The Forerunner, Volume 1 (1909-1910)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Part 9 out of 18
shape of the human body is, and that to alter it arbitrarily is a habit
of the lowest savagery. The shape of the body is the result of its
natural activities, and cannot be altered without injury to them. She
would learn that to interfere with the human shape, moulding it to lines
that have nothing to do with the living structure and its complex
functions, is as offensive and ridiculous as it would be to alter the
shape of a horse.
Should we not laugh to see a horse in corsets? The time is coming when
we shall so laugh to see a woman.
She would learn to measure beauty, human beauty, by full health and
vigor first of all, right proportion, full possession of all natural
power, and that the human animal is by nature swift, agile, active to a
high degree, and should remain so throughout life. So trained, she
would regard being "put on a car" by the elbow as an insult, not a
Then at last we should begin to have some notion of what to expect in
children, and how to get it. The girl would look forward not merely to
some vague little ones to love and care for, but to having finer
children than anyone else--if she could! And she would naturally have a
new standard of fatherhood, and sternly refuse to accept disease and the
vice which makes disease.
Then, when the children came, she would know the size and weight that
was normal, the way to feed and clothe the little body so as to promote
the best growth; the kind of exercise and training essential to develop
that legitimate human beauty and power which ought to belong to all of
We have our vulgar "Baby Shows," where fat-cheeked, over-fed younglings
are proudly exhibited. A time is coming when, without public
exhibitions, without prize-money or clamorous vote, we shall raise a new
standard in child culture--and live up to it.
When I was seventeen, you'd find
No youth so brash as I;
Things must be settled to my mind,
Or I'd know why!
I knew it all, and somewhat more,
What I believed was true;
The future held no task in store
I could not do!
If I had died in my youthful pride--
And no man can say when--
Should I have been immortal
As I was then? (Heaven forbid!)
When I was forty-two I stood
Successful, proud and strong;
Little I cared for bad or good--
My purse was long.
My breakfast, newspaper and train,--
My office,--the Exchange--
My work, my pleasure, and my gain--
A narrow range.
If I had died in my business pride--
And no man can say when--
Should I have been immortal
As I was then? (Heaven forbid!)
Now I am old, and yet I keep
I wake and sleep in the quiet deep
I don't believe, nor disbelieve--
I simply do not know.
I fear no grave--no heaven crave--
Am quite prepared to go.
But when I die--and I would not stay,
Though a friend should show me how,
Shall I become immortal,
As I am now? (Heaven forbid!)
WHAT DIANTHA DID
HERESY AND SCHISM.
You may talk about religion with a free and open mind,
For ten dollars you may criticize a judge;
You may discuss in politics the newest thing you find,
And open scientific truth to all the deaf and blind,
But there's one place where the brain must never budge!
Oh, the Home is Utterly Perfect!
And all its works within!
To say a word about it--
To criticize or doubt it--
To seek to mend or move it--
To venture to improve it--
Is The Unpardonable Sin!
Mr. Porne took an afternoon off and came with his wife to hear their
former housemaid lecture. As many other men as were able did the same.
All the members not bedridden were present, and nearly all the guests
they had invited.
So many were the acceptances that a downtown hall had been taken; the
floor was more than filled, and in the gallery sat a block of servant
girls, more gorgeous in array than the ladies below whispering excitedly
among themselves. The platform recalled a "tournament of roses," and,
sternly important among all that fragrant loveliness, sat Mrs. Dankshire
in "the chair" flanked by Miss Torbus, the Recording Secretary, Miss
Massing, the Treasurer, and Mrs. Ree, tremulous with importance in her
official position. All these ladies wore an air of high emprise, even
more intense than that with which they usually essayed their public
duties. They were richly dressed, except Miss Torbus, who came as near
it as she could.
At the side, and somewhat in the rear of the President, on a chair quite
different from "the chair," discreetly gowned and of a bafflingly serene
demeanor, sat Miss Bell. All eyes were upon her--even some opera
"She's a good-looker anyhow," was one masculine opinion.
"She's a peach," was another, "Tell you--the chap that gets her is well
heeled!" said a third.
The ladies bent their hats toward one another and conferred in flowing
whispers; and in the gallery eager confidences were exchanged, with
On the small table before Mrs. Dankshire, shaded by a magnificent bunch
of roses, lay that core and crux of all parliamentry dignity, the gavel;
an instrument no self-respecting chairwoman may be without; yet which
she still approaches with respectful uncertainty.
In spite of its large size and high social standing, the Orchardina Home
and Culture Club contained some elements of unrest, and when the yearly
election of officers came round there was always need for careful work
in practical politics to keep the reins of government in the hands of
"the right people."
Mrs. Thaddler, conscious of her New York millions, and Madam
Weatherstone, conscious of her Philadelphia lineage, with Mrs. Johnston
A. Marrow ("one of the Boston Marrows!" was awesomely whispered of her),
were the heads of what might be called "the conservative party" in this
small parliament; while Miss Miranda L. Eagerson, describing herself as
'a journalist,' who held her place in local society largely by virtue of
the tacit dread of what she might do if offended--led the more radical
Most of the members were quite content to follow the lead of the solidly
established ladies of Orchard Avenue; especially as this leadership
consisted mainly in the pursuance of a masterly inactivity. When wealth
and aristocracy combine with that common inertia which we dignify as
"conservatism" they exert a powerful influence in the great art of
Nevertheless there were many alert and conscientious women in this large
membership, and when Miss Eagerson held the floor, and urged upon the
club some active assistance in the march of events, it needed all Mrs.
Dankshire's generalship to keep them content with marking time.
On this auspicious occasion, however, both sides were agreed in interest
and approval. Here was a subject appealing to every woman present, and
every man but such few as merely "boarded"; even they had memories and
hopes concerning this question.
Solemnly rose Mrs. Dankshire, her full silks rustling about her, and let
one clear tap of the gavel fall into the sea of soft whispering and
In the silence that followed she uttered the momentous announcements:
"The meeting will please come to order," "We will now hear the reading
of the minutes of the last meeting," and so on most conscientiously
through officer's reports and committees reports to "new business."
Perhaps it is their more frequent practice of religious rites, perhaps
their devout acceptance of social rulings and the dictates of fashion,
perhaps the lifelong reiterance of small duties at home, or all these
things together, which makes women so seriously letter-perfect in
parliamentry usage. But these stately ceremonies were ended in course
of time, and Mrs. Dankshire rose again, even more solemn than before,
and came forward majestically.
"Members---and guests," she said impressively, "this is an occasion
which brings pride to the heart of every member of the Home and Culture
Club. As our name implies, this Club is formed to serve the interests
of The Home--those interests which stand first, I trust, in every human
A telling pause, and the light patter of gloved hands.
"Its second purpose," pursued the speaker, with that measured delivery
which showed that her custom, as one member put it, was to "first write
and then commit," "is to promote the cause of Culture in this community.
Our aim is Culture in the broadest sense, not only in the curricula of
institutions of learning, not only in those spreading branches of study
and research which tempts us on from height to height"--("proof of
arboreal ancestry that," Miss Eagerson confided to a friend, whose
choked giggle attracted condemning eyes)--"but in the more intimate
fields of daily experience."
"Most of us, however widely interested in the higher education, are
still--and find in this our highest honor--wives and mothers." These
novel titles called forth another round of applause.
"As such," continued Mrs. Dankshire, "we all recognize the
difficult--the well-nigh insuperable problems of the"--she glanced at
the gallery now paying awed attention--"domestic question."
"We know how on the one hand our homes yawn unattended"--("I yawn while
I'm attending--eh?" one gentleman in the rear suggested to his
neighbor)--while on the other the ranks of mercenary labor are
overcrowded. Why is it that while the peace and beauty, the security
and comfort, of a good home, with easy labor and high pay, are open to
every young woman, whose circumstances oblige her to toil for her
living, she blindly refuses these true advantages and loses her health
and too often what is far more precious!--in the din and tumult of the
factory, or the dangerous exposure of the public counter."
