NELLIE L. McCLUNG
Author of "Sowing Seeds In Danny," "The Second Chance," and "The Black Creek Stopping-house."
McLEOD & ALLEN
BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
Printed in the United States of America
TO THE SUPERIOR PERSONS
Who would not come to hear a woman speak being firmly convinced that it is not "natural."
Who takes the rather unassailable ground that "men are men and women are women."
Who answers all arguments by saying, "Woman's place is the home" and, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world," and even sometimes flashes out with the brilliant retort, "It would suit those women better to stay at home and darn their children's stockings."
To all these Superior Persons, men and women, who are inhospitable to new ideas, and even suspicious of them, this book is respectfully dedicated by
Upon further deliberation I am beset with the fear that the above dedication may not "take." The Superior Person may not appreciate the kind and neighborly spirit I have tried to show. So I will dedicate this book again.
Believing that the woman's claim to a common humanity is not an unreasonable one, and that the successful issue of such claim rests primarily upon the sense of fair play which people have or have not according to how they were born, and
Believing that the man or woman born with a sense of fair play, no matter how obscured it has become by training, prejudice, or unhappy experience, will ultimately see the light and do the square thing and—
Believing that the man or woman who has not been so endowed by nature, no matter what advantages of education or association, will always suffer from the affliction known as mental strabismus, over which no feeble human ward has any power, and which can only be cast out by the transforming power of God's grace.
Therefore to men and women everywhere who love a fair deal, and are willing to give it to everyone, even women, this book is respectfully dedicated by the author.
NELLIE L. McCLUNG.
I. THE WAR THAT NEVER ENDS II. THE WAR THAT ENDS IN EXHAUSTION SOMETIMES MISTAKEN FOR PEACE III. WHAT DO WOMEN THINK OF WAR? (NOT THAT IT MATTERS) IV. SHOULD WOMEN THINK? V. THE NEW CHIVALRY VI. HARDY PERENNIALS! VII. GENTLE LADY VIII. WOMEN AND THE CHURCH IX. THE SORE THOUGHT X. THE LAND OF THE FAIR DEAL XI. AS A MAN THINKETH XII. THE WAR AGAINST GLOOM
IN TIMES LIKE THESE
THE WAR THAT NEVER ENDS
If, at last the sword is sheathed, And men, exhausted, call it peace, Old Nature wears no olive wreath, The weapons change—war does not cease.
The little struggling blades of grass That lift their heads and will not die, The vines that climb where sunbeams pass, And fight their way toward the sky!
And every soul that God has made, Who from despair their lives defend And struggling upward through the shade, Break every bond that will not bend, These are the soldiers, unafraid In the great war that has no end.
We will begin peaceably by contemplating the world of nature, trees and plants and flowers, common green things against which there is no law—for surely there is no corruption in carrots, no tricks in turnips, no mixed motive in marigolds.
To look abroad upon a peaceful field drowsing in the sunshine, lazily touched by a wandering breeze, no one would suspect that any struggle was going on in the tiny hearts of the flowers and grasses. The lilies of the field have long ago been said to toil not, neither spin, and the inference has been that they in common with all other flowers and plants lead a "lady's life," untroubled by any thought of ambition or activity. The whole world of nature seems to present a perfect picture of obedience and peaceful meditation.
But for all their quiet innocent ways, every plant has one ambition and will attain it by any means. Plants have one ambition, and therein they have the advantage of us, who sometimes have too many, and sometimes none at all! Their ambition is to grow—to spread—to travel—to get away from home. Home is their enemy, for if a plant falls at its mother's knee it is doomed to death, or a miserable stunted life.
Every seed has its own little plan of escape. Some of them are pitiful enough and stamped with failure, like the tiny screw of the Lucerne, which might be of some use if the seed were started on its flight from a considerable elevation, but as it is, it has hardly turned over before it hits the ground. But the next seed tries the same plan—always hoping for a happier result. With better success, the maple seed uses its little spreading wings to conquer space, and if the wind does its part the plan succeeds, and that the wind generally can be depended upon to blow is shown by the wide dissemination of maple trees.
More subtle still are the little tricks that seeds have of getting animals and people to give them a lift on their way. Many a bird has picked a bright red berry from a bush, with a feeling of gratitude, no doubt, that his temporal needs are thus graciously supplied. He swallows the sweet husk, and incidentally the seed, paying no attention to the latter, and flies on his way. The seed remains unchanged and undigested, and is thus carried far from home, and gets its chance. So, too, many seeds are provided with burrs and spikes, which stick in sheep's wool, dog's hair, or the clothing of people, and so travel abroad, to the far country—the land of growth, the land of promise.
There is something pathetically human in the struggle plants make to reach the light; tiny rootlets have been known to pierce rocks in their stern determination to reach the light that their soul craves. They refuse to be resigned to darkness and despair! Who has not marveled at the intelligence shown by the canary vine, the wild cucumber plant, or the morning glory, in the way their tendrils reach out and find the rusty nail or sliver on the fence—anything on which they can rise into the higher air; even as you and I reach out the trembling tendrils of our souls for something solid to rest upon?
There is no resignation in Nature, no quiet folding of the hands, no hypocritical saying, "Thy will be done!" and giving in without a struggle. Countless millions of seeds and plants are doomed each year to death and failure, but all honor to them—they put up a fight to the very end! Resignation is a cheap and indolent human virtue, which has served as an excuse for much spiritual slothfulness. It is still highly revered and commended. It is so much easier sometimes to sit down and be resigned than to rise up and be indignant.
Years ago people broke every law of sanitation and when plagues came they were resigned and piously looked heavenward, and blamed God for the whole thing. "Thy will be done," they said, and now we know it was not God's will at all. It is never God's will that any should perish! People were resigned when they should have been cleaning up! "Thy will be done!" should ever be the prayer of our hearts, but it does not let us out of any responsibility. It is not a weak acceptance of misfortune, or sickness, or injustice or wrong, for these things are not God's will.
"Thy will be done" is a call to fight—to fight for better conditions, for moral and physical health, for sweeter manners, cleaner laws, for a fair chance for everyone, even women!
The man or woman who tries to serve their generation need not cry out as did the hymn writer of the last century against the danger of being carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, for we know that flowery beds of ease have never been a mode of locomotion to the skies. Flowery beds of ease lead in an entirely opposite direction, which has had the effect of discouraging celestial emigration, for humanity is very partial to the easy way of traveling. People like not only to travel the easy way, but to think along the beaten path, which is so safe and comfortable, where the thoughts have been worked over so often that the very words are ready made, and come easily. There is a good deal of the cat in the human family. We like comfort and ease—a warm cushion by a cosy fire, and then sweet sleep—and don't disturb me! Disturbers are never popular—nobody ever really loved an alarm clock in action—no matter how grateful they may have been afterwards for its kind services!
It was the people who did not like to be disturbed who crucified Christ—the worst fault they had to find with Him was that He annoyed them—He rebuked the carnal mind—He aroused the cat-spirit, and so they crucified Him—and went back to sleep. Even yet new ideas blow across some souls like a cold draught, and they naturally get up and shut the door! They have even been known to slam it!
The sin of the world has ever been indifference and slothfulness, more than real active wickedness. Life, the real abundant life of one who has a vision of what a human soul may aspire to be, becomes a great struggle against conditions. Life is warfare—not one set of human beings warring upon other human beings—that is murder, no matter by what euphonious name it may be called; but war waged against ignorance, selfishness, darkness, prejudice and cruelty, beginning always with the roots of evil which we find in our own hearts. What a glorious thing it would be if nations would organize and train for this warfare, whose end is life, and peace, and joy everlasting, as they now train and organize for the wholesale murder and burning and pillaging whose mark of victory is the blackened trail of smoking piles of ruins, dead and maimed human beings, interrupted trade and paralyzed industries!
