THE COST OF SHELTER.
By ELLEN H. RICHARDS
Instructor in Sanitary Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
THE HOUSEHOLD EXISTS FOR ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING REASONS:
Two or more persons form an alliance
(a) for protection against the outside world;
(b) for protection against the outside world and for the rearing of children;
(c) for the greater gain in convenience which the common life can give over that of single effort;
(d) for companionship;
(e) for the greater independence it gives to the group;
(f) for the greater ease in satisfying one's prejudices or whims.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
THE HOUSE AND WHAT IT SIGNIFIES IN FAMILY LIFE. TYPIFIED IN PIONEER AND COLONIAL HOMES, THE CENTRES OF INDUSTRY AND HOSPITALITY
THE HOUSE CONSIDERED AS A MEASURE OF SOCIAL STANDING
LEGACIES FROM THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, ILL ADAPTED TO CHANGED CONDITIONS, CAUSE PHYSICAL DETERIORATION AND DOMESTIC FRICTION
THE PLACE OF THE HOUSE IN THE SOCIAL ECONOMY OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
POSSIBILITIES IN SIGHT PROVIDED THE HOUSEWIFE IS PROGRESSIVE
COST PER PERSON AND PER FAMILY FOR VARIOUS GRADES OF SHELTER
RELATION BETWEEN COST OF SHELTER AND TOTAL INCOME TO BE EXPENDED
TO RENT OR TO OWN: A DIFFICULT QUESTION
THE COST OF SHELTER.
THE HOUSE AND WHAT IT SIGNIFIES IN FAMILY LIFE; TYPIFIED IN PIONEER AND COLONIAL HOMES, THE CENTERS OF INDUSTRY AND HOSPITALITY.
"There is no noble life without a noble aim."—CHARLES DOLE.
The word Home to the Anglo-Saxon race calls to mind some definite house as the family abiding-place. Around it cluster the memories of childhood, the aspirations of youth, the sorrows of middle life.
The most potent spell the nineteenth century cast on its youth was the yearning for a home of their own, not a piece of their father's. The spirit of the age working in the minds of men led them ever westward to conquer for themselves a homestead, forced them to go, leaving the aged behind, and the graves of the weak on the way.
There must be a strong race principle behind a movement of such magnitude, with such momentous consequences. Elbow room, space, and isolation to give free play to individual preference, characterized pioneer days. The cord that bound the whole was love of home,—one's own home,—even if tinged with impatience of the restraints it imposed, for home and house do imply a certain restraint in individual wishes. And here, perhaps, is the greatest significance of the family house. It cannot perfectly suit all members in its details, but in its great office, that of shelter and privacy—ownership—the house of the nineteenth century stands supreme. No other age ever provided so many houses for single families. It stands between the community houses of primitive times and the hives of the modern city tenements.
As sociologically defined, the family means a common house—common, that is, to the family, but excluding all else. This exclusiveness is foreshadowed in the habits of the majority of animals, each pair preempting a particular log or burrow or tree in which to rear its young, to which it retreats for safety from enemies. Primitive man first borrowed the skins of animals and their burrowing habits. The space under fallen trees covered with moss and twigs grew into the hut covered with bark or sod. The skins permitted the portable tent.
It is indeed a far cry from these rude defences against wind and weather to the dwelling-houses of the well-to-do family in any country to-day, but the need of the race is just the same: protection, safety from danger, a shield for the young child, a place where it can grow normally in peaceful quiet. It behooves the community to inquire whether the houses of to-day are fulfilling the primary purposes of the race in the midst of the various other uses to which modern man is putting them.
As already shown, shelter in its first derivation, as well as in its common use, signifies protection from the weather. Bodily warmth saves food, therefore is an economy in living. From the first it also implied protection from enemies, a safe retreat from attack and a refuge when wounded. But above all else it has, through the ages, stood for a safe and retired place for the bringing up of the young of the species.