Madam Weatherstone was much impressed at this point, and beat her black
fan upon her black glove emphatically. Mrs. Thaddler also nodded; which
meant a good deal from her. The applause was most gratifying to the
speaker, who continued:
"Fortunately for the world there are some women yet who appreciate the
true values of life." A faint blush crept slowly up the face of
Diantha, but her expression was unchanged. Whoso had met and managed a
roomful of merciless children can easily face a woman's club.
"We have with us on this occasion one, as we my say, our equal in birth
and breeding,"--Madam Weatherstone here looked painfully shocked as also
did the Boston Marrow; possibly Mrs. Dankshire, whose parents were Iowa
farmers, was not unmindful of this, but she went on smoothly, "and whose
first employment was the honored task of the teacher; who has
deliberately cast her lot with the domestic worker, and brought her
trained intelligence to bear upon the solution of this great
question--The True Nature of Domestic Service. In the interests of this
problem she has consented to address us--I take pleasure in introducing
Miss Diantha Bell."
Diantha rose calmly, stepped forward, bowed to the President and
officers, and to the audience. She stood quietly for a moment,
regarding the faces before her, and produced a typewritten paper. It
was clear, short, and to some minds convincing.
She set forth that the term "domestic industry" did not define certain
kinds of labor, but a stage of labor; that all labor was originally
domestic; but that most kinds had now become social, as with weaving and
spinning, for instance, for centuries confined to the home and done by
women only; now done in mills by men and women; that this process of
socialization has now been taken from the home almost all the
manufactures--as of wine, beer, soap, candles, pickles and other
specialties, and part of the laundry work; that the other processes of
cleaning are also being socialized, as by the vacuum cleaners, the
professional window-washers, rug cleaners, and similar professional
workers; and that even in the preparation of food many kinds are now
specialized, as by the baker and confectioner. That in service itself
we were now able to hire by the hour or day skilled workers necessarily
above the level of the "general."
A growing rustle of disapproval began to make itself felt, which
increased as she went on to explain how the position of the housemaid is
a survival of the ancient status of woman slavery, the family with the
male head and the group of servile women.
"The keynote of all our difficulty in this relation is that we demand
celibacy of our domestic servants," said Diantha.
A murmur arose at this statement, but she continued calmly:
"Since it is natural for women to marry, the result is that our domestic
servants consist of a constantly changing series of young girls,
apprentices, as it were; and the complicated and important duties of the
household cannot be fully mastered by such hands."
The audience disapproved somewhat of this, but more of what followed.
She showed (Mrs. Porne nodding her head amusedly), that so far from
being highly paid and easy labor, house service was exacting and
responsible, involving a high degree of skill as well as moral
character, and that it was paid less than ordinary unskilled labor, part
of this payment being primitive barter.
Then, as whispers and sporadic little spurts of angry talk increased,
the clear quiet voice went on to state that this last matter, the
position of a strange young girl in our homes, was of itself a source of
much of the difficulty of the situation.
"We speak of giving them the safety and shelter of the home,"--here
Diantha grew solemn;--"So far from sharing our homes, she gives up her
own, and has none of ours, but the poorest of our food and a cramped
lodging; she has neither the freedom nor the privileges of a home; and
as to shelter and safety--the domestic worker, owing to her peculiarly
defenceless position, furnishes a terrible percentage of the
A shocked silence met this statement.
"In England shop-workers complain of the old custom of 'sleeping
in'--their employers furnishing them with lodging as part payment; this
also is a survival of the old apprentice method. With us, only the
domestic servant is held to this antiquated position."
Regardless of the chill displeasure about her she cheerfully pursued:
"Let us now consider the economic side of the question. 'Domestic
economy' is a favorite phrase. As a matter of fact our method of
domestic service is inordinately wasteful. Even where the wife does all
the housework, without pay, we still waste labor to an enormous extent,
requiring one whole woman to wait upon each man. If the man hires one
or more servants, the wastes increase. If one hundred men undertake
some common business, they do not divide in two halves, each man having
another man to serve him--fifty productive laborers, and fifty cooks.
Two or three cooks could provide for the whole group; to use fifty is to
waste 47 per cent. of the labor.
"But our waste of labor is as nothing to our waste of money. For, say
twenty families, we have twenty kitchens with all their furnishings,
twenty stoves with all their fuel; twenty cooks with all their wages; in
cash and barter combined we pay about ten dollars a week for our
cooks--$200 a week to pay for the cooking for twenty families, for about
a hundred persons!
"Three expert cooks, one at $20 a week and two at $15 would save to
those twenty families $150 a week and give them better food. The cost
of kitchen furnishings and fuel, could be reduced by nine-tenths; and
beyond all that comes our incredible waste in individual purchasing.
What twenty families spend on individual patronage of small retailers,
could be reduced by more than half if bought by competent persons in
wholesale quantities. Moreover, our whole food supply would rise in
quality as well as lower in price if it was bought by experts.
"To what does all this lead?" asked Diantha pleasantly.
Nobody said anything, but the visible attitude of the house seemed to
say that it led straight to perdition.
"The solution for which so many are looking is no new scheme of any
sort; and in particular it is not that oft repeated fore-doomed failure
called "co-operative housekeeping."
At this a wave of relief spread perceptibly. The irritation roused by
those preposterous figures and accusations was somewhat allayed. Hope
was relit in darkened countenances.
"The inefficiency of a dozen tottering households is not removed by
combining them," said Diantha. This was of dubious import. "Why should
we expect a group of families to "keep house" expertly and economically
together, when they are driven into companionship by the fact that none
of them can do it alone."
Again an uncertain reception.
"Every family is a distinct unit," the girl continued. "Its needs are
separate and should be met separately. The separate house and garden
should belong to each family, the freedom and group privacy of the home.
But the separate home may be served by a common water company, by a
common milkman, by a common baker, by a common cooking and a common
cleaning establishment. We are rapidly approaching an improved system
of living in which the private home will no more want a cookshop on the
premises than a blacksmith's shop or soap-factory. The necessary work
of the kitchenless house will be done by the hour, with skilled labor;
and we shall order our food cooked instead of raw. This will give to
the employees a respectable well-paid profession, with their own homes
and families; and to the employers a saving of about two-thirds of the
expense of living, as well as an end of all our difficulties with the
servant question. That is the way to elevate--to enoble domestic
service. It must cease to be domestic service--and become world
Suddenly and quietly she sat down.
Miss Eagerson was on her feet. So were others.
"Madam President! Madam President!" resounded from several points at
once. Madam Weatherstone--Mrs. Thaddler--no! yes--they really were both
on their feet. Applause was going on--irregularly--soon dropped. Only,
from the group in the gallery it was whole-hearted and consistent.
Mrs. Dankshire, who had been growing red and redder as the paper
advanced, who had conferred in alarmed whispers with Mrs. Ree, and Miss
Massing, who had even been seen to extend her hand to the gavel and
finger it threateningly, now rose, somewhat precipitately, and came
"Order, please! You will please keep order. You have heard the--we
will now--the meeting is now open for discussion, Mrs. Thaddler!" And
she sat down. She meant to have said Madam Weatherstone, by Mrs.
Thaddler was more aggressive.
"I wish to say," said that much beaded lady in a loud voice, "that I was
against this--unfortunate experiment--from the first. And I trust it
will never be repeated!" She sat down.
Two tight little dimples flickered for an instant about the corners of
"Madam Weatherstone?" said the President, placatingly.
Madam Weatherstone arose, rather sulkily, and looked about her. An
agitated assembly met her eye, buzzing universally each to each.
"Order!" said Mrs. Dankshire, "ORDER, please!" and rapped three times
with the gavel.
"I have attended many meetings, in many clubs, in many states," said
Madam Weatherstone, "and have heard much that was foolish, and some
things that were dangerous. But I will say that never in the course of
all my experience have I heard anything so foolish and so dangerous, as
this. I trust that the--doubtless well meant--attempt to throw light on
this subject--from the wrong quarter--has been a lesson to us all. No
club could survive more than one such lamentable mistake!" And she sat
down, gathering her large satin wrap about her like a retiring Caesar.