Once a man paid for his passage across the ocean in one of the great Atlantic liners. He brought his provisions with him to save expenses, but as the days went on he grew tired of cheese, and his biscuits began to taste mousy, and the savory odors of the kitchen and dining-room were more than he could resist. There was only one day more, but he grew so ravenously hungry, he felt he must have one good meal, if it took his last cent. He made his way to the dining-room, and asked the man at the desk the price of a meal. In answer to his inquiry the man asked to see his ticket. "It will not cost you anything," he said. "Your ticket includes meals."
That's the way it is in life—we have been traveling below our privileges. There is enough for everyone, if we could get at it. There is food and raiment, a chance to live, and love and labor—for everyone; these things are included in our ticket, only some of us have not known it, and some others have reached out and taken more than their share, and try to excuse their "hoggishness" by declaring that God did not intend all to travel on the same terms, but you and I know God better than that.
To bring this about—the even chance for everyone—is the plain and simple meaning of life. This is the War that never ends. It has been waged all down the centuries by brave men and women whose hearts God has touched. It is a quiet war with no blare of trumpets to keep the soldiers on the job, no flourish of flags or clinking of swords to stimulate flagging courage. It may not be as romantic a warfare, from the standpoint of our medieval ideas of romance, as the old way of sharpening up a battle axe, and spreading our enemy to the evening breeze, but the reward of victory is not seeing our brother man dead at our feet; but rather seeing him alive and well, working by our side.
To this end let us declare war on all meanness, snobbishness, petty or great jealousies, all forms of injustice, all forms of special privilege, all selfishness and all greed. Let us drop bombs on our prejudices! Let us send submarines to blow up all our poor little petty vanities, subterfuges and conceits, with which we have endeavored to veil the face of Truth. Let us make a frontal attack on ignorance, laziness, doubt, despondence, despair, and unbelief!
The banner over us is "Love," and our watchword "A Fair Deal."
THE WAR THAT ENDS IN EXHAUSTION SOMETIMES MISTAKEN FOR PEACE
When a skirl of pipes came down the street, And the blare of bands, and the march of feet, I could not keep from marching, too; For the pipes cried "Come!" and the bands said "Do," And when I heard the pealing fife, I cared no more for human life!
Away back in the cave-dwelling days, there was a simple and definite distribution of labor. Men fought and women worked. Men fought because they liked it; and women worked because it had to be done. Of course the fighting had to be done too, there was always a warring tribe out looking for trouble, while their womenfolk stayed at home and worked. They were never threatened with a long peace. Somebody was always willing to go "It." The young bloods could always be sure of good fighting somewhere, and no questions asked. The masculine attitude toward life was: "I feel good today; I'll go out and kill something." Tribes fought for their existence, and so the work of the warrior was held to be the most glorious of all; indeed, it was the only work that counted. The woman's part consisted of tilling the soil, gathering the food, tanning the skins and fashioning garments, brewing the herbs, raising the children, dressing the warrior's wounds, looking after the herds, and any other light and airy trifle which might come to her notice. But all this was in the background. Plain useful work has always been considered dull and drab.
Everything depended on the warrior. When "the boys" came home there was much festivity, music, and feasting, and tales of the chase and fight. The women provided the feast and washed the dishes. The soldier has always been the hero of our civilization, and yet almost any man makes a good soldier. Nearly every man makes a good soldier, but not every man, or nearly every man makes a good citizen: the tests of war are not so searching as the tests of peace, but still the soldier is the hero.
Very early in the lives of our children we begin to inculcate the love of battle and sieges and invasions, for we put the miniature weapons of warfare into their little hands. We buy them boxes of tin soldiers at Christmas, and help them to build forts and blow them up. We have military training in our schools; and little fellows are taught to shoot at targets, seeing in each an imaginary foe, who must be destroyed because he is "not on our side." There is a song which runs like this:
If a lad a maid would marry He must learn a gun to carry.
thereby putting love and love-making on a military basis—but it goes! Military music is in our ears, and even in our churches. "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war" is a Sunday-school favorite. We pray to the God of Battles, never by any chance to the God of Workshops!
Once a year, of course, we hold a Peace Sunday and on that day we pray mightily that God will give us peace in our time and that war shall be no more, and the spear shall be beaten into the pruning hook. But the next day we show God that he need not take us too literally, for we go on with the military training, and the building of the battleships, and our orators say that in time of peace we must prepare for war.
War is the antithesis of all our teaching. It breaks all the commandments; it makes rich men poor, and strong men weak. It makes well men sick, and by it living men are changed to dead men. Why, then, does war continue? Why do men go so easily to war—for we may as well admit that they do go easily? There is one explanation. They like it!
When the first contingent of soldiers went to the war from Manitoba, there stood on the station platform a woman crying bitterly. (She was not the only one.) She had in her arms an infant, and three small children stood beside her wondering.
"'E would go!" she sobbed in reply to the sympathy expressed by the people who stood near her, "'E loves a fight—'e went through the South African War, and 'e's never been 'appy since—when 'e 'ears war is on he says I'll go—'e loves it—'e does!"
'"E loves it!"
That explains many things.
"Father sent me out," said a little Irish girl, "to see if there's a fight going on any place, because if there is, please, father would like to be in it!" Unfortunately "father's" predilection to fight is not wholly confined to the Irish!
But although men like to fight, war is not inevitable. War is not of God's making. War is a crime committed by men and, therefore, when enough people say it shall not be, it cannot be. This will not happen until women are allowed to say what they think of war. Up to the present time women have had nothing to say about war, except pay the price of war—this privilege has been theirs always.
History, romance, legend and tradition having been written by men, have shown the masculine aspect of war and have surrounded it with a false glory and have sought to throw the veil of glamour over its hideous face. Our histories have followed the wars. Invasions, conquests, battles, sieges make up the subject-matter of our histories.
Some glorious soul, looking out upon his neighbors, saw some country that he thought he could use and so he levied a heavy tax on the people, and with the money fitted out a splendid army. Men were called from their honest work to go out and fight other honest men who had never done them any harm; harvest fields were trampled by their horses' feet, villages burned, women and children fled in terror, and perished of starvation, streets ran blood and the Glorious Soul came home victorious with captives chained to his chariot wheel. When he drove through the streets of his own home town, all the people cheered, that is, all who had not been killed, of course.
What the people thought of all this, the historians do not say. The people were not asked or expected to think. Thinking was the most unpopular thing they could do. There were dark damp dungeons where hungry rats prowled ceaselessly; there were headsmen's axes and other things prepared for people who were disposed to think and specially designed to allay restlessness among the people.
The "people" were dealt with in one short paragraph at the end of the chapter: "The People were very poor" (you wouldn't think they would need to say that, and certainly there was no need to rub it in), and they "ate black bread," and they were "very ignorant and superstitious." Superstitious? Well, I should say they would be—small wonder if they did see black cats and have rabbits cross their paths, and hear death warnings, for there was always going to be a death in the family, and they were always about to lose money! The People were a great abstraction, infinite in number, inarticulate in suffering—the people who fought and paid for their own killing. The man who could get the people to do this on the largest scale was the greatest hero of all and the historian told us much about him, his dogs, his horses, the magnificence of his attire.
Some day, please God, there will be new histories written, and they will tell the story of the years from the standpoint of the people, and the hero will not be any red-handed assassin who goes through peaceful country places leaving behind him dead men looking sightlessly up to the sky. The hero will be the man or woman who knows and loves and serves. In the new histories we will be shown the tragedy, the heartbreaking tragedy of war, which like some dreadful curse has followed the human family, beaten down their plans, their hopes, wasted their savings, destroyed their homes, and in every way turned back the clock of progress.
We have all wondered what would happen if the people some day decided that they would no longer be the tools of the man higher up, what would happen if the men who make the quarrel had to fight it out. How glorious it would have been if this war could have been settled by somebody taking the Kaiser out behind the barn! There would seem to be some show of justice in a hand-to-hand encounter, where the best man wins, but modern warfare has not even the faintest glimmering of fair play. The exploding shell blows to pieces the strong, the brave, the daring, just as readily as it does the cowardly, weak, or base.