The colonial houses of New England with large living-room, dominated by the huge fireplace with its outfit of cooking utensils, with groups of buildings for different uses clustered about them, giving protection to the varied industries of the homestead, illustrate the most perfect type of family life. Each member had a share in the day's work, therefore to each it was home. To the old homestead many a successful business man returns to show his grandchildren the attic with its disused loom and spinning-wheel; the shop where farm-implements were made, in the days of long winter storms, to the accompaniment of legend and gossip; the dairy, no longer redolent of cream. These are reminders of a time past and gone, before the greed of gain had robbed even these houses of their peace. The backward glance of this generation is too apt to stop at the transition period, when the factory had taken the interesting manufactures out of the hands of the housewife and left the homestead bereft of its best, when the struggle to make it a modern money-making plant, for which it was never designed, drove the young people away to less arduous days and more exciting evenings.
This stage of farm life was altogether unlovely, not wholly of necessity, but because the adjustment was most painful to the feelings and most difficult to the muscles of the elders.
Because the family ideal was the ruling motive, the house-building of the colonial period shows a more perfect adaptation to family life than any other age has developed.
Where is the boasted adaptability of the American? He should be ready to see the effect of the inevitable mechanical changes and modify his ideas to suit. For it cannot be too often reiterated that it is a case of ideas, not of wood and stone and law.
This homestead has passed into history as completely as has the Southern colonial type, differing only in arrangement. Climate, as well as domestic conditions, demanded a more complete separation of the manufacturing processes, including cooking, laundry, etc., otherwise the ideal was the same. "The house" meant a family life, a gracious hospitality, a busy hive of industry, a refuge indeed from social as well as physical storms. Work and play, sorrow and pleasure, all were connected with its outward presentment as with the thought. For its preservation men fought and women toiled, but, alas! machinery has swept away the last vestige of this life and, try as the philanthropist may to bring it back, it will never return. The very essence of that life was the making of things, the preparation for winter while it was yet summer, the furnishing of the bridal chest years before marriage. Fancy a bride to-day wearing or using in the house anything five years old!
There are no more pioneer and colonial communities on this continent. Railroads and steamboats and electric power have made this rural life a thing of the past. Let us not waste tears on its vanishing, but address ourselves to the future.
There are two directions in which great change in household conditions has occurred quite outside the volition of the housekeeper. They are the disappearance of industries, and lack of permanence in the homestead. Those who are busily occupied in productive work of their own are contented and usually happy. The results of their efforts, stored for future use—barns filled with hay or grain, shelves of linen and preserves—yield satisfaction.
Destructive consumption may be pleasurable for the moment, but does not satisfy. The child pulls the stuffing from the doll with pleasure, but asks for another in half an hour. The delicious meal daintily served is a joy for an hour. A room put in perfect order, clean, tastefully decorated, is a delight to the eye for three hours and then it must be again cleaned and rearranged. Is this productive work? Is there any reason why we should be satisfied with it or happy in it?
In an earlier time, that from which we derive so many of our cherished ideals, the house built by or for the young people was used as a homestead by their children and their children's children. Customs grew up slowly, and for some reason. Furniture, collected as wanted, found its place; all the routine went as by clockwork. Saturday's baking of bread and pies went each on to its own shelf, as the cows went each to her own stall. If the duties were physically hard, the routine saved worrying.
To-day how few of us live in the house we began life with! How few in that we occupied even ten years ago! And this number is growing smaller and smaller. The housewife has not time to form habits of her own; she engages a maid and expects her to fall at once into the family ways, when the family has no ways.
In the sociological sense, shelter may mean protection from noise, from too close contact with other human beings, enemies only in the sense of depriving us of valuable nerve-force. It should mean sheltering the children from contact with degrading influences.