"Madam President!" broke forth Miss Eagerson. "I was up first--and have
been standing ever since--"
"One moment, Miss Eagerson," said Mrs. Dankshire superbly, "The Rev. Dr.
If Mrs. Dankshire supposed she was still further supporting the cause of
condemnation she made a painful mistake. The cloth and the fine bearing
of the young clergyman deceived her; and she forgot that he was said to
be "advanced" and was new to the place.
"Will you come to the platform, Dr. Eltwood?"
Dr. Eltwood came to the platform with the easy air of one to whom
platforms belonged by right.
"Ladies," he began in tones of cordial good will, "both employer and
employed!--and gentlemen--whom I am delighted to see here to-day! I am
grateful for the opportunity so graciously extended to me"--he bowed six
feet of black broadcloth toward Mrs. Dankshire--"by your honored
"And I am grateful for the opportunity previously enjoyed, of listening
to the most rational, practical, wise, true and hopeful words I have
ever heard on this subject. I trust there will be enough open-minded
women--and men--in Orchardina to make possible among us that higher
business development of a great art which has been so convincingly laid
before us. This club is deserving of all thanks from the community for
extending to so many the privilege of listening to our valued
He bowed again--to Miss Bell--and to Mrs. Dankshire, and resumed his
seat, Miss Eagerson taking advantage of the dazed pause to occupy the
"Mr. Eltwood is right!" she said. "Miss Bell is right! This is the
true presentation of the subject, 'by one who knows.' Miss Bell has
pricked our pretty bubble so thoroughly that we don't know where we're
standing--but she knows! Housework is a business--like any other
business--I've always said so, and it's got to be done in a business
way. Now I for one--" but Miss Eagerson was rapped down by the
Presidential gavel; as Mrs. Thaddler, portentous and severe, stalked
"It is not my habit to make public speeches," she began, "nor my desire;
but this is a time when prompt and decisive action needs to be taken.
This Club cannot afford to countenance any such farrago of mischievous
nonsense as we have heard to-day. I move you, Madam President, that a
resolution of condemnation be passed at once; and the meeting then
She stalked back again, while Mrs. Marrow of Boston, in clear, cold
tones seconded the motion.
But another voice was heard--for the first time in that assembly--Mrs.
Weatherstone, the pretty, delicate widower daughter-in-law of Madam
Weatherstone, was on her feet with "Madam President! I wish to speak to
"Won't you come to the platform, Mrs. Weatherstone?" asked Mrs.
Dankshire graciously, and the little lady came, visibly trembling, but
holding her head high.
All sat silent, all expected--what was not forthcoming.
"I wish to protest, as a member of the Club, and as a woman, against the
gross discourtesy which has been offered to the guest and speaker of the
day. In answer to our invitation Miss Bell has given us a scholarly and
interesting paper, and I move that we extend her a vote of thanks."
"I second the motion," came from all quarters.
"There is another motion before the house," from others.
Cries of "Madam President" arose everywhere, many speakers were on their
feet. Mrs. Dankshire tapped frantically with the little gavel, but Miss
Eagerson, by sheer vocal power, took and held the floor.
"I move that we take a vote on this question," she cried in piercing
tones. "Let every woman who knows enough to appreciate Miss Bell's
paper--and has any sense of decency--stand up!"
Quite a large proportion of the audience stood up--very informally.
Those who did not, did not mean to acknowledge lack of intelligence and
sense of decency, but to express emphatic disapproval of Miss Eagerson,
Miss Bell and their views.
"I move you, Madam President," cried Mrs. Thaddler, at the top of her
voice, "that every member who is guilty of such grossly unparlimentary
conduct be hereby dropped from this Club!"
"We hereby resign!" cried Miss Eagerson. "_We_ drop _you!_ We'll have
a New Woman's Club in Orchardina with some warmth in its heart and some
brains in its head--even if it hasn't as much money in its pocket!"
Amid stern rappings, hissings, cries of "Order--order," and frantic
"Motions to adjourn" the meeting broke up; the club elements dissolving
and reforming into two bodies as by some swift chemical reaction.
Great was the rejoicing of the daily press; some amusement was felt,
though courteously suppressed by the men present, and by many not
present, when they heard of it.
Some ladies were so shocked and grieved as to withdraw from club-life
altogether. Others, in stern dignity, upheld the shaken standards of
Home and Culture; while the most conspicuous outcome of it all was the
immediate formation of the New Woman's Club of Orchardina.
THE HOUSE OF APPLES
There was a certain King; young and inexperienced, but a man of resource
and initiative; an efficacious King if he did but know it. Being new to
his business, however, he did not, as yet, exert himself particularly.
This King, as it happened, was mightily fond of apples; but he was, as
aforesaid, youthful and inexperienced; and too much overwhelmed with new
duties, glories, and responsibilities, to be very exacting.
As a matter of expediency his stewards and servants strove to please
him. As a matter of course they gave him what he wanted, when they
could. As a matter of fact his table was provided with the best the
market could afford.
The market, however, could not afford to do very well; at least its
products did not satisfy the King.
"What is the trouble with these apples!" said the King, "Bring me
They brought him several kinds--as many as three or four.
"Bring me more kinds!" said the King.
"These are all that the market affords, O King," they replied.
"Confound the market!" said the King, "I will consider this business
Then the King consulted his books about apples; and the heads of
departments in his Bureaus of horticulture and of Commerce. Having thus
added to his information, he then went out to study the facts; and he
found that the facts were these:
Apples grew as easily as ever they did; and there were really more kinds
instead of less. People liked apples as well as ever they did, and
there were more people instead of less.
Yet in the country the orchards were neglected and the apples fed to
pigs or left to rot; and in the city, the fruit-stalls were loaded with
the monotonous tasteless apples of commerce, cold-stored from time
unknown; and those that were cheap were nasty, and those that were not
nasty and not cheap were by mo means as high in quality as they were in
Then the King issued a Mandate, ordering his subjects far and wide to
send him samples of all kinds of apples that were grown; with their
names and histories and habits.
After this he made a tour of state, visiting his kingdom far and wide,
and studying Appleculture in every quarter. And he consulted the people
separately, in different places, saying, "Why do you not raise more
apples of this sort and of this?"
And with one accord the people answered him--"It does not pay!"
This his Financial Advisers explained to him, outwardly with deep
respect, but inwardly with derision at his inexperience, that there was
no market for these varieties of apples, and they discoursed on The Law
of Supply and Demand.
Then the King called upon his people to write everyone a postal card to
him, stating the kind of apples they would buy if they could; and how
many barrels or bushels or pecks or quarts they would like to use in a
season, if the price was $2.00 a barrel, or five cents a quart.
This furnished employment to many mathematicians and staticians and
tabulators for many days; but when all was done the King found that the
desire of his people for apples averaged a barrel apiece per year. And
the King briskly multiplied the number of his people by the price of a
barrel of apples, and obtained a great sum.
"Ah!" said the King. "This is 'The Market,' is it not?"
But his Financial Advisers laughed in their sleeves, saying solemnly to
him. "No, O King--this is merely an estimate of the idle desires of the
people--with two large Ifs in it."
"But this is 'the Demand' is it not?" said the King.
And his Financial Advisers put down their sleeves and said, "No, O King
this is but a desire--not a demand."
But the King was fond of apples, and obstinate.
So he caused to be built in every city a House of Apples; and appointed
to each an Apple-Master, to carry out his will. And he commanded all
his common carriers to carry apples in their season, so many carloads to
a city, according to the desires of his people. And he offered to all
fruit-raisers, from the humble Farmer to the haughty Horticulturist,
such and such a price for such and such apples; the number thereof to
increase as the population increased from year to year.
In the House of Apples was an Exhibition Hall, showing waxen examples of
every Apple upon earth; and a market where Apples were sold; the
short-lived Apples in their season, and the long-lived Apples the year
around, and some were costly and some were cheap; and in the autumn the
market was flooded--so that then all people could buy apples for a
song--to their hearts' content and their bodies' comfort.