War proves nothing. To kill a man does not prove that he was in the wrong. Bloodletting cannot change men's spirits, neither can the evil of men's thoughts be driven out by blows. If I go to my neighbor's house, and break her furniture, and smash her pictures, and bind her children captive, it does not prove that I am fitter to live than she—yet according to the ethics of nations it does. I have conquered her and she must pay me for my trouble; and her house and all that is left in it belongs to my heirs and successors forever. That is war!
War twists our whole moral fabric. The object of all our teaching has been to inculcate respect for the individual, respect for human life, honor and purity. War sweeps that all aside. The human conscience in these long years of peace, and its resultant opportunities for education, has grown tender to the cry of agony—the pallid face of a hungry child finds a quick response to its mute appeal; but when we know that hundreds are rendered homeless every day, and countless thousands are killed and wounded, men and boys mowed down like a field of grain, and with as little compunction, we grow a little bit numb to human misery. What does it matter if there is a family north of the track living on soda biscuits and turnips? War hardens us to human grief and misery.
War takes the fit and leaves the unfit. The epileptic, the consumptive, the inebriate, are left behind. They are not good enough to go out to fight. So they stay at home, and perpetuate the race! Statistics prove that the war is costing fifty millions a day, which is a prodigious sum, but we would be getting off easy if that were all it costs. The bitterest cost of war is not paid by us at all. It will be paid by the unborn generations, in a lowered vitality, the loss of a strong fatherhood, which they have never known. Napoleon lowered the stature of the French by two inches, it is said. That is one way to set your mark on your generation.
But the greatest evil wrought by war is not the wanton destruction of life and property, sinful though it is; it is not even the lowered vitality of succeeding generations, though that is attended by appalling injury to the moral nature—the real iniquity of war is that it sets aside the arbitrament of right and justice, and looks to brute force for its verdict!
In the first days of panic, pessimism broke out among us, and we cried in our despair that our civilization had failed, that Christianity had broken down, and that God had forgotten the world. It seemed like it at first. But now a wiser and better vision has come to us, and we know that Christianity has not failed, for it is not fair to impute failure to something which has never been tried. Civilization has failed. Art, music, and culture have failed, and we know now that underneath the thin veneer of civilization, unregenerate man is still a savage; and we see now, what some have never seen before, that unless a civilization is built upon love, and mutual trust, it must always end in disaster, such as this. Up to August fourth, we often said that war was impossible between Christian nations. We still say so, but we know more now than we did then. We know now that there are no Christian nations.
Oh, yes. I know the story. It was a beautiful story and a beautiful picture. The black prince of Abyssinia asked the young Queen of England what was the secret of England's glory and she pointed to the "open Bible."
The dear Queen of sainted memory was wrong. She judged her nation by the standard of her own pure heart. England did not draw her policy from the open Bible when in 1840 she forced the opium traffic on the Chinese. England does not draw her policy from the open Bible when she takes revenues from the liquor traffic, which works such irreparable ruin to countless thousands of her people. England does not draw her policy from the open Bible when she denies her women the rights of citizens, when women are refused degrees after passing examinations, when lower pay is given women for the same work than if it were done by men. Would this be tolerated if it were really so that we were a Christian nation? God abominates a false balance, and delights in a just weight.
No, the principles of Christ have not yet been applied to nations. We have only Christian people. You will see that in a second, if you look at the disparity that there is between our conceptions of individual duty and national duty. Take the case of the heathen—the people whom we in our large-handed, superior way call the heathen. Individually we believe it is our duty to send missionaries to them to convert them into Christians. Nationally we send armies upon them (if necessary) and convert them into customers! Individually we say: "We will send you our religion." Nationally: "We will send you goods, and we'll make you take them—we need the money!" Think of the bitter irony of a boat leaving a Christian port loaded with missionaries upstairs and rum below, both bound for the same place and for the same people—both for the heathen "with our comp'ts."
Individually we know it is wrong to rob anyone. Yet the state robs freely, openly, and unashamed, by unjust taxation, by the legalized liquor traffic, by imposing unjust laws upon at least one half of the people. We wonder at the disparity between our individual ideals and the national ideal, but when you remember that the national ideals have been formed by one half of the world—and not the more spiritual half—it is not so surprising. Our national policy is the result of male statecraft.
There is a curative power in human life just as there is in nature. When the pot boils—it boils over. Evils cure themselves eventually. But it is a long hard way. Yet it is the way humanity has always had to learn. Christ realized that when he looked down at Jerusalem, and wept over it: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but you would not." That was the trouble then, and it has been the trouble ever since. Humanity has to travel a hard road to wisdom, and it has to travel it with bleeding feet.
But it is getting its lessons now—and paying double first-class rates for its tuition!
WHAT DO WOMEN THINK OF WAR? (NOT THAT IT MATTERS)
Bands in the street, and resounding cheers, And honor to him whom the army led! But his mother moans thro' her blinding tears— "My boy is dead—is dead!"
"Madam," said Charles XI of Sweden to his wife when she appealed to him for mercy to some prisoner, "I married you to give me children, not to give me advice." That was said a long time ago, and the haughty old Emperor put it rather crudely, but he put it straight. This is still the attitude of the world towards women. That men are human beings, but women are women, with one reason for their existence, has long been the dictum of the world.
More recent philosophers have been more adroit—they have sought to soften the blow, and so they palaver the women by telling them what a tremendous power they are for good. They quote the men who have said: "All that I am my mother made me." They also quote that old iniquitous lie, about the hand that rocks the cradle ruling the world.
For a long time men have been able to hush women up by these means; and many women have gladly allowed themselves to be deceived. Sometimes when a little child goes driving with his father he is allowed to hold the ends of the reins, and encouraged to believe that he is driving, and it works quite well with a very small child. Women have been deceived in the same way into believing that they are the controlling factor in the world. Here and there, there have been doubters among women who have said: "If it be true that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, how comes the liquor traffic and the white slave traffic to prevail among us unchecked? Do women wish for these things? Do the gentle mothers whose hands rule the world declare in favor of these things?" Every day the number of doubters has increased, and now women everywhere realize that a bad old lie has been put over on them for years. The hand that rocks the cradle does not rule the world. If it did, human life would be held dearer and the world would be a sweeter, cleaner, safer place than it is now!
Women are naturally the guardians of the race, and every normal woman desires children. Children are not a handicap in the race of life either, they are an inspiration. We hear too much about the burden of motherhood and too little of its benefits. The average child does well for his parents, and teaches them many things. Bless his little soft hands—he broadens our outlook, quickens our sympathies, and leads us, if we will but let him, into all truth. A child pays well for his board and keep.
Deeply rooted in every woman's heart is the love and care of children. A little girl's first toy is a doll, and so, too, her first great sorrow is when her doll has its eyes poked out by her little brother. Dolls have suffered many things at the hands of their maternal uncles.
There, little girl, don't cry, They have broken your doll, I know,
contains in it the universal note of woman's woe!
But just as the woman's greatest sorrow has come through her children, so has her greatest development. Women learned to cook, so that their children might be fed; they learned to sew that their children might be clothed, and women are learning to think so that their children may be guided.
Since the war broke out women have done a great deal of knitting. Looking at this great army of women struggling with rib and back seam, some have seen nothing in it but a "fad" which has supplanted for the time tatting and bridge. But it is more than that. It is the desire to help, to care for, to minister; it is the same spirit which inspires our nurses to go out and bind up the wounded and care for the dying. The woman's outlook on life is to save, to care for, to help. Men make wounds and women bind them up, and so the women, with their hearts filled with love and sorrow, sit in their quiet homes and knit.
Comforter—they call it—yes— So it is for my distress, For it gives my restless hands Blessed work. God understands How we women yearn to be Doing something ceaselessly.
Women have not only been knitting—they have been thinking. Among other things they have thought about the German women, those faithful, patient, home-loving, obedient women, who never interfere in public affairs, nor question man's ruling. The Kaiser says women have only two concerns in life, cooking and children, and the German women have accepted his dictum. They are good cooks and faithful nurses to their children.