Charles P. Neill, United States Commissioner of Labor, in his address at the New York School of Philanthropy, July 16, 1905, said: "In my own estimation home, above all things, means privacy. It means the possibility of keeping your family off from other families. There must be a separate house, and as far as possible separate rooms, so that at an early period of life the idea of rights to property, the right to things, to privacy, may be instilled."
There may be such a thing as too much shelter. To cover too closely breeds decay. Are we in danger of covering ourselves and our children too closely from sun and wind and rain, making them weak and less resistant than they should be? The prevalence of tuberculosis and its cure by fresh air seems to indicate this. The attempt to gain privacy under prevailing conditions tends this way.
Hitherto students of social economics have usually considered the most pressing problem in the life of the wage-earner to be that of sufficient and suitable food. But in any large city and in most smaller communities there are found those who have refined instincts, aspirations for a life of physical and moral cleanness, who by force of circumstances are obliged to come in contact with filth and squalor and careless disorder in order to find shelter. If they can be kept from degenerating, their rise when it comes will lift those below them, but it is a Herculean task to lift them by lifting all below as well. The burden which presses most heavily on this valuable material for social betterment is that of shelter rather than of food.
The thought underlying this whole series on Cost is that the place to put the leaven of progress is in the middle. The class to work for is the great mass of intelligent, industrious, and ambitious young people turned out by our public schools with certain ideals for self-betterment, but in grave danger of losing heart in the crush due to the pressure of society around them and above them. They fear to incur the responsibility of marriage when they see the pecuniary requirements it involves.
This growing body makes up so large a proportion of the whole in America that, once aroused, it may become an all-powerful force for regeneration, thanks to the pervading influence of public-school education when enlisted on the side of right. Faith in the uprightness of American youth is so strong that strenuous effort for their enlightenment is justified. Once they have their attention drawn to the need of action, they will act. Self-preservation is one of the strongest instincts, and it may be dangerous to call upon the self-interest of these inexperienced souls; but for the sake of the results we must risk the lesser evil, if we can develop a resolution to secure a personal and race efficiency.
When the young people, with a deep appreciation of the possibilities of sane and wholesome living, marry and attempt to realize their ideals, the conditions are all against them. They find little sympathy in their yearnings for a rational life, and soon give up the effort, deciding that they are too peculiar. They slip almost insensibly into the routine of their neighbors. There is great need of a cooperation of like-minded young married people to form a little community, setting its own standards and living a fairly independent life. Two or three such groups would do more than many sermons to awaken attention to the problem before the race to-day. Shall man yield himself to the tendencies of natural selection and be modified out of existence by the pressure of his environment, or shall he turn upon himself some of the knowledge of Nature's forces he has gained and by "conscious evolution" begin an adaptation of the environment to the organism? For we no longer hold with Robert Owen and the socialists that man is necessarily controlled and moulded by his surroundings, that he is absolutely subject to the laws of animal evolution. A new era will dawn when man sees his power over his own future. Then, and not till then, will come again that willingness to sacrifice present ease and pleasure for the sake of race progress, which alone can make the restrained life a satisfaction.
The environment is, more largely than we think, the house and the manner of life it forces upon us. Therefore the first point of attack is the shelter under which the family life of the newly married pair establishes itself. If it is too large for their income, it leads to extravagance and debt before the first two years have passed; if it is too small, it cramps the generous and hospitable impulses. If unsuited to this need, it irritates and deforms character, as a plaster cast compresses a limb encased in it.
Imagine the young people beginning life in the average city flat, at a rent of twenty to thirty dollars a month, with its shams, its makeshifts, its depressing, unsanitary, morally unsafe quarters for the maid, its friction with janitor and landlord—the whole sordid round necessitated by the mere manner of building, and by that only.
A few strong souls flee to the country. Counting the cost and finding that all the earnings go to mere living, they decide to get that living in company with nature under free skies—their own employers. Such may live in Altruria with the happy zest of the authors of that charming sketch.