Golden Porters, crystalline and winy, were to be had in their brief
season; and succulent sweetings, to bake with molasses; and
gilliflowers, purple and mealy, and little scarlet sapsons, of which one
eats without counting. Then the people bought more even than they had
intended; and the farms found apples were a paying crop and cultivated
them; and the common carriers lost nothing, for their carrying grew
greater and the payment was steady and sure.
Now the King was really pleased at this, for he loved Apples and he
loved having his own way--as Kings do. Also he delighted in the
glorious array of Apples in his Houses; to look at, to eat, and to
"It is worth the Price!" said the King. "I know what I want and I'm
willing to pay for it."
But when the Reports of The Apple Masters came in, Lo! There was a
Great Profit for the King.
"There is no harm in that!" said he. And he showed the report to his
Financial Advisers--and his sleeve was across his mouth.
And the name of that King was Demos.
OUR ANDROCENTRIC CULTURE; or, THE MAN-MADE WORLD
ETHICS AND RELIGION.
The laws of physics were at work before we were on earth, and continued
to work on us long before we had intelligence enough to perceive, much
less understand, them. Our proven knowledge of these processes
constitutes "the science of physics"; but the laws were there before the
Physics is the science of material relation, how things and natural
forces work with and on one another. Ethics is the science of social
relation, how persons and social forces work with and on one another.
Ethics is to the human world what physics is to the material world;
ignorance of ethics leaves us in the same helpless position in regard to
one another that ignorance of physics left us in regard to earth, air,
fire and water.
To be sure, people lived and died and gradually improved, while yet
ignorant of the physical sciences; they developed a rough "rule of
thumb" method, as animals do, and used great forces without
understanding them. But their lives were safer and their improvement
more rapid as they learned more, and began to make servants of the
forces which had been their masters.
We have progressed, lamely enough, with terrible loss and suffering,
from stark savagery to our present degree of civilization; we shall go
on more safely and swiftly when we learn more of the science of ethics.
Let us note first that while the underlying laws of ethics remain steady
and reliable, human notions of them have varied widely and still do so.
In different races, ages, classes, sexes, different views of ethics
obtain; the conduct of the people is modified by their views, and their
prosperity is modified by their conduct.
Primitive man became very soon aware that conduct was of importance. As
consciousness increased, with the power to modify action from within,
instead of helplessly reacting to stimuli from without, there arose the
crude first codes of ethics, the "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not" of
the blundering savage. It was mostly "Thou shalt not." Inhibition, the
checking of an impulse proven disadvantageous, was an earlier and easier
form of action than the later human power to consciously decide on and
follow a course of action with no stimulus but one's own will.
Primitive ethics consists mostly of Tabus--the things that are
forbidden; and all our dim notions of ethics to this day, as well as
most of our religions, deal mainly with forbidding.
This is almost the whole of our nursery government, to an extent shown
by the well-worn tale of the child who said her name was "Mary." "Mary
what?" they asked her. And she answered, "Mary Don't." It is also the
main body of our legal systems--a complex mass of prohibitions and
preventions. And even in manners and conventions, the things one should
not do far outnumber the things one should. A general policy of
negation colors our conceptions of ethics and religion.
When the positive side began to be developed, it was at first in purely
arbitrary and artificial form. The followers of a given religion were
required to go through certain motions, as prostrating themselves,
kneeling, and the like; they were required to bring tribute to the gods
and their priests, sacrifices, tithes, oblations; they were set little
special performances to go through at given times; the range of things
forbidden was broad; the range of things commanded was narrow. The
Christian religion, practically interpreted, requires a fuller "change
of heart" and change of life than any preceding it; which may account at
once for its wide appeal to enlightened peoples, and to its scarcity of
Again, in surveying the field, it is seen that as our grasp of ethical
values widened, as we called more and more acts and tendencies "right"
and "wrong," we have shown astonishing fluctuations and vagaries in our
judgment. Not only in our religions, which have necessarily upheld each
its own set of prescribed actions as most "right," and its own special
prohibitions as most "wrong"; but in our beliefs about ethics and our
real conduct, we have varied absurdly.
Take, for instance, the ethical concept among "gentlemen" a century or
so since, which put the paying of one's gambling debts as a well-nigh
sacred duty, and the paying of a tradesman who had fed and clothed one
as a quite negligible matter. If the process of gambling was of social
service, and the furnishing of food and clothes was not, this might be
good ethics; but as the contrary is true, we have to account for this
peculiar view on other grounds.
Again, where in Japan a girl, to maintain her parents, is justified in
leading a life of shame, we have a peculiar ethical standard difficult
for Western minds to appreciate. Yet in such an instance as is
described in "Auld Robin Gray," we see precisely the same code; the
girl, to benefit her parents, marries a rich old man she does not
love--which is to lead a life of shame. The ethical view which
justifies this, puts the benefit of parents above the benefit of
children, robs the daughter of happiness and motherhood, injures
posterity to assist ancestors.
This is one of the products of that very early religion, ancestor
worship; and here we lay a finger on a distinctly masculine influence.
We know little of ethical values during the matriarchate; whatever they
were, they must have depended for sanction on a cult of promiscuous but
efficient maternity. Our recorded history begins in the patriarchal
period, and it is its ethics alone which we know.
The mother instinct, throughout nature, is one of unmixed devotion, of
love and service, care and defence, with no self-interest. The animal
father, in such cases as he is of service to the young, assists the
mother in her work in similar fashion. But the human father in the
family with the male head soon made that family an instrument of desire,
and combat, and self-expression, following the essentially masculine
impulses. The children were his, and if males, valuable to serve and
glorify him. In his dominance over servile women and helpless children,
free rein was given to the growth of pride and the exercise of
irresponsible tyranny. To these feelings, developed without check for
thousands of years, and to the mental habits resultant, it is easy to
trace much of the bias of our early ethical concepts.
Perhaps it is worth while to repeat here that the effort of this book is
by no means to attribute a wholly evil influence to men, and a wholly
good one to women; it is not even claimed that a purely feminine culture
would have advanced the world more successfully. It does claim that the
influence of the two together is better than that of either one alone;
and in especial to point out what special kind of injury is due to the
exclusive influence of one sex heretofore.
We have to-day reached a degree of human development where both men and
women are capable of seeing over and across the distinctions of sex, and
mutually working for the advancement of the world. Our progress is,
however, seriously impeded by what we may call the masculine tradition,
the unconscious dominance of a race habit based on this long
androcentric period; and it is well worth while, in the interests of
both sexes, to show the mischievous effects of the predominance of one.
We have in our ethics not only a "double standard" in one special line,
but in nearly all. Man, as a sex, has quite naturally deified his own
qualities rather than those of his opposite. In his codes of manners,
of morals, of laws, in his early concepts of God, his ancient religions,
we see masculinity written large on every side. Confining women wholly
to their feminine functions, he has required of them only what he called
feminine virtues, and the one virtue he has demanded, to the complete
overshadowing of all others, is measured by wholly masculine
ln the interests of health and happiness, monogamous marriage proves its
superiority in our race as it has in others. It is essential to the
best growth of humanity that we practice the virtue of chastity; it is a
human virtue, not a feminine one. But in masculine hands this virtue
was enforced upon women under penalties of hideous cruelty, and quite
ignored by men. Masculine ethics, colored by masculine instincts,
always dominated by sex, has at once recognized the value of chastity in
the woman, which is right; punished its absence unfairly, which is
wrong; and then reversed the whole matter when applied to men, which is
Ethical laws are laws--not idle notions. Chastity is a virtue because
it promotes human welfare--not because men happen to prize it in women
and ignore it themselves. The underlying reason for the whole thing is
the benefit of the child; and to that end a pure and noble fatherhood is
requisite, as well as such a motherhood. Under the limitations of a too
masculine ethics, we have developed on this one line social conditions
which would be absurdly funny if they were not so horrible.
Religion, be it noticed, does not bear out this attitude. The immense
human need of religion, the noble human character of the great religious
teachers, has always set its standards, when first established, ahead of
Some there are, men of learning and authority, who hold that the
deadening immobility of our religions, their resistance to progress and
relentless preservation of primitive ideals, is due to the conservatism
of women. Men, they say, are progressive by nature; women are
conservative. Women are more religious than men, and so preserve old
religious forms unchanged after men have outgrown them.