According to the theories of the world, the sons of such women should be the gentlest men on earth. Their home has been so sacred, and well-kept; their mother has been so gentle, patient and unworldly—she has never lowered the standard of her womanhood by asking to vote, or to mingle in the "hurly burly" of politics. She has been humble, and loving, and always hoped for the best.
According to the theories of the world, the gentle sons of gentle mothers will respect and reverence all womankind everywhere. Yet, we know that in the invasion of Belgium, the German soldiers made a shield of Belgian women and children in front of their army; no child was too young, no woman too old, to escape their cruelty; no mother's prayers, no child's appeal could stay their fury! These chivalrous sons of gentle, loving mothers marched through the land of Belgium, their nearest neighbor, leaving behind them smoking trails of ruin, black as their own hard hearts!
What, then, is the matter with the theory? Nothing, except that there is nothing in it—it will not work. Women who set a low value on themselves make life hard for all women. The German woman's ways have been ways of pleasantness, but her paths have not been paths of peace; and now, women everywhere are thinking of her, rather bitterly. Her peaceful, humble, patient ways have suddenly ceased to appear virtuous in our eyes and we see now, it is not so much a woman's duty to bring children into the world, as to see what sort of a world she is bringing them into, and what their contribution will be to it. Bertha Krupp has made good guns and the German women have raised good soldiers—if guns and soldiers can be called "good"—and between them they have manned the most terrible and destructive war machine that the world has ever known. We are not grateful to either of them.
The nimble fingers of the knitting women are transforming balls of wool into socks and comforters, but even a greater change is being wrought in their own hearts. Into their gentle souls have come bitter thoughts of rebellion. They realize now how little human life is valued, as opposed to the greed and ambition of nations. They think bitterly of Napoleon's utterance on the subject of women—that the greatest woman in the world is the one who brings into the world the greatest number of sons; they also remember that he said that a boy could stop a bullet as well as a man, and that God is on the side of the heaviest artillery. From these three statements they get the military idea of women, children, and God, and the heart of the knitting woman recoils in horror from the cold brutality of it all. They realize now something of what is back of all the opposition to the woman's advancement into all lines of activity and a share in government.
Women are intended for two things, to bring children into the world and to make men comfortable, and then they must keep quiet and if their hearts break with grief, let them break quietly—that's all. No woman is so unpopular as the noisy woman who protests against these things.
The knitting women know now why the militant suffragettes broke windows and destroyed property, and went to jail for it joyously, and without a murmur—it was the protest of brave women against the world's estimate of woman's position. It was the world-old struggle for liberty. The knitting women remember now with shame and sorrow that they have said hard things about the suffragettes, and thought they were unwomanly and hysterical. Now they know that womanliness, and peaceful gentle ways, prayers, petitions and tears have long been tried but are found wanting; and now they know that these brave women in England, maligned, ridiculed, persecuted, as they were, have been fighting every woman's battle, fighting for the recognition of human life, and the mother's point of view. Many of the knitting women have seen a light shine around their pathway, as they have passed down the road from the heel to the toe, and they know now that the explanation cannot be accepted any longer that the English women are "crazy." That has been offered so often and been accepted.
Crazy! That's such an easy way to explain actions which we do not understand. Crazy! and it gives such a delightful thrill of sanity to the one who says it—such a pleasurable flash of superiority!
Oh, no, they have not been crazy, unless acts of heroism and suffering for the sake of others can be described as crazy! The knitting women wish now that there had been "crazy" women in Germany to direct the thought of the nation to the brutality of the military system, to have aroused the women to struggle for a human civilization, instead of a masculine civilization such as they have now. They would have fared badly of course, even worse than the women in England, but they are faring badly now, and to what purpose? The women of Belgium have fared badly. After all, the greatest thing in life is not to live comfortably—it is to live honorably, and when that becomes impossible, to die honorably!
The woman who knits is thinking sadly of the glad days of peace, now unhappily gone by, when she was so sure it was her duty to bring children into the world. She thinks of the glad rapture with which she looked into the sweet face of her first-born twenty years ago—the brave lad who went with the first contingent, and is now at the front. She was so sure then that she had done a noble thing in giving this young life to the world. He was to have been a great doctor, a great healer, one who bound up wounds, and make weak men strong—and now—in the trenches, he stands, this lad of hers, with the weapons of death in his hands, with bitter hatred in his heart, not binding wounds, but making them, sending poor human beings out in the dark to meet their Maker, unprepared, surrounded by sights and sounds that must harden his heart or break it. Oh! her sunny-hearted lad! So full of love and tenderness and pity, so full of ambition and high resolves and noble impulses, he is dead—dead already—and in his place there stands "private 355" a man of hate, a man of blood! Many a time the knitting has to be laid aside, for the bitter tears blur the stitches.
The woman who knits thinks of all this and now she feels that she who brought this boy into the world, who is responsible for his existence, has some way been to blame. Is life really such a boon that any should crave it? Do we really confer a favor on the innocent little souls we bring into the world, or do we owe them an apology?
She thinks now of Abraham's sacrifice, when he was willing at God's command to offer his dearly beloved son on the altar; and now she knows it was not so hard for Abraham, for he knew it was God who asked it, and he had God's voice to guide him! Abraham was sure, but about this—who knows?
Then she thinks of the little one who dropped out of the race before it was well begun, and of the inexplicable smile of peace which lay on his small white face, that day, so many years ago now, when they laid him away with such sorrow, and such agony of loss. She understands now why the little one smiled, while all around him wept.
And she thinks enviously of her neighbor across the way, who had no son to give, the childless woman for whom in the old days she felt so sorry, but whom now she envies. She is the happiest woman of all—so thinks the knitting woman, as she sits alone in her quiet house; for thoughts can grow very bitter when the house is still and the boyish voice is heard no more shouting, "Mother" in the hall.
There, little girl, don't cry! They have broken your heart, I know.
SHOULD WOMEN THINK?
A woman, a spaniel, a walnut tree, The more you beat 'em, the better they be. —From "Proverbs of All Nations."
A woman is not a person in matters of rights and privileges, but she is a person in matters of pains and penalties.—From the Common Law of England.
No woman, idiot, lunatic, or criminal shall vote.—From the Election Act of the Dominion of Canada.
Mary and Martha were sisters, and one day they had a quarrel, which goes to show that sisters in Bible times were much the same as now. Mary and Martha had a different attitude toward life. Martha was a housekeeper—she reveled in housecleaning—she had a perfect mania for sweeping and dusting. Mary was a thinker. She looked beyond the work, and saw something better and more important, something more abiding and satisfying.
When Jesus came to their home to visit, Mary sat at his feet and listened. She fed her soul, and in her sheer joy she forgot that there were dirty dishes in all the world; she forgot that ever people grew hungry, or floors became dusty; she forgot everything only the joy of his presence. Martha never forgot. All days were alike to Martha, only of course Monday was washday. The visit of the Master to Martha meant another place at the table, and another plate to be washed. Truly feminine was Martha, much commended in certain circles today. She looked well to the needs of her family, physical needs, that is, for she recognized no other. Martha not only liked to work herself, but she liked to see other people work; so when Mary went and sat at the Master's feet, while the dishes were yet unwashed, Martha complained about it.
"Lord, make Mary come and help me!" she said. The story says Martha was wearied with much serving. Martha had cooked and served an elaborate meal, and elaborate meals usually do make people cross either before or after. Christ gently reproved her. "Mary hath chosen the better part."
Just here let us say something in Mary's favor. Martha by her protest against Mary's behavior on this particular occasion, exonerates Mary from the general charge of laziness which is often made against her. If Mary had been habitually lazy, Martha would have long since ceased to expect any help from her, but it seems pretty certain that Mary was generally on the job. Trivial little incident, is it not? Strange that it should find a place in the sacred record. But if Christ's mission on earth had any meaning at all, it was to teach this very lesson that the things which are not seen are greater than the things which are seen—that the spiritual is greater than the temporal. The life is more than meat and the body is more than raiment.