It is not given to many of earth's children to be so well mated and so heavenly-wise. The young man has been brought up to consider the house the young wife's prerogative, and she—well, she has been trained to believe that housewifely wisdom will come to her as unsought as measles.
Two thirds the friction in the early years of married life is caused by the house and its defects, resulting in dissatisfaction, disenchantment, and the flight to a hotel or non-housekeeping apartment.
If some of the problems to be faced and the difficulties in solving them could be presented to the young people to be studied and discussed before the actual encounter came, they would be more prepared.
In discussing this part of the subject, as in the consideration of the Cost of Living in general and the Cost of Food, we shall deal in particular with incomes of from $1000 to $5000 a year for families of five, recognizing that under present-day conditions the annual sum of $1500 to $3000 means the greatest struggle between desires and power of gratifying them.
On the surface it appears that the things which go to make up delicate cleanly living cost more and more each year, with no limit in sight. It is not only the poet who moves from one boarding-house to another; the young clerk and struggling business man go into smaller and smaller quarters until the traditional limit of room to swing a cat is reached.
The constantly diminishing space occupied by a family seems to prove that the 40% increase in the cost of living within a few years is not caused by an advance in the necessary cost of food; it is certainly not due to the increased cost of necessary clothes. It is more than probable that the increasing cost of shelter and all that it implies—increased water-supply, service, repairs, etc.—is the main factor in the undoubtedly increased expense. This will be considered in some detail in Chapter VIII.
While the socialist may take the ground that salaries must be raised to keep pace with the rise in living expenses, the student of social ethics—Euthenics, or the science of better living—may well ask a consideration of the topic from another standpoint. Is this increased cost resulting in higher efficiency? Are the people growing more healthy, well-favored, well-proportioned, stronger, happier? If not, then is there not a fallacy in the common idea that more money spent means a fuller life?
Recent examination of school children in various cities in England and America has revealed a state of physical ill-being most deplorable in the present, and horrifying to contemplate for its future results. One has only to keep one's eyes open in passing the streets to become aware of the physical deterioration of thousands of the wage-earners. One has only to listen to the housewife's complaints of inefficiency, lack of strength among the housemaids, to realize that the world's work is not being well done in so far as it depends upon human hands.
This loss of efficiency is usually attributed to insufficient food and long hours, but it is at least an open question if housing conditions are not the more potent factor not only in the case of the very poor, but even in the case of the family having an income of $2000 a year. Life in a boarding-house adapted from the use by one family to that of five or six without increase of bathing and ventilating conveniences, with old-style plumbing, cannot be mentally or bodily invigorating.
The house cannot be said to be a place of safety so long as the "great white plague" lurks in every dark corner—tuberculosis, colds, influenza, etc., fasten themselves upon its occupants. Explorers exposed to extremes of weather do not thus suffer. The dark, damp house incubates the germs.
But homes there must be: places of safety for children, of refuge for elders. Men will marry and women may keep house. How shall it be managed so as to be in harmony with present-day demands? Certainly not by ignoring the difficulties. Progress in any direction does not come through wringing of hands and deploring the decadence of the present generation. President Roosevelt's advice is to bring up boys and girls to overcome obstacles, not to ignore them. Let the educated, intelligent young people join in devising a way to surmount this obstacle as the engineers of 1890 invented new ways of crossing impassable gorges and "impossible" mountain ranges.
The writer has no ready-prepared panacea to offer. Patent medicine is not the remedy. This kind cometh out only by fasting and prayer. A long course of diet is needed to cure a chronic disease.
This little volume is intended merely as a spur to the imagination of the indolent student, to arouse him to the mental effort required to deal with the readjustment of ideas to conditions before it is too late.
It is no exaggeration to say that the social well-being of the community is threatened. The habits of years are broken up; sad to say, the middle-aged will suffer unrelieved, but the young can be incited to grapple with the situation and hew out for themselves a way through.