If we saw women in absolute freedom, with a separate religion devised by
women, practiced by women, and remaining unchanged through the
centuries; while men, on the other hand, bounded bravely forward, making
new ones as fast as they were needed, this belief might be maintained.
But what do we see? All the old religions made by men, and forced on
the women whether they liked it or not. Often women not even considered
as part of the scheme--denied souls--given a much lower place in the
system--going from the service of their father's gods to the service of
their husbands--having none of their own. We see religions which make
practically no place for women, as with the Moslem, as rigidly bigoted
and unchanging as any other.
We see also this: that the wider and deeper the religion, the more
human, the more it calls for practical applications in Christianity--the
more it appeals to women. Further, in the diverging sects of the
Christian religion, we find that its progressiveness is to be measured,
not by the numbers of its women adherents, but by their relative
freedom. The women of America, who belong to a thousand sects, who
follow new ones with avidity, who even make them, and who also leave
them all as men do, are women, as well as those of Spain, who remain
contented Romanists, but in America the status of women is higher.
The fact is this: a servile womanhood is in a state of arrested
development, and as such does form a ground for the retention of ancient
ideas. But this is due to the condition of servility, not to womanhood.
That women at present are the bulwark of the older forms of our
religions is due to the action of two classes of men: the men of the
world, who keep women in their restricted position, and the men of the
church, who take every advantage of the limitations of women. When we
have for the first time in history a really civilized womanhood, we can
then judge better of its effect on religion.
Meanwhile, we can see quite clearly the effect of manhood. Keeping in
mind those basic masculine impulses--desire and combat--we see them
reflected from high heaven in their religious concepts. Reward!
Something to want tremendously and struggle to achieve! This is a
concept perfectly masculine and most imperfectly religious. A religion
is partly explanation--a theory of life; it is partly emotion--an
attitude of mind, it is partly action--a system of morals. Man's
special effect on this large field of human development is clear. He
pictured his early gods as like to himself, and they behaved in
accordance with his ideals. In the dimmest, oldest religions, nearest
the matriarchate, we find great goddesses--types of Motherhood,
Mother-love, Mother-care and Service. But under masculine dominance,
Isis and Ashteroth dwindle away to an alluring Aphrodite--not Womanhood
for the child and the World--but the incarnation of female
attractiveness for man.
As the idea of heaven developed in the man's mind it became the Happy
Hunting Ground of the savage, the beery and gory Valhalla of the
Norseman, the voluptuous, many-houri-ed Paradise of the Mohammedan.
These are men's heavens all. Women have never been so fond of hunting,
beer or blood; and their houris would be of the other kind. It may be
said that the early Christian idea of heaven is by no means planned for
men. That is trite, and is perhaps the reason why it has never had so
compelling an attraction for them.
Very early in his vague efforts towards religious expression, man voiced
his second strongest instinct--that of combat. His universe is always
dual, always a scene of combat. Born with that impulse, exercising it
continually, he naturally assumed it to be the major process in life.
It is not. Growth is the major process. Combat is a useful subsidiary
process, chiefly valuable for its initial use, to transmit the physical
superiority of the victor. Psychic and social advantages are not thus
secured or transmitted.
In no one particular is the androcentric character of our common thought
more clearly shown than in the general deification of what are now
described as "conflict stimuli." That which is true of the male
creature as such is assumed to be true of life in general; quite
naturally, but by no means correctly. To this universal masculine error
we may trace in the field of religion and ethics the great devil theory,
which has for so long obscured our minds. A God without an Adversary
was inconceivable to the masculine mind. From this basic misconception
we find all our ideas of ethics distorted; that which should have been
treated as a group of truths to be learned and habits to be cultivated
was treated in terms of combat, and moral growth made an everlasting
battle. This combat theory we may follow later into our common notions
of discipline, government, law and punishment; here is it enough to see
its painful effects in this primary field of ethics and religion?
The third essential male trait of self-expression we may follow from its
innocent natural form in strutting cock or stamping stag up to the
characteristics we label vanity and pride. The degradation of women in
forcing them to adopt masculine methods of personal decoration as a
means of livelihood, has carried with the concomitant of personal
vanity: but to this day and at their worst we do not find in women the
_naive_ exultant glow of pride which swells the bosom of the men who
march in procession with brass bands, in full regalia of any sort, so
that it be gorgeous, exhibiting their glories to all.
It is this purely masculine spirit which has given to our early concepts
of Deity the unadmirable qualities of boundless pride and a thirst for
constant praise and prostrate admiration, characteristics certainly
unbefitting any noble idea of God. Desire, combat and self-expression
all have had their unavoidable influence on masculine religions. What
deified Maternity a purely feminine culture might have put forth we do
not know, having had none such. Women are generally credited with as
much moral sense as men, and as much religious instinct; but so far it
has had small power to modify our prevailing creeds.
As a matter of fact, no special sex attributes should have any weight in
our ideas of right and wrong. Ethics and religion are distinctly human
concerns; they belong to us as social factors, not as physical ones. As
we learn to recognize our humanness, and to leave our sex
characteristics where they belong, we shall at last learn something
about ethics as a simple and practical science, and see that religions
grow as the mind grows to formulate them.
If anyone seeks for a clear, simple, easily grasped proof of our ethics,
it is to be found in a popular proverb. Struggling upward from beast
and savage into humanness, man has seen, reverenced, and striven to
attain various human virtues.
He was willing to check many primitive impulses, to change many
barbarous habits, to manifest newer, nobler powers. Much he would
concede to Humanness, but not his sex--that was beyond the range of
Ethics or Religion. By the state of what he calls "morals," and the
laws he makes to regulate them, by his attitude in courtship and in
marriage, and by the gross anomaly of militarism, in all its senseless
waste of life and wealth and joy, we may perceive this little masculine
"All's fair in love and war."
COMMENT AND REVIEW
"Inspired Millionaires," by Gerald Stanley Lee, has certainly inspired
one. We read among the quoted letters on the paper cover one from Mr.
Joseph Fels saying, "I want twenty-five copies of the book to distribute
among the millionaires here. If the books are well received I will
increase the order."
The impression to the lay mind, not too profusely acquainted with
millionaires, is of amazement at his opportunities; twenty-five among
"the millionaires here," and a possible demand for more!
The impression deepens as we read Mr. Fels' second letter, "Please send
fifty more copies. I am putting them where they tell."
Seventy-five millionaires "here"--wherever that was; and in other places
more and more and even more of them! Among so many there must be some
common humanity, possibly some uncommon humanity; it would appear as if
Mr. Lee might be right.
He believes that a millionaire may be a good man, a social enthusiast,
an artist and connoisseur, not in spite of his money, but because of it;
not by giving it away, pre- or post mortem; but by using it _in his
This is a simple thought after you see it; but it has been generally
overlooked. Mr. Lee has clear eyes and a silver tongue. His
perceptions are important and his expressions convincing. He speaks
plainly also, calling some millionaires by name, and designating others
almost as plainly.
"What could be more pathetic, for instance," he says, "than Mr. ----- as
an educator--a man who is educating-and-mowing-down two hundred thousand
(?) men a day, ten hours a day, for forty years of their lives; that is,
who is separating the souls of his employees from their work, bullying
them into being linked with a work and a method they despise, and who is
trying to atone for it all--this vast terrible schooling, ten hours a
fay, forty years, two hundred thousand men's lives--by piecing together
professors and scholars, putting up a little playhouse of learning,
before the world, to give a few fresh young boys and girls four years
with paper books?--a man the very thought of whom has ruined more men
and devastated more faiths and created more cowards and brutes and fools
in all walks of life than any other influence in the nineteenth century,
and who is trying to eke out at last a spoonful of atonement for it
all--all this vast baptism of the business world in despair and force
and cursing and pessimism, by perching up before it ----- University,
like a dove cote on a volcano.
"It may blur people's eyes for a minute, but everyone really knows in
his heart--every man in this nation--that the only real education Mr.