Martha has a long line of weary, backaching, footsore successors. Indeed there is a strain of Martha in all of us; we worry more over a stain in the carpet than a stain on the soul; we bestow more thought on the choice of hats than on the choice of friends; we tidy up bureau drawers, sometimes, when we should be tidying up the inner recesses of our mind and soul; we clean up the attic and burn up the rubbish which has accumulated there, every spring, whether it needs it or not. But when do we appoint a housecleaning day for the soul, when do we destroy all the worn-out prejudices and beliefs which belong to a day gone by?
Mary did take the better part, for she laid hold on the things which are spiritual. Mary had learned the great truth that it is not the house you live in or the food you eat, or the clothes you wear that make you rich, but it is the thoughts you think. Christ put it well when he said, "Mary hath chosen the better part." Life is a choice every day. Every day we choose between the best and the second best, if we are choosing wisely. It is not generally a choice between good and bad—that is too easy. The choice in life is more subtle than that, and not so easily decided. The good is the greatest rival of the best.
Sometimes we would like to take both the best and the second best, but that is not according to the rules of the game. You take your choice and leave the rest. Every gain in life means a corresponding loss; development in one part means a shrinkage in some other. Wild wheat is small and hard, quite capable of looking after itself, but its heads contain only a few small kernels. Cultivated wheat has lost its hardiness and its self-reliance, but its heads are filled with large kernels which feed the nation. There has been a great gain in usefulness, by cultivation, with a corresponding loss in hardiness. When riches are increased, so also are anxieties and cares. Life is full of compensation.
So we ask, in all seriousness, and in no spirit of flippancy: "Should women think?" They gain in power perhaps, but do they not lose in happiness by thinking? If women must always labor under unjust economic conditions, receiving less pay for the same work than men, if women must always submit to the unjust social laws, based on the barbaric mosaic decree that the woman is to be stoned, and the man allowed to go free; if women must always see the children they have brought into the world with infinite pain and weariness, taken away from them to fight man-made battles over which no woman has any power; if women must always see their sons degraded by man-made legislation and man-protected evils—then I ask, Is it not a great mistake for women to think?
The Martha women, who fill their hands with labor and find their highest delights in the day's work, are the happiest. That is, if these things must always be, if we must always beat upon the bars of the cage—we are foolish to beat; it is hard on the hands! Far better for us to stop looking out and sit down and say: "Good old cage—I always did like a cage, anyway!"
But the question of whether or not women should think was settled long ago. We must think because we were given something to think with, ages ago, at the time of our creation. If God had not intended us to think, he would not have given us our intelligence. It would be a shabby trick, too, to give women brains to think, with no hope of results, for thinking is just an aggravation if nothing comes of it. It is a law of life that people will use what they have. That is one theory of what caused the war. The nations were "so good and ready," they just naturally fought. Mental activity is just as natural for the woman peeling potatoes as it is for the man behind the plow, and a little thinking will not hurt the quality of the work in either case. There is in western Canada, one woman at least, who combines thinking and working to great advantage. Her kitchen walls are hung with mottoes and poems, which she commits to memory as she works, and so while her hands are busy, she feeds her soul with the bread of life.
The world has never been partial to the thinking woman—the wise ones have always foreseen danger. Long years ago, when women asked for an education, the world cried out that it would never do. If women learned to read it would distract them from the real business of life which was to make home happy for some good man. If women learned to read there seemed to be a possibility that some day some good man might come home and find his wife reading, and the dinner not ready—and nothing could be imagined more horrible than that! That seems to be the haunting fear of mankind—that the advancement of women will sometime, someway, someplace, interfere with some man's comfort. There are many people who believe that the physical needs of her family are a woman's only care; and that strict attention to her husband's wardrobe and meals will insure a happy marriage. Hand-embroidered slippers warmed and carefully set out have ever been highly recommended as a potent charm to hold masculine affection. They forget that men and children are not only food-eating and clothes-wearing animals—they are human beings with other and even greater needs than food and raiment.
Any person who believes that the average man marries the woman of his choice just because he wants a housekeeper and a cook, appraises mankind lower than I do. Intelligence on the wife's part does not destroy connubial bliss, neither does ignorance nor apathy ever make for it. Ideas do not break up homes, but lack of ideas. The light and airy silly fairy may get along beautifully in the days of courtship, but she palls a bit in the steady wear and tear of married life.
There was a picture in one of the popular woman's papers sometime ago, which taught a significant lesson. It was a breakfast scene. The young wife, daintily frilled in pink, sat at her end of the table in very apparent ill-humor—the young husband, quite unconscious of her, read the morning paper with evident interest. Below the picture there was a sharp criticism of the young man's neglect of his pretty wife and her dainty gown. Personally I sympathize with the young man and believe it would be a happier home if she were as interested in the paper as he and were reading the other half of it instead of sitting around feeling hurt.
But you see it is hard on the woman, just the same. All our civilization has taught her that pink frills were the thing. When they fail—she feels the bottom has dropped out of the world—he does not love her any more and she will go back to mother! You see the woman suffers every time.
Sometime we will teach our daughters that marriage is a divine partnership based on mutual love and community of interest, that sex attraction augmented by pink frills is only one part of it and not the most important; that the pleasant glowing embers of comradeship and loving friendship give out a warmer, more lasting, and more comfortable heat than the leaping flames of passion, and the happiest marriage is the one where the husband and wife come to regard each other as the dearest friend, the most congenial companion.
Women must think if they are going to make good in life; and success in marriage depends not alone on being good, but on making good! Men by their occupation are brought in contact with the world of ideas and affairs. They have been encouraged to be intelligent. Women have been encouraged to be foolish, and later on punished for the same foolishness, which is hardly fair.
But women are beginning to learn. Women are helping each other to see. They are coming together in clubs and societies and by this intercourse they are gaining a philosophy of life, which is helping them over the rough places of life. Most of us can get along very well on bright days, and when the going is easy, but we need something to keep us steady when the pathway is rough, and our wandering feet are in danger of losing their way. The most deadly uninteresting person, and the one who has the greatest temptation not to think at all, is the comfortable and happily married woman—the woman who has a good man between her and the world, who has not the saving privilege of having to work. A sort of fatty degeneration of the conscience sets in that is disastrous to the development of thought.
If women could be made to think, they would not wear immodest clothes, which suggest evil thoughts and awaken unlawful desires. If women could be made to think, they would see that it is woman's place to lift high the standard of morality. If women would only think, they would not wear aigrets and bird plumage which has caused the death of God's innocent and beautiful creatures. If women could be made to think, they would be merciful. If women would only think, they would not serve liquor to their guests, in the name of hospitality, and thus contribute to the degradation of mankind, and perhaps start some young man on the slippery way to ruin. If women would think about it, they would see that some mother, old and heartbroken, sitting up waiting for the staggering footsteps of her boy, might in her loneliness and grief and trouble curse the white hands that gave her lad his first drink. Women make life hard for other women because they do not think. And thinking seems to come hardest to the comfortable woman. A woman told me candidly and honestly not long ago that she was too comfortable to be interested in other people, and I have admired her for her truthfulness; she had diagnosed her own case accurately, and she did not babble of woman's sphere being her own home—she frankly admitted that she was selfish, and her comfort had caused it. I believe God intended us all to be happy and comfortable, clothed, fed, and housed, and there is no sin in comfort, unless we let it atrophy our souls, and settle down upon us like a stupor. Then it becomes a sin which destroys us. Let us pray!
From plague, pestilence and famine, from battle, murder, sudden death, and all forms of cowlike contentment, Good Lord, deliver us!
THE NEW CHIVALRY
Brave women and fair men!
This seems to be a good time for us to jar ourselves loose from some of the prejudices and beliefs which we have outgrown. It is time for readjustment surely, a time for spiritual and mental house-cleaning, when we are justified in looking things over very carefully and deciding whether or not we shall ever need them again.