Certain elements in the problem will be touched upon in the following pages as a result of much going to and fro in the "most favored land on earth." Certain questions will be raised as to what constitutes a home and a shelter for the family in the twentieth-century sense of both family and shelter.
THE HOUSE CONSIDERED AS A MEASURE OF SOCIAL STANDING.
It is not what we lack, but what we see others have, that makes us discontented.
There has been noted in every age a tendency to measure social preeminence by the size and magnificence of the family abode. Mediaeval castles, Venetian palaces, colonial mansions, all represented a form of social importance, what Veblen has called conspicuous waste. This was largely shown in maintaining a large retinue and in giving lavish entertainments. The so-called patronage of the arts—furnishings, fabrics, pictures, statues, valued to this day—came under the same head of rivalry in expenditure.
In America a similar aspiration results in immense establishments far beyond the needs of the immediate family. But, unlike society in the middle ages, social aspiration does not stop short at a well-defined line. In the modern state each level reaches up toward the next higher and, failing to balance itself, drops into the abyss which never fills.
There is no contented layer of humanity to equalize the pressure; heads and hands are thrust up through from below at every point. Democracy has taken possession of the age and must be reckoned with on all sides.
At first sight sumptuous housing might seem to be the least objectionable form of conspicuous waste. Safer than rich food, less wasteful than gorgeous clothing, but, as Veblen truly says, "through discrimination in favor of visible consumption it has come about that the domestic life of most classes is relatively shabby. As a consequence people habitually screen their private life from observation." This is from a different motive than the instinct of privacy, of personal withdrawal for rest and quiet. This shabby private life is why true hospitality is disappearing. The chance guest is no longer welcome to the family table; we are ashamed of our daily routine, or we have an idea that our fare is not worthy of being shared. Whatever it is, unconscious as it often is, it is a canker in the family life of to-day. It leads to selfishness, to a laxness in home manners very demoralizing. It is doubtless one of the great factors in the distinct deterioration of children's public manners.
Because the house is held to be the visible evidence of social standing, because its location, style of architecture, fittings and furniture may be made to proclaim the pretensions of its inhabitants, it is often dishonest and one of the sources of the prevalent untruth in other things, since dishonesty in housing has been not infrequently one of the first signs of dishonesty in business. To move to a less fashionable quarter is to confess financial stress at once.
It is because the concomitant expenses of an establishment may be curtailed without attracting public notice that a moral danger exists. The outside shell is not the whole nor even the chief outlay. The operating expenses run away with more money than the house itself, and it is in these that the family, conscious of impending ruin, curtail, and thus become dishonest in their own souls.
The moral of it all is to live just a little below the probable limit, whatever that may be, rather than to assume a greater income than is quite certain. Granted that in the quickly changing conditions of to-day this is difficult, it is not often impossible.
It is only needed to set some other standard of social position than shelter and to use the house for its legitimate purposes only, that of an abode of the family in health and joyful cooperation. The class for which this series is written should seek a shelter sufficient for these normal uses, and make it so home-like that friends will gladly share it when permitted.
Let good manners, keen intelligence, bright and entertaining conversation take the place of the showy but frequently uncomfortable houses and wholesale entertainments of to-day.
It is time that a beginning was made of that form of social pleasure and mental recreation which the century must develop, or fail of its promise.
What is the value, of present-day knowledge if not to stimulate the conscious group, through the individual perhaps, but the group finally, to better use of its powers and opportunities toward a higher form of social life?
We have been told that the house should be as much an expression of individuality as clothes. Since clothes are constantly and easily changed, and a family home built to order is comparatively permanent, such expression in wood or stone should be carefully thought out; but how rarely do we gain a pleasant impression from the houses built for the purpose of setting forth social standards! The owner and the architect have neither of them the highest ideals, and a sort of ready-made, composite, often irritating, always displeasing result follows. The pretence shows through more often than the occupant realizes.