----- has established, or ever can establish, is the way he has made his
money. Everyone knows also that the only possible, the only real
education Mr. ----- can give to a man would have to be through the daily
thing he gives the man to do, ten hours a day, through the way he lets
him do it, through the spirit and expression he allows him to put into
it ten hours a day. Mr. -----'s real school, the one with two hundred
thousand men in it, and eighty million helpless spectators in the
galleries, is a school which is working out a daily, bitter, lying curse
upon the rich, and a bitter, lying curse upon the poor, which it is
going to take the world generations to redeem."
This is a long quotation; but it shows our prophet is not blinded by
sentiment; he knows an un-inspired millionaire when he sees him.
He makes this observation of one of the first important acts of Governor
Hughes. "He did one of the most memorable and enlightened silences that
has ever been done by any man in the United States." And then he goes
on to show the power that lies in simply being right.
There are plenty of epigrams in the book, plenty of imagination, plenty
of hard sense; and some mistakes. Various readers will assort these to
suit their several minds. But it is funny, having so many men, with so
much money, and so little idea of what to do with it, is it not?
Why shouldn't they, or some of them at least, really do business with it
as Mr. Lee suggests?
Question:--What can one do with a bore? I am not over strong, and very
sensitive to people. When some people come to see me--and stay--and
they always do stay--it makes me ill--I cannot work well next day.
Answer:--My dear Sufferer. Your problem is a serious one. Bores are
disagreeable to all and dangerous to some. They cannot be arrested or
imprisoned; and kerosene does not lessen their numbers. They commit no
active offence--it is not by doing that they affect us so painfully, but
simply by being. Especially by being there.
Sub-question:--Can a bore be a bore when no one else is present.
Sub-answer:--We suspect they can. It is because he bores himself when
alone that he seeks continually to bore others.
Yet some of them are well-intentioned persons who would be grieved to
know they were injurious. Even the dull and thick-skinned are open to
offence if it is forced upon them.
We suspect that the only real cure is courage on the part of the victim.
If the suffering host or hostess frankly said, "My dear Sir--or
Madam--you are making me very tired. I wish you would go away," the
result would leave nothing to be desired. "But," says the sufferer in
alarm, "they would never come to see us again!"
Well. Do you want them to?
"But--sometimes I like to see them." Or, "I cannot afford to quarrel
with So and So!"
Ah! We will now quote Emerson. "It you want anything, pay for it and
take it, says God."
Question:--"I have a sick parent. What is my whole duty in the case?"
Answer:--It depends on your sex. If you are a man, your duty is to
provide a home for the patient, a servant, a nurse, a physician, food,
medicine, and two short calls a day. You will be called "A Devoted
If you are a woman, you need provide none of these things; but must wait
upon the patient with your own hands as nurse and servant; regardless of
your special ability. If you do at does a devoted son you will be
called "An Unnatural Daughter."
Question:--"Why do the shapes of shoes change from year to year? Surely
the shapes of our feet do not.
Answer:--This is one of the inscrutable minor problems of Fashion and
The Market. The desire for novelty; the lack of a real feeling for
beauty; a savage indifference to physical comfort, the pressure of
necessity or greediness urging the manufacturer to sell more shoes than
people need; the brow-beaten submissiveness of most purchasers and the
persuasive--or insolent--compulsion of salesmen; all these combine to
make our feet ugly and painful.
I became an advocate of full suffrage for women as soon as I was old
enough to understand the value of democratic government, to see that a
true democracy requires the intelligent participation of all the people,
and that women are people. With further knowledge I advocate woman
suffrage on two grounds: first because a dependent and servile womanhood
is an immovable obstacle to race development; second because the major
defects of our civilization are clearly traceable to the degradation of
the female and the unbalanced predominance of the male, which unnatural
relation is responsible for the social evil, for the predatory and
combative elements in our economic processes, and for that colossal
mingling of folly, waste, and horror, that wholly masculine
CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN'S MAGAZINE
CHARLTON CO., 67 WALL ST., NEW YORK
AS TO PURPOSE:
_What is The Forerunner?_ It is a monthly magazine, publishing stories
short and serial, article and essay; drama, verse, satire and sermon;
dialogue, fable and fantasy, comment and review. It is written entirely
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
_What is it For?_ It is to stimulate thought: to arouse hope, courage
and impatience; to offer practical suggestions and solutions, to voice
the strong assurance of better living, here, now, in our own hands to
_What is it about?_ It is about people, principles, and the questions
of every-day life; the personal and public problems of to-day. It gives
a clear, consistent view of human life and how to live it.
_Is it a Woman's magazine?_ It will treat all three phases of our
existence--male, female and human. It will discuss Man, in his true
place in life; Woman, the Unknown Power; the Child, the most important
_Is it a Socialist Magazine?_ It is a magazine for humanity, and
humanity is social. It holds that Socialism, the economic theory, is
part of our gradual Socialization, and that the duty of conscious
humanity is to promote Socialization.
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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. 8
Copyright for 1910
C. P. Gilman
Clothing is for five purposes: Decoration, Protection, Warmth, Modesty,
and Symbolism. Can you explain yours?
"Where is God?" I cried. "Let me hear!"
"I long for the voice of God!"
And I smote and trod
On all things clamoring near;
Small voices dear,
That wept and murmured and sung
Till my heart was wrung;
That shrieked, shrieked loud and clear,
As I with hammer and sword
Slew them in the name of the Lord.
Where is God?" I cried. "Let me hear!"
But my ears were ringing yet
With cries I could not forget;
The blood was flowing still,
From the thing I could not kill;
A smothered sobbing cry
Filled all the red, wet earth, the cold, hard sky--
God came not near.
Then long I lived alone,
On the desolate land; a stone
On the thing I could not kill.
I bent to my hardened will
All things that lived below;
I strove to climb above,
To the land of living love
I had dreamed of long ago,
But I could not see--not know.
"O God!" I cried, "Come near!
Speak! Let thy servant hear!
Have I not utterly slain
With tears of blood, with sweat of pain,
In this base heart of mine
All voices old and dear--to hear but Thine!
And if there struggleth still
The thing I could not kill,
Have I not put a stone
On its head? O Thou alone
Whom I would follow and fear--
Speak! Let Thy servant hear!"
Silent I lay, and weak;
Then did the darkness speak;
"Child of the World! My love
Is beneath as well as above!
Thou art not always led
By a light that shines ahead!
But pushed by an impulse blind--
A mighty Power behind!
Lifted, as all things grow,
By forces from below!
Fear not for thy long mistake--
Listen! And there shall wake
The voice that has found the way
From the beginning, upward ever, into the light of day!
Lo! I am with thee still--
The thing thou couldst not kill!
MAKING A LIVING
"There won't be any litigation and chicanery to help you out, young man.
I've fixed that. Here are the title deeds of your precious
country-place; you can sit in that hand-made hut of yours and make
poetry and crazy inventions the rest of your life! The water's
good--and I guess you can live on the chestnuts!"
"Yes, sir," said Arnold Blake, rubbing his long chin dubiously. "I
guess I can."
His father surveyed him with entire disgust. "If you had wit enough you
might rebuild that old saw-mill and make a living off it!"
"Yes, sir," said Arnold again. "I had thought of that."
"You had, had you?" sneered his father. "Thought of it because it
rhymed, I bet you! Hill and mill, eh? Hut and nut, trees and breeze,
waterfall--beat-'em-all? I'm something of a poet myself, you see!
Well,--there's your property. And with what your Mother left you will
buy books and writing paper! As for my property--that's going to Jack.
I've got the papers for that too. Not being an idiot I've saved out
enough for myself--no Lear business for mine! Well, boy--I'm sorry
you're a fool. But you've got what you seem to like best."
"Yes, sir," said Arnold once more. "I have, and I'm really much obliged
to you, Father, for not trying to make me take the business."
Then young John Blake, pattern and image of his father, came into
possession of large assets and began to use them in the only correct
way; to increase and multiply without end.
Then old John Blake, gazing with pride on his younger son, whose acumen
almost compensated him for the bitter disappointment of being father to
a poet; set forth for a season of rest and change.