Some of us have suspected for a long time that a good deal of the teaching of the world regarding women has come under the general heading of "dope." Now "dope" is not a slang word, as you may be thinking, gentle reader. It is a good Anglo-Saxon word (or will be), for it fills a real need, and there is none other to take its place. "Dope" means anything that is calculated to soothe, or hush, or put to sleep. "Sedative" is a synonym, but it lacks the oily softness of "dope."
One of the commonest forms of dope given to women to keep them quiet is the one referred to in a previous chapter: "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the World." It is a great favorite with politicians and not being original with them it does contain a small element of truth. They use it in their pre-election speeches, which they begin with the honeyed words: "We are glad to see we have with us this evening so many members of the fair sex; we are delighted to see that so many have come to grace our gathering on this occasion; we realize that a woman's intuition is ofttimes truer than a man's reasoning, and although women have no actual voice in politics, they have something far more strong and potent—they have the wonder power of indirect influence." Just about here comes in "the hand that rocks!"
Having thus administered the dope, in this pleasing mixture of molasses and soft soap, which is supposed to keep the "fair sex" quiet and happy for the balance of the evening, the aspirant for public honors passes on to the serious business of the hour, and discusses the affairs of state with the electorate. Right here, let us sound a small note of warning. Keep your eye on the man who refers to women as the "fair sex"—he is a dealer in dope!
One of the oldest and falsest of our beliefs regarding women is that they are protected—that some way in the battle of life they get the best of it. People talk of men's chivalry, that vague, indefinite quality which is supposed to transmute the common clay of life into gold.
Chivalry is a magic word. It seems to breathe of foreign strands and moonlight groves and silver sands and knights and earls and kings; it seems to tell of glorious deeds and waving plumes and prancing steeds and belted earls—and things!
People tell us of the good old days of chivalry when womanhood was really respected and reverenced—when brave knight rode gaily forth to die for his lady love. But in order to be really loved and respected there was one hard and fast condition laid down, to which all women must conform—they must be beautiful, no getting out of that. They simply had to have starry eyes and golden hair, or else black as a raven's wing; they had to have pale, white, and haughty brow, and a laugh like a ripple of magic. Then they were all right and armored knights would die for them quick as wink!
The homely women were all witches, dreadful witches, and they drowned them, on public holidays, in the mill pond!
People tell us now that chivalry is dead, and women have killed it, bold women who instead of staying at home, broidering pearls on a red velvet sleeve, have gone out to work—have gone to college side by side with men and have been so unwomanly sometimes as to take the prizes away from men. Chivalry cannot live in such an atmosphere. Certainly not!
Of course women can hardly be blamed for going out and working when one remembers that they must either work or starve. Broidering pearls will not boil the kettle worth a cent! There are now thirty per cent of the women of the U. S. A. and Canada, who are wage-earners, and we will readily grant that necessity has driven most of them out of their homes. Similarly, in England alone, there are a million and a half more women than men. It would seem that all women cannot have homes of their own—there does not seem to be enough men to go around. But still there are people who tell us these women should all have homes of their own—it is their own fault if they haven't; and once I heard of a woman saying the hardest thing about men I ever heard—and she was an ardent anti-suffragist too. She said that what was wrong with the women in England was that they were too particular—that's why they were not married, "and," she went on, "any person can tell, when they look around at men in general, that God never intended women to be very particular." I am glad I never said anything as hard as that about men.
There are still with us some of the conventions of the old days of chivalry. The pretty woman still has the advantage over her plainer sister—and the opinion of the world is that women must be beautiful at all costs. When a newspaper wishes to disprove a woman's contention, or demolish her theories, it draws ugly pictures of her. If it can show that she has big feet or red hands, or wears unbecoming clothes, that certainly settles the case—and puts her where she belongs.
This cruel convention that women must be beautiful accounts for the popularity of face-washes, and beauty parlors, and the languor of university extension lectures. Women cannot be blamed for this. All our civilization has been to the end that women make themselves attractive to men. The attractive woman has hitherto been the successful woman. The pretty girl marries a millionaire, travels in Europe, and is presented at court; her plainer sister, equally intelligent, marries a boy from home, and does her own washing. I am not comparing the two destinies as to which offers the greater opportunities for happiness or usefulness, but rather to show how widely divergent two lives may be. What caused the difference was a wavy strand of hair, a rounder curve on a cheek. Is it any wonder that women capitalize their good looks, even at the expense of their intelligence? The economic dependence of women is perhaps the greatest injustice that has been done to us, and has worked the greatest injury to the race.
Men are not entirely blameless in respect to the frivolity of women. It is easy to blame women for dressing foolishly, extravagantly, but to what end do they do it? To be attractive to men; and the reason they continue to do it is that it is successful. Many a woman has found that it pays to be foolish. Men like frivolity—before marriage; but they demand all the sterner virtues afterwards. The little dainty, fuzzy-haired, simpering dolly who chatters and wears toe-slippers has a better chance in the matrimonial market than the clear-headed, plainer girl, who dresses sensibly. A little boy once gave his mother directions as to his birthday present—he said he wanted "something foolish" and therein he expressed a purely masculine wish.
A man's ideal at seventeen Must be a sprite— A dainty, fairy, elfish queen Of pure delight; But later on he sort of feels He'd like a girl who could cook meals.
Life is full of anomalies, and in the mating and pairing of men and women there are many.
Why is the careless, easy-going, irresponsible way of the young girl so attractive to men? It does not make for domestic happiness; and why, Oh why, do some of our best men marry such odd little sticks of pin-head women, with a brain similar in caliber to a second-rate butterfly, while the most intelligent, unselfish, and womanly women are left unmated? I am going to ask about this the first morning I am in heaven, if so be we are allowed to ask about the things which troubled us while on our mortal journey. I have never been able to find out about it here.
Now this old belief that women are protected is of sturdy growth and returns to life with great persistence. Theoretically women are protected—on paper—traditionally—just like Belgium was, and with just as disastrous results.
A member of the English Parliament declared with great emphasis that the women now have everything the heart could desire—they reign like queens and can have their smallest wish gratified. ("Smallest" is right.) And we very readily grant that there are many women living in idleness and luxury on the bounty of their male relatives, and we say it with sorrow and shame that these are estimated the successful women in the opinion of the world. But while some feast in idleness, many others slave in poverty. The great army of women workers are ill-paid, badly housed, and their work is not honored or respected or paid for. What share have they in man's chivalry? Chivalry is like a line of credit. You can get plenty of it when you do not need it. When you are prospering financially and your bank account is growing and you are rated A1, you can get plenty of credit—it is offered to you; but when the dark days of financial depression overtake you, and the people you are depending upon do not "come through," and you must have credit—must have it!—the very people who once urged it upon you will now tell you that "money is tight!"
The young and pretty woman, well dressed and attractive, can get all the chivalry she wants. She will have seats offered her on street cars, men will hasten to carry her parcels, or open doors for her; but the poor old woman, beaten in the battle of life, sick of life's struggles, and grown gray and weather-beaten facing life's storms—what chivalry is shown her? She can go her weary way uncomforted and unattended. People who need it do not get it.
Anyway, chivalry is a poor substitute for justice, if one cannot have both. Chivalry is something like the icing on the cake, sweet but not nourishing. It is like the paper lace around the bonbon box—we could get along without it.
There are countless thousands of truly chivalrous men, who have the true chivalry whose foundation is justice—who would protect all women from injury or insult or injustice, but who know that they cannot do it—who know that in spite of all they can do, women are often outraged, insulted, ill-treated. The truly chivalrous man, who does reverence all womankind, realizing this, says: "Let us give women every weapon whereby they can defend themselves; let us remove the stigma of political nonentity under which women have been placed. Let us give women a fair deal!"
This is the new chivalry—and on it we build our hope.
I hold it true—I will not change, For changes are a dreadful bore— That nothing must be done on earth Unless it has been done before. —Anti-Suffrage Creed.