Society has the power to regulate its own conventions. Once convinced that it is dangerous to put the strain of living on to mere superficial pretence, mere location, ornament, new standards will be set up; as, indeed, they are under other conditions. In frontier life, for instance, where shortness of tenure is recognized, dress and the table take the place of the house as indications. In a mining town, one is astonished at the costumes seen on persons issuing from insignificant houses, and at the excellent bill of fare in a restaurant with the barest necessities of furnishing. Cursory observation often reads the signs of civilization wrongly. The eastern traveller, accustomed to the outward glitter and the finish of settled communities, fails to interpret the real efficiency of a more flexible society. West of the Mississippi, that new empire we are just beginning to appreciate, good food is recognized as of prime importance, dress gives an opportunity for showing conspicuous waste, and buildings are made for show only when permanence of residence is assured.
Let society once thoroughly understand that safe shelter is essential to its very life, that this safety is threatened, if not lost, by present habits, and, by quick money-making schemes in house-building, it will establish standards of living which shall not only be for the material welfare, but for the mental, moral, and spiritual progress of the race.
This progress can be secured by applying centrifugal force to congested districts, by interesting capitalists to consider housing at the same time with manufacturing plants, not only providing safe, economical houses, but by making it socially possible to live in them on moderate incomes.
The rising half, we must remember, is more affected by social conventions than the submerged tenth.
The well-to-do should consider more conscientiously those who recruit their ranks, who, if started right without danger of debt, will have freedom to advance. The present muddle has come about in part because no one has taken the trouble to investigate the reasons. The young family with $3000 a year has ideals for the manners and morals of the children which are not satisfied with those of the inexpensive tenement quarter. Prevention they consider better than cure, hence they pay higher rent than the income warrants to secure elevating examples and morally wholesome surroundings.
A single family cannot control a whole street, although cooperation can accomplish a great deal in the way of congenial neighborhoods. But the risk involved, the liability to error of judgment, as well as the large outlay of capital, at once prevents the adoption of this means of satisfactory housing for the business and professional class to any great extent, at least in the city. The acumen needed to discover the profitable in real estate, the skill to acquire large contiguous tracts of land, both belong to the capitalist. Only when he is a philanthropist besides, is the housing question safe in his hands. Such an example we find in the Morris houses, Willoughby Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. This set of family dwellings was put up to meet this very need. Congenial neighborhood, safe playgrounds for the children, labor-saving devices for the housekeeper. When first built they were in advance of anything in an eastern city of their class. To-day Mr. Pratt has even more advanced ideas which will take form in the future.
These attractive and comfortable houses, so near the working places of the teachers and professional and business men who occupy them, were possible only because of the comparative cheapness of the land, which had been held undesirable for high-class single houses, not for sanitary reasons, but solely on account of social conditions. This cluster of forty houses makes its own atmosphere. This is the lesson to be learned. Let groups of like-minded families make their own surroundings. The capitalist will soon learn where his interest lies.
Very probably it will be necessary to enlarge the scope and, perhaps, to build two stories higher, so that the elders and perhaps bachelors of both sexes, who do not care for the garden, may help to bear the expense of the children's playground. Whatever form the advance may take, this is a sign-post in the right direction.
In the nature of things, however, the first experiments will be costly and must be combined with business of a sure kind. In this instance the heating and hot-water supply was made possible by a combination with factory plant. But if a larger group of, say, one hundred houses were run by a central establishment, the Morris Building Company estimates the cost at about fifty dollars per year.
These houses will be referred to again under Chapter VI, but the especial value of this experiment was its social significance. How much better to keep desirable land for residential purposes by such means than to permit families to move away and give up satisfactory dwellings solely because the lower end of the street has a few foreigners! Our older cities abound in instances of this quick abandonment of most desirable streets without any concerted effort to retain their character.
The dangerous sanitary degeneration of these abandoned houses is one of the worst features of the situation and a prolific cause of the overcrowding of cities.