"I'm going to see the world! I never had time before!" quoth he; and
started off for Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Then Arnold Blake, whose eyes were the eyes of a poet, but whose mouth
had a touch of resemblance to his father's, betook himself to his Hill.
But the night before they separated, he and his brother both proposed to
Ella Sutherland. John because he had made up his mind that it was the
proper time for him to marry, and this was the proper woman; and Arnold
because he couldn't help it.
John got to work first. He was really very fond of Ella, and made hot
love to her. It was a painful surprise to him to be refused. He argued
with her. He told her how much he loved her.
"There are others!" said Miss Ella.
He told her how rich he was.
"That isn't the point," said Ella.
He told her how rich he was going to be.
"I'm not for sale!" said Ella, "even on futures!"
Then he got angry and criticised her judgement.
"It's a pity, isn't it," she said, "for me to have such poor
judgment--and for you to have to abide by it!"
"I won't take your decision," said John. "You're only a child yet. In
two years' time you'll be wiser. I'll ask you again then."
"All right," said Ella. "I'll answer you again then."
John went away, angry, but determined.
Arnold was less categorical.
"I've no right to say a word," he began, and then said it. Mostly he
dilated on her beauty and goodness and his overmastering affection for
"Are you offering marriage?" she inquired, rather quizzically.
"Why yes--of course!" said he, "only--only I've nothing to offer."
"There's you!" said Ella.
"But that's so little!" said Arnold. "O! if you will wait for me!--I
"What will you work at?" said Ella.
Arnold laughed. Ella laughed. "I love to camp out!" said she.
"Will you wait for me a year?" said Arnold.
"Ye-es," said Ella. I'll even wait two--if I have to. But no longer!"
"What will you do then?" asked Arnold miserably.
"Marry you," said Ella.
So Arnold went off to his Hill.
What was one hill among so many? There they arose about him, far green,
farther blue, farthest purple, rolling away to the real peaks of the
Catskills. This one had been part of his mother's father's land; a big
stretch, coming down to them from an old Dutch grant. It ran out like a
promontory into the winding valley below; the valley that had been a
real river when the Catskills were real mountains. There was some river
there yet, a little sulky stream, fretting most of the year in its
sunken stony bed, and losing its temper altogether when the spring
Arnold did not care much for the river--he had a brook of his own; an
ideal brook, beginning with an over-flowing spring; and giving him three
waterfalls and a lake on his own land. It was a very little lake and
handmade. In one place his brook ran through a narrow valley or
valleyette--so small it was; and a few weeks of sturdy work had damned
the exit and made a lovely pool. Arnold did that years ago, when he was
a great hulking brooding boy, and used to come up there with his mother
in summer; while his father stuck to the office and John went to Bar
Harbor with his chums. Arnold could work hard even if he was a poet.
He quarried stone from his hill--as everyone did in those regions; and
built a small solid house, adding to it from year to year; that was a
growing joy as long as the dear mother lived.
This was high up, near the dark, clear pool of the spring; he had piped
the water into the house--for his mother's comfort. It stood on a level
terrace, fronting south-westward; and every season he did more to make
it lovely. There was a fine smooth lawn there now and flowering vines
and bushes; every pretty wild thing that would grow and bloom of itself
in that region, he collected about him.
That dear mother had delighted in all the plants and trees; she studied
about them and made observations, while he enjoyed them--and made poems.
The chestnuts were their common pride. This hill stood out among all
the others in the flowering time, like a great pompon, and the odor of
it was by no means attractive--unless you happened to like it, as they
The chestnut crop was tremendous; and when Arnold found that not only
neighboring boys, but business expeditions from the city made a practice
of rifling his mountain garden, he raged for one season and acted the
next. When the first frost dropped the great burrs, he was on hand,
with a posse of strong young fellows from the farms about. They beat
and shook and harvested, and sack upon sack of glossy brown nuts were
piled on wagons and sent to market by the owner instead of the
Then he and his mother made great plans, the eager boy full of ambition.
He studied forestry and arboriculture; and grafted the big fat foreign
chestnut on his sturdy native stocks, while his father sneered and
scolded because he would not go into the office.
Now he was left to himself with his plans and hopes. The dear mother
was gone, but the hill was there--and Ella might come some day; there
was a chance.
"What do you think of it?" he said to Patsy. Patsy was not Irish. He
was an Italian from Tuscany; a farmer and forester by birth and
breeding, a soldier by compulsion, an American citizen by choice.
"Fine!" said Patsy. "Fine. Ver' good. You do well."
They went over the ground together. "Could you build a little house
here?" said Arnold. "Could you bring your wife? Could she attend to my
house up there?--and could you keep hens and a cow and raise vegetables
on this patch here--enough for all of us?--you to own the house and
land--only you cannot sell it except to me?"
Then Patsy thanked his long neglected saints, imported his wife and
little ones, took his eldest daughter out of the box factory, and his
eldest son out of the printing office; and by the end of the summer they
were comfortably established and ready to attend to the chestnut crop.
Arnold worked as hard as his man. Temporarily he hired other sturdy
Italians, mechanics of experience; and spent his little store of capital
in a way that would have made his father swear and his brother jeer at
When the year was over he had not much money left, but he had by his
second waterfall a small electrical plant, with a printing office
attached; and by the third a solid little mill, its turbine wheel
running merrily in the ceaseless pour. Millstones cost more money than
he thought, but there they were--brought up by night from the Hudson
River--that his neighbors might not laugh too soon. Over the mill were
large light rooms, pleasant to work in; with the shade of mighty trees
upon the roof; and the sound of falling water in the sun.
By next summer this work was done, and the extra workmen gone. Whereat
our poet refreshed himself with a visit to his Ella, putting in some
lazy weeks with her at Gloucester, happy and hopeful, but silent.
"How's the chestnut crop?" she asked him.
"Fine. Ver' good," he answered. "That's what Patsy says--and Patsy
She pursued her inquiries. "Who cooks for you? Who keeps your camp in
order? Who washes your clothes?"
"Mrs. Patsy," said he. "She's as good a cook as anybody need want."
"And how is the prospect?" asked Ella.
Arnold turned lazily over, where he lay on the sand at her feet, and
looked at her long and hungrily. "The prospect," said he, "is divine."
Ella blushed and laughed and said he was a goose; but he kept on
He wouldn't tell her much, though. "Don't, dear," he said when she
urged for information. "It's too serious. If I should fail--"
"You won't fail!" she protested. "You can't fail! And if you
do--why--as I told you before, I like to camp out!"
But when he tried to take some natural advantage of her friendliness she
teased him--said he was growing to look just like his father! Which
made them both laugh.
Arnold returned and settled down to business. He purchased stores of
pasteboard, of paper, of printers ink, and a little machine to fold
cartons. Thus equipped he retired to his fastness, and set dark-eyed
Caterlina to work in a little box factory of his own; while clever
Guiseppe ran the printing press, and Mafalda pasted. Cartons, piled
flat, do not take up much room, even in thousands.
Then Arnold loafed deliberately.
"Why not your Mr. Blake work no more?" inquired Mrs. Patsy of her
"O he work--he work hard," replied Patsy. "You women--you not
Mrs. Patsy tossed her head and answered in fluent Italian, so that her
husband presently preferred out of doors occupation; but in truth Arnold
Blake did not seem to do much that summer. He loafed under his great
trees, regarding them lovingly; he loafed by his lonely upper waterfall,
with happy dreaming eyes; he loafed in his little blue lake--floating
face to the sky, care free and happy as a child. And if he scribbled a
great deal--at any sudden moment when the fit seized him, why that was
only his weakness as a poet.
Toward the end of September, he invited an old college friend up to see
him; now a newspaper man--in the advertising department. These two
seemed to have merry times together. They fished and walked and
climbed, they talked much; and at night were heard roaring with laughter
by their hickory fire.
"Have you got any money left?" demanded his friend.
"About a thou--" said Arnold. "And that's got to last me till next
spring, you know."
"Blow it in--blow in every cent--it'll pay you. You can live through
the winter somehow. How about transportation?"