If prejudices belonged to the vegetable world they would be described under the general heading of: "Hardy Perennials; will grow in any soil, and bloom without ceasing; requiring no cultivation; will do better when left alone."
In regard to tenacity of life, no old yellow cat has anything on a prejudice. You may kill it with your own hands, bury it deep, and sit on the grave, and behold! the next day, it will walk in at the back door, purring.
Take some of the prejudices regarding women that have been exploded and blown to pieces many, many times and yet walk among us today in the fulness of life and vigor. There is a belief that housekeeping is the only occupation for women; that all women must be housekeepers, whether they like it or not. Men may do as they like, and indulge their individuality, but every true and womanly woman must take to the nutmeg grater and the O-Cedar Mop. It is also believed that in the good old days before woman suffrage was discussed, and when woman's clubs were unheard of, that all women adored housework, and simply pined for Monday morning to come to get at the weekly wash; that women cleaned house with rapture and cooked joyously. Yet there is a story told of one of the women of the old days, who arose at four o'clock in the morning, and aroused all her family at an indecently early hour for breakfast, her reason being that she wanted to get "one of these horrid old meals over." This woman had never been at a suffrage meeting—so where did she get the germ of discontent?
At the present time there is much discontent among women, and many people are seriously alarmed about it. They say women are no longer contented with woman's sphere and woman's work—that the washboard has lost its charm, and the days of the hair-wreath are ended. We may as well admit that there is discontent among women. We cannot drive them back to the spinning wheel and the mathook, for they will not go. But there is really no cause for alarm, for discontent is not necessarily wicked. There is such a thing as divine discontent just as there is criminal contentment. Discontent may mean the stirring of ambition, the desire to spread out, to improve and grow. Discontent is a sign of life, corresponding to growing pains in a healthy child. The poor woman who is making a brave struggle for existence is not saying much, though she is thinking all the time. In the old days when a woman's hours were from 5 A.M. to 5 A.M., we did not hear much of discontent among women, because they had not time to even talk, and certainly could not get together. The horse on the treadmill may be very discontented, but he is not disposed to tell his troubles, for he cannot stop to talk.
It is the women, who now have leisure, who are doing the talking. For generations women have been thinking and thought without expression is dynamic, and gathers volume by repression. Evolution when blocked and suppressed becomes revolution. The introduction of machinery and the factory-made articles has given women more leisure than they had formerly, and now the question arises, what are they going to do with it?
Custom and conventionality recommend many and varied occupations for women, social functions intermixed with kindly deeds of charity, embroidering altar cloths, making strong and durable garments for the poor, visiting the sick, comforting the sad, all of which women have faithfully done, but while they have been doing these things, they have been wondering about the underlying causes of poverty, sadness and sin. They notice that when the unemployed are fed on Christmas day, they are just as hungry as ever on December the twenty-sixth, or at least on December the twenty-seventh; they have been led to inquire into the causes for little children being left in the care of the state, and they find that in over half of the cases, the liquor traffic has contributed to the poverty and unworthiness of the parents. The state which licenses the traffic steps in and takes care, or tries to, of the victims; the rich brewer whose business it is to encourage drinking, is usually the largest giver to the work of the Children's Aid Society, and is often extolled for his lavish generosity: and sometimes when women think about these things they are struck by the absurdity of a system which allows one man or a body of men to rob a child of his father's love and care all year, and then gives him a stuffed dog and a little red sleigh at Christmas and calls it charity!
Women have always done their share of the charity work of the world. The lady of the manor, in the old feudal days, made warm mittens and woolen mufflers with her own white hands and carried them to the cottages at Christmas, along with blankets and coals. And it was a splendid arrangement all through, for it furnished the lady with mild and pleasant occupation, and it helped to soothe the conscience of the lord, and if the cottagers (who were often "low worthless fellows, much given up to riotous thinking and disputing") were disposed to wonder why they had to work all year and get nothing, while the lord of the manor did nothing all year and got everything, the gift of blanket and coals, the warm mufflers, and "a shawl for granny" showed them what ungrateful souls they were.
Women have dispensed charity for many, many years, but gradually it has dawned upon them that the most of our charity is very ineffectual, and merely smoothes things over, without ever reaching the root. A great deal of our charity is like the kindly deed of the benevolent old gentleman, who found a sick dog by the wayside, lying in the full glare of a scorching sun. The tender-hearted old man climbed down from his carriage, and, lifting the dog tenderly in his arms, carried him around into the small patch of shade cast by his carriage.
"Lie there, my poor fellow!" he said. "Lie there, in the cool shade, where the sun's rays may not smite you!"
Then he got into his carriage and drove away.
Women have been led, through their charitable institutions and philanthropic endeavors, to do some thinking about causes.
Mrs. B. set out to be a "family friend" to the family of her washwoman. Mrs. B. was a thoroughly charitable, kindly disposed woman, who had never favored woman's suffrage and regarded the new movement among women with suspicion. Her washwoman's family consisted of four children, and a husband who blew in gaily once in a while when in need of funds, or when recovering from a protracted spree, which made a few days' nursing very welcome. His wife, a Polish woman, had the old-world reverence for men, and obeyed him implicitly; she still felt it was very sweet of him to come home at all. Mrs. B. had often declared that Polly's devotion to her husband was a beautiful thing to see. The two eldest boys had newspaper routes and turned in their earnings regularly, and, although the husband did not contribute anything but his occasional company, Polly was able to make the payments on their little four-roomed cottage. In another year, it would be all paid for.
But one day Polly's husband began to look into the law—as all men should—and he saw that he had been living far below his privileges. The cottage was his—not that he had ever paid a cent on it, of course, but his wife had, and she was his; and the cottage was in his name.
So he sold it; naturally he did not consult Polly, for he was a quiet, peaceful man, and not fond of scenes. So he sold it quietly, and with equal quietness he withdrew from the Province, and took the money with him. He did not even say good-by to Polly or the children, which was rather ungrateful, for they had given him many a meal and night's lodging. When Polly came crying one Monday morning and told her story, Mrs. B. could not believe it, and assured Polly she must be mistaken, but Polly declared that a man had come and asked her did she wish to rent the house for he had bought it. Mrs. B. went at once to the lawyers who had completed the deal. They were a reputable firm and Mrs. B. knew one of the partners quite well. She was sure Polly's husband could not sell the cottage. But the lawyers assured her it was quite true. They were very gentle and patient with Mrs. B. and listened courteously to her explanation, and did not dispute her word at all when she explained that Polly and her two boys had paid every cent on the house. It seemed that a trifling little thing like that did not matter. It did not really matter who paid for the house; the husband was the owner, for was he not the head of the house? and the property was in his name.
Polly was graciously allowed to rent her own cottage for $12.50 a month, with an option of buying, and the two little boys are still on a morning route delivering one of the city dailies.
Mrs. B. has joined a suffrage society and makes speeches on the injustice of the laws; and yet she began innocently enough, by making strong and durable garments for her washwoman's children—and see what has come of it! If women would only be content to snip away at the symptoms of poverty and distress, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, all would be well and they would be much commended for their kindness of heart; but when they begin to inquire into causes, they find themselves in the sacred realm of politics where prejudice says no women must enter.
A woman may take an interest in factory girls, and hold meetings for them, and encourage them to walk in virtue's ways all she likes, but if she begins to advocate more sanitary surroundings for them, with some respect for the common decencies of life, she will find herself again in that sacred realm of politics—-confronted by a factory act, on which no profane female hand must be laid.
Now politics simply means public affairs—yours and mine, everybody's—and to say that politics are too corrupt for women is a weak and foolish statement for any man to make. Any man who is actively engaged in politics, and declares that politics are too corrupt for women, admits one of two things, either that he is a party to this corruption, or that he is unable to prevent it—and in either case something should be done. Politics are not inherently vicious. The office of lawmaker should be the highest in the land, equaled in honor only by that of the minister of the gospel. In the old days, the two were combined with very good effect; but they seem to have drifted apart in more recent years.