The more thoughtful students of progressive tendencies are grouping themselves in "parks" where houses are put up with the aid of the capitalist under such restrictions as to price as is supposed to insure a congenial neighborhood, and under such regulations as to land as to prevent manufacturing establishments. When these plans are not purely speculative, designed to entrap the young people by their best hopes of a permanent home, much satisfaction may come from the plan. But even in this country or suburban life the shadow of fashion falls sooner or later, and the savings vanish with the years. Some deeper principle must come into play, some stronger force than mere whim of society leaders, before our young people can be released from the bondage of living on the right side of a street under penalty of social ostracism.
There are gratifying indications of an awakening. The following statement appeared in a newspaper of a recent date:
"A corporation of women has been formed in Indianapolis, Ind., for the purpose of building small but artistic houses for people of moderate means. All of the directors are business women; one of the vice-presidents is Miss Elizabeth Browning, the city librarian, and another is the principal of one of the public schools. The secretary has for some time been in charge of the office of a savings and loan association and is the only woman member of the Indianapolis fire insurance inspection board. Six houses are to be erected at once in various parts of the city."
No better use of money or effort can be made at the present time than in similar endeavors to meet the needs of the time. The study of conditions will prove an education in itself and a stimulus to invention.
When the social conscience is once awakened the bride with $2000 a year will not be expected to begin where her mother left off.
The young people will be provided with just as comfortable and just as sanitary homes, but they will not be expected to entertain lavishly in order to show the wedding presents before they are broken. They will be visited, even if they live in an unfashionable quarter on a side street. Is it not more honest?
If society would put its stamp on the manner of life adapted to the welfare of the young people, it would not be unfashionable to live within one's income.
The tyranny of things is very real and most distressing in connection with this problem of shelter and all that it involves.
There is only needed a social awakening to result in an adjustment of men's views as to what is good and right. New social habits adapted to the age we live in will be accepted by the next generation as good form.
LEGACIES FROM THE NINETEENTH CENTURY NOT ADAPTED TO CHANGED CONDITIONS CAUSE PHYSICAL DETERIORATION AND DOMESTIC FRICTION.
"A large part of the evils of which we complain socially to-day are due to the kind of houses we live in and the exactions they make upon us."—H.G. WELLS.
Four classes of houses have come down to us:
(1) The family homestead in the country set low on the ground with damp walls and dark cellar, one of a cluster of rambling buildings; with a well, the only water supply, in close proximity to various sources of pollution. These houses are for the most part now abandoned to the foreigner, who uses them for the primitive purposes of shelter without the ennobling intellectual life they once harbored. Now and then a grandson rescues the old place, brings water from a spring or brook, digs a drain, lets light into the cellar, and builds on a kitchen and dining-room.
The expense is often greater than to build anew, but the effect is usually very good when the changes are made under sanitary supervision.
(2) The village or suburban house set in its own grounds, too near the street usually, but with garden and fruit-trees in the rear, and possibly a stable for horse and cow. This was the compromise made by the generation just from the free life of the farm-house, who, consciously or unconsciously, clung to the green of grass and trees, and the blue of the sky. So long as habit or love of caring for the things lasted all went well. The father found his recreation in planting the garden before breakfast, as in his boyhood. The mother cared for flower and vegetable-garden, as she recalled her mother's life; she picked her own beans and corn, even if she did not cook the dinner.
But the children had to hurry off to school, and it was a pity to call them early: they had lessons to learn in the afternoon. To them the garden was work, not play as it should have been; so they failed to gain that contact with mother earth which gives inspiration as well as health; they failed to acquire a love of nature, became infected with the germ of gregariousness, preferred the glare of lights, the rush of hurrying crowds, and lost the relish for fresh air and quiet. This second generation came to the city boarding-house and flat as soon as they were free, leaving their parents' houses to go the same way as the grandfather's farmhouse, into the hands of the foreigner not yet Americanized to high standards of cleanliness and orderliness.