"Got a nice electric dray--light and strong. Runs down hill with the
load to tidewater, you see, and there's the old motorboat to take it
down. Brings back supplies."
"Great!--It's simply great! Now, you save enough to eat till spring and
give me the rest. Send me your stuff, all of it! and as soon as you get
in a cent above expenses--send me that--I'll 'tend to the advertising!"
He did. He had only $800 to begin with. When the first profits began
to come in he used them better; and as they rolled up he still spent
them. Arnold began to feel anxious, to want to save money; but his
friend replied: "You furnish the meal--I'll furnish the market!" And he
He began it in the subway in New York; that place of misery where eyes,
ears, nose, and common self-respect are all offended, and even an
advertisement is some relief.
"Hill" said the first hundred dollars, on a big blank space for a week.
"Mill" said the second. "Hill Mill Meal," said the third.
The fourth was more explicit.
"When tired of every cereal
Try our new material--
Hill Mill Meal."
"Ask your grocer if you feel
An interest in Hill Mill Meal.
"A paradox! Surprising! True!
Made of chestnuts but brand new!
Hill Mill Meal."
And the seventh--
"Solomon said it couldn't be done,
There wasn't a new thing under the sun--
He never ate Hill Mill Meal!"
Seven hundred dollars went in this one method only; and meanwhile
diligent young men in automobiles were making arrangements and leaving
circulars and samples with the grocer. Anybody will take free samples
and everybody likes chestnuts. Are they not the crown of luxury in
turkey stuffing? The gem of the confection as _marron glaces_? The
sure profit of the corner-merchant with his little charcoal stove, even
when they are half scorched and half cold? Do we not all love them,
roast, or boiled--only they are so messy to peel.
Arnold's only secret was his process; but his permanent advantage was in
the fine quality of his nuts, and his exquisite care in manufacture. In
dainty, neat, easily opened cartons (easily shut too, so they were not
left gaping to gather dust), he put upon the market a sort of samp,
chestnuts perfectly shelled and husked, roasted and ground, both coarse
and fine. Good? You stood and ate half a package out of your hand,
just tasting of it. Then you sat down and ate the other half.
He made pocket-size cartons, filled with whole ones, crafty man! And
they became "The Business Man's Lunch" forthwith. A pocketful of roast
chestnuts--and no mess nor trouble! And when they were boiled--well, we
all know how good boiled chestnuts are. As to the meal, a new variety
of mush appeared, and gems, muffins, and pancakes that made old epicures
feel young again in the joys of a fresh taste, and gave America new
standing in the eyes of France.
The orders rolled in and the poetry rolled out. The market for a new
food is as wide as the world; and Jim Chamberlin was mad to conquer it,
but Arnold explained to him that his total output was only so many
bushels a year.
"Nonsense!" said Jim. "You're a--a--well, a _poet_! Come! Use your
imagination! Look at these hills about you--they could grow chestnuts
to the horizon! Look at this valley, that rattling river, a bunch of
mills could run here! You can support a fine population--a whole
village of people--there's no end to it, I tell you!"
"And where would my privacy be then and the beauty of the place?" asked
Arnold, "I love this green island of chestnut trees, and the winding
empty valley, just freckled with a few farms. I'd hate to support a
"But you can be a Millionaire!" said Jim.
"I don't want to be a Millionaire," Arnold cheerfully replied.
Jim gazed at him, opening and shutting his mouth in silence.
"You--confounded old--_poet_!" he burst forth at last.
"I can't help that," said Arnold.
"You'd better ask Miss Sutherland about it, I think," his friend drily
"To be sure! I had forgotten that--I will," the poet replied.
Then he invited her to come up and visit his Hill, met her at the train
with the smooth, swift, noiseless, smell-less electric car, and held her
hand in blissful silence as they rolled up the valley road. They wound
more slowly up his graded avenue, green-arched by chestnut boughs.
He showed her the bit of meadowy inlet where the mill stood, by the
heavy lower fall; the broad bright packing rooms above, where the busy
Italian boys and girls chattered gaily as they worked. He showed her
the second fall, with his little low-humming electric plant; a bluestone
building, vine-covered, lovely, a tiny temple to the flower-god.
"It does our printing," said Arnold, "gives us light, heat and
telephones. And runs the cars."
Then he showed her the shaded reaches of his lake, still, starred with
lilies, lying dark under the curving boughs of water maples, doubling
the sheer height of flower-crowned cliffs.
She held his hand tighter as they wound upward, circling the crown of
the hill that she might see the splendid range of outlook; and swinging
smoothly down a little and out on the green stretch before the house.
Ella gasped with delight. Gray, rough and harmonious, hung with
woodbine and wildgrape, broad-porched and wide-windowed, it faced the
setting sun. She stood looking, looking, over the green miles of
tumbling hills, to the blue billowy far-off peaks swimming in soft
"There's the house," said Arnold, "furnished--there's a view room built
on--for you, dear; I did it myself. There's the hill--and the little
lake and one waterfall all for us! And the spring, and the garden, and
some very nice Italians. And it will earn--my Hill and Mill, about
three or four thousand dollars a year--above _all_ expenses!"
"How perfectly splendid!" said Ella. "But there's one thing you've left
"What's that?" he asked, a little dashed.
"_You_!" she answered. "Arnold Blake! My Poet!"
"Oh, I forgot," he added, after some long still moments. "I ought to
ask you about this first. Jim Chamberlain says I can cover all these
hills with chestnuts, fill this valley with people, string that little
river with a row of mills, make breakfast for all the world--and be a
Millionaire. Shall I?"
"For goodness sake--_No_!" said Ella. "Millionaire, indeed? And spoil
the most perfect piece of living I ever saw or heard of!"
Then there was a period of bliss, indeed there was enough to last
But one pleasure they missed. They never saw even the astonished face,
much less the highly irritated mind, of old John Blake, when he first
returned from his two years of travel. The worst of it was he had eaten
the stuff all the way home-and liked it! They told him it was Chestnut
Meal--but that meant nothing to him. Then he began to find the jingling
advertisements in every magazine; things that ran in his head and
"When corn or rice no more are nice,
When oatmeal seems to pall,
When cream of wheat's no longer sweet
And you abhor them all--"
"I do abhor them all!" the old man would vow, and take up a newspaper,
only to read:
"Better than any food that grows
Upon or in the ground,
Strong, pure and sweet
And good to eat
Our tree-born nuts are found."
"Bah!" said Mr. Blake, and tried another, which only showed him:
"Good for mother, good for brother,
Good for child;
As for father--well, rather!
He's just wild."
He was. But the truth never dawned upon him till he came to this one:
"About my hut
There grew a nut
I could but feel
'Twould make a meal
I had a Hill,
I built a Mill
And hour by hour
I sought for power
To run it.
To burn my trees
Or try the breeze
To use my arm
Had little charm--
The nuts are here,
But coal!--Quite dear
We find it!
We have the stuff.
Where's power enough
To grind it?
What force to find
My nuts to grind?
I've found it!
Could beat 'em all--
And ground it!
"Confound your impudence!" he wrote to his son. "And confound your
poetic stupidity in not making a Big Business now you've got a start!
But I understand you do make a living, and I'm thankful for that."
Arnold and Ella, watching the sunset from their hammock, laughed softly
together, and lived.
This is a sermon.
Its purpose is to point out the need of a clearer conception of right
and wrong, based on knowledge.
Its text is from Ecclesiastes I, 13, "And I gave my heart to seek and
search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven;
this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised
(Let me remark here that I had my sermon in mind before I looked for the
text; but a more expressive and beautifully apposite one I never saw!)
The Preacher of old is right; this sore travail was laid upon us, a most
useful exercise; but we have lazily evaded it and taken other people's
judgment as to our duties.
That would-be Empire Builder, Moses, legislated for his people with an
unlimited explicitness that reflects small credit on their power to
search out by wisdom.
His cut and dried rules went down to most delicate selection of ovine
vicera for the sacrifice--"the fat and the rump, and the fat that
covereth the inwards and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys";
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