If politics are too corrupt for women, they are too corrupt for men; for men and women are one—indissolubly joined together for good or ill. Many men have tried to put all their religion and virtue in their wife's name, but it does not work very well. When social conditions are corrupt women cannot escape by shutting their eyes, and taking no interest. It would be far better to give them a chance to clean them up.
What would you think of a man who would say to his wife: "This house to which I am bringing you to live is very dirty and unsanitary, but I will not allow you—the dear wife whom I have sworn to protect—to touch it. It is too dirty for your precious little white hands! You must stay upstairs, dear. Of course the odor from below may come up to you, but use your smelling salts and think no evil. I do not hope to ever be able to clean it up, but certainly you must never think of trying."
Do you think any woman would stand for that? She would say: "John, you are all right in your way, but there are some places where your brain skids. Perhaps you had better stay downtown today for lunch. But on your way down please call at the grocer's, and send me a scrubbing brush and a package of Dutch Cleanser, and some chloride of lime, and now hurry." Women have cleaned up things since time began; and if women ever get into politics there will be a cleaning-out of pigeon-holes and forgotten corners, on which the dust of years has fallen, and the sound of the political carpet-beater will be heard in the land.
There is another hardy perennial that constantly lifts its head above the earth, persistently refusing to be ploughed under, and that is that if women were ever given a chance to participate in outside affairs, that family quarrels would result; that men and their wives who have traveled the way of life together, side by side, for years, and come safely through religious discussions, and discussions relating to "his" people and "her" people, would angrily rend each other over politics, and great damage to the furniture would be the result. Father and son have been known to live under the same roof and vote differently, and yet live! Not only live, but live peaceably! If a husband and wife are going to quarrel they will find a cause for dispute easily enough, and will not be compelled to wait for election day. And supposing that they have never, never had a single dispute, and not a ripple has ever marred the placid surface of their matrimonial sea, I believe that a small family jar—or at least a real lively argument—will do them good. It is in order to keep the white-winged angel of peace hovering over the home that married women are not allowed to vote in many places. Spinsters and widows are counted worthy of voice in the selection of school trustee, and alderman, and mayor, but not the woman who has taken to herself a husband and still has him.
What a strange commentary on marriage that it should disqualify a woman from voting. Why should marriage disqualify a woman? Men have been known to vote for years after they were dead!
Quite different from the "family jar" theory, another reason is advanced against married women voting—it is said that they would all vote with their husbands, and that the married man's vote would thereby be doubled. We believe it is eminently right and proper that husband and wife should vote the same way, and in that case no one would be able to tell whether the wife was voting with the husband or the husband voting with the wife. Neither would it matter. If giving the franchise to women did nothing more than double the married man's vote it would do a splendid thing for the country, for the married man is the best voter we have; generally speaking, he is a man of family and property—surely if we can depend on anyone we can depend upon him, and if by giving his wife a vote we can double his—we have done something to offset the irresponsible transient vote of the man who has no interest in the community.
There is another sturdy prejudice that blooms everywhere in all climates, and that is that women would not vote if they had the privilege; and this is many times used as a crushing argument against woman suffrage. But why worry? If women do not use it, then surely there is no harm done; but those who use the argument seem to imply that a vote unused is a very dangerous thing to leave lying around, and will probably spoil and blow up. In support of this statement instances are cited of women letting their vote lie idle and unimproved in elections for school trustee and alderman. Of course, the percentage of men voting in these contests was quite small, too, but no person finds fault with that.
Women may have been careless about their franchise in elections where no great issue is at stake, but when moral matters are being decided women have not shown any lack of interest. As a result of the first vote cast by the women of Illinois over one thousand saloons went out of business. Ask the liquor dealers if they think women will use the ballot. They do not object to woman suffrage on the ground that women will not vote, but because they will.
"Why, Uncle Henry!" exclaimed one man to another on election day. "I never saw you out to vote before. What struck you?"
"Hadn't voted for fifteen years," declared Uncle Henry, "but you bet I came out today to vote against givin' these fool women a vote; what's the good of givin' them a vote? they wouldn't use it!"
Then, of course, on the other hand there are those who claim that women would vote too much—that they would vote not wisely but too well; that they would take up voting as a life work to the exclusion of husband, home and children. There seems to be considerable misapprehension on the subject of voting. It is really a simple and perfectly innocent performance, quickly over, and with no bad after-effects.
It is usually done in a vacant room in a school or the vestry of a church, or a town hall. No drunken men stare at you. You are not jostled or pushed—you wait your turn in an orderly line, much as you have waited to buy a ticket at a railway station. Two tame and quiet-looking men sit at a table, and when your turn comes, they ask you your name, which is perhaps slightly embarrassing, but it is not as bad as it might be, for they do not ask your age, or of what disease did your grandmother die. You go behind the screen with your ballot paper in your hand, and there you find a seal-brown pencil tied with a chaste white string. Even the temptation of annexing the pencil is removed from your frail humanity. You mark your ballot, and drop it in the box, and come out into the sunlight again. If you had never heard that you had done an unladylike thing you would not know it. It all felt solemn, and serious, and very respectable to you, something like a Sunday-school convention. Then, too, you are surprised at what a short time you have been away from home. You put the potatoes on when you left home, and now you are back in time to strain them.
In spite of the testimony of many reputable women that they have been able to vote and get the dinner on one and the same day, there still exists a strong belief that the whole household machinery goes out of order when a woman goes to vote. No person denies a woman the right to go to church, and yet the church service takes a great deal more time than voting. People even concede to women the right to go shopping, or visiting a friend, or an occasional concert. But the wife and mother, with her God-given, sacred trust of molding the young life of our land, must never dream of going round the corner to vote. "Who will mind the baby?" cried one of our public men, in great agony of spirit, "when the mother goes to vote?"
One woman replied that she thought she could get the person that minded it when she went to pay her taxes—which seemed to be a fairly reasonable proposition. Yet the hardy plant of prejudice flourishes, and the funny pictures still bring a laugh.
Father comes home, tired, weary, footsore, toe-nails ingrowing, caused by undarned stockings, and finds the fire out, house cold and empty, save for his half-dozen children, all crying.
"Where is your mother?" the poor man asks in broken tones. For a moment the sobs are hushed while little Ellie replies: "Out voting!"
Father bursts into tears.
Of course, people tell us, it is not the mere act of voting which demoralizes women—if they would only vote and be done with it; but women are creatures of habit, and habits once formed are hard to break; and although the polls are only open every three or four years, if women once get into the way of going to them, they will hang around there all the rest of the time. It is in woman's impressionable nature that the real danger lies.
Another shoot of this hardy shrub of prejudice is that women are too good to mingle in everyday life—they are too sweet and too frail—that women are angels. If women are angels we should try to get them into public life as soon as possible, for there is a great shortage of angels there just at present, if all we hear is true.
Then there is the pedestal theory—that women are away up on a pedestal, and down below, looking up at them with deep adoration, are men, their willing slaves. Sitting up on a pedestal does not appeal very strongly to a healthy woman—and, besides, if a woman has been on a pedestal for any length of time, it must be very hard to have to come down and cut the wood.
These tender-hearted and chivalrous gentlemen who tell you of their adoration for women, cannot bear to think of women occupying public positions. Their tender hearts shrink from the idea of women lawyers or women policemen, or even women preachers; these positions would "rub the bloom off the peach," to use their own eloquent words. They cannot bear, they say, to see women leaving the sacred precincts of home—and yet their offices are scrubbed by women who do their work while other people sleep—poor women who leave the sacred precincts of home to earn enough to keep the breath of life in them, who carry their scrub-pails home, through the deserted streets, long after the cars have stopped running. They are exposed to cold, to hunger, to insult—poor souls—is there any pity felt for them? Not that we have heard of. The tender-hearted ones can bear this with equanimity. It is the thought of women getting into comfortable and well-paid positions which wrings their manly hearts.