been tired
Of the everlasting dead men,
Of the hungry, grasping dead men;
He had always wanted live ones--
Wanted them to build the Kingdom!
A prosperous farmer, driving a valuable horse, will exhibit with pride
the "points" of his swift roadster--the fine action, the speed and
endurance. He himself sits stoop-shouldered and muscle-bound; strong,
it may be, but slow and awkward, with bad teeth and poor digestion; by
no means a model human being either in "points" or "action."
He never thinks of these things.
A virtuous housewife, running a comfortable house, has a justifiable
pride in the cleanliness, comfort and convenience of the place, in its
beautiful appointments and conveniences, and in her own. fine clothes!
She herself is stout, short-legged, incapable of any swift agility of
action; a brief run leaves her panting; she would be grotesque as a
statue; and her internal housekeeping is by no means as efficient as a
doctor would approve.
She never thinks of these things.
The same farmer will show you his stock--sheep, swine, fowls, cattle;
point out their superiority and talk learnedly of the best methods of
improvement. The same housewife will show you her fine needlework, her
fine cooking, and discuss patterns and recipes with gusto. Both the
farmer and his wife took prizes at the county fair--he for pigs and
poultry, she for pies.
Now look at their children.
She gathers little Johnny into her motherly arms. "Johnny was always
delicate!" she says tenderly. "He's a little backward because he's
delicate. Mother's boy!" And she kisses his smooth head as he nestles
up to her. "Adelaide had better go and lie down. Adelaide's not
strong. They work her too hard in school."
Jim looks sturdy enough, and makes noise enough, but the expert
perceives that Jimmy has adenoids, breathes through his mouth, is really
Here is the oldest boy, a tall, heavy fellow; but what a complexion!
"Quite natural for boys of that age; yes, he's real sensitive about it."
Well? They are "good children." When properly dressed, they compare
favorably with other people's children.
None of them would take any prizes in an exhibition of Human Stock.
There are no such prizes. As to the exhibition--that is continuous. We
are so used to the exhibition, and to its pitiful average, that we have
no ideals left.
Neither the farmer nor his wife ever thought of a Human Standard;
whether they came up to it, or if their children did, or of how they
might improve the breed.
We take humanity as we find it. We admire "beauty," or what we call
beauty; but we don't care enough for it to try to increase it. We are
concerned about our health after we lose it, but give small thought to
lifting the average. Young men vie with one another in athletic sports,
and have certain ideals, perhaps, of "military bearing," and the kind of
chest and chin a man should have; but all their ideals put together do
not make us as beautiful and strong as we have a right to be.
Then arise those who come to us talking largely of eugenics; wanting us
to breed super-men and super-women; talk[ing of improving] the race by
right selection. There is a lot of sense in this; we could do wonders
that way; of course, if we would. Certain obstacles arise, however.
Men and women seem to love each other on other grounds than physical
superiority. Those physically superior do not always have the most
superior children. Then, again, the physically superior children do not
always hold out through life, somehow.
This method of breeding and selection is nature's way. It works
well--give it a chance; but it has to be accompanied by a ruthless
slaughter of the unfit, and takes thousands upon thousands of years. We
have a method worth two of that.
We can improve the species after it is born.
That's the great human power, the conscious ability to improve ourselves
and our children. We have the power. We have the knowledge, too--some
of us have it, and all of us can get it.
The trouble is, speaking generally, that we haven't the standards.
Here is where our mothers need new ideals, and new information. A
person who is going to raise cattle ought to know something about
cattle; know what to expect of cattle, and how to produce it. Suppose
we had a course in Humaniculture to study. We have Agricultural
colleges; we study Horticulture, and Floriculture, and Apiculture and
Arboriculture. Why not have a Humanicultural College, and learn
something about how to raise people?
Such a course of study would begin with the theory, illustrating by
picture and model; and later should have practical illustration from the
living model, in nursery and school. The graduate from such a course
would have quite a different idea of human standards.
She would know the true proportions of the human body, and not call a
No. 2 foot "beautiful" on a No. 10 body. She would know what the real
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