These houses, too, are settling down into unkempt grounds with dilapidated porches and blinds. Such eyesores as one finds on the trolley-lines in any direction! They may have town-water supply, or they may depend on wells, but they are frequently without sewer-connection.
It is costly to be neat and clean, and only those whose minds require such surroundings in order to be comfortable will pay the cost in time, trouble, and money.
(3) Some families made a compromise and built what is called a modern house with bath-room and furnace (after the air-tight-stove craze passed), with jigsaw ornamentation outside and in, pretentious-looking dwellings with no proper kitchen accompaniments, and an unsavory garbage-barrel in the small back yard, under the next neighbor's windows. These houses are so close together that sounds and smells mingle; there is so little land that there is no satisfaction in caring for it. Houses of this sort are altogether too frequently found, occupying good locations and jarring on the nerves of the better-trained young people of to-day. What is to be done with them? They are too expensive to pull down, and hence are the last resort of those who find they must retrench. They are mere temporary shelters, not loved homes.
The plumbing is usually of a cheap order, and the drains are not infrequently broken, so that sanitarily these dwellings are often more suspicious than the abandoned farmhouse.
(4) The influx from village and country made demand for city housing of an inexpensive sort, and there came into being all over the land the type of the family house squeezed by the price of land to four stories high, 16 to 20 feet wide, built in long rows and blocks. The "ugly sixties" bred not only distressful village "villas," but unpleasant city houses of this type, which are to-day a real menace to wholesome living. Many such blocks may be found in any of our older cities, casting a depressing influence upon all who come in sight of them, and deteriorating the manners and morals of all who live in them. For these have gone the way of the other classes mentioned and become perverted from the uses they were designed for. In the seventies there were still motherly women who had come to town to make a home for the children no longer content out of it. They were willing and capable of mothering a few other children and lonely teachers and clerks, so the boarding-house began as a real family home for the homeless. There were not enough of these women to go around, and soon boarding-houses began to be run for profit only. Home privileges were fewer and fewer, the common parlor was rented, the one-family kitchen was made to do duty for twenty persons. The house became pervaded with burned fat and tobacco-smoke—a most villainous combination, gossip flourished, and the limit of discomfort was reached. What wonder that a good Samaritan built the first flat where the wearied nerves could find peace in the thicker walls, and could escape the eternal "fry" by going out to meals! It is a perfectly natural evolution from the impossible conditions which the eighties and nineties developed.
The early attempts, built on the old lines after the old ideas, before the new life was accepted, are not satisfactory and, being built of brick or stone, they are even more difficult to get rid of than the preceding. So each type goes down in the scale of decent living. A given roof is made to cover more people crowding closer and closer, causing home in the sense of privacy and comfort to recede farther and farther away, until the lover of his kind stands aghast at the magnitude of the problem before society when it awakens to the task confronting it. Fortunately these rows of houses are disappearing under the demand of business. The invasion of the residential district is a real blessing, in that it pulls down these houses which in twenty years have outlived their usefulness and can serve a good purpose no longer.
Let us hope that either the demands of business or the common sense of society will also sweep away the fifth class: (5) City flats put up by the conscienceless money-maker with only that idea of giving the public what the public wants (because it knows no better) which gives the newspaper its pernicious influences. At first it was supposed the flat-dwellers would keep house, and arrangements of a sort were made. This compressed the work of the house into such small quarters that the maid was given a room down in the basement along with the furnace, or in the top story adjoining ten or more other rooms—a dormitory arrangement without supervision and without the quiet needed for rest. The difficulty of securing good service under these conditions, together with the thousand and one annoyances of living at too close quarters, noisy children and pianos, grumpy janitors, smelly garbage, have led to the latest phase: non-housekeeping flats with daily care of a sort supplied by the janitor if desired, a kitchenette where eggs and coffee for breakfast and dishes for invalids may be prepared, and restaurants galore for other meals. Thus the women of the family are set free to roam the streets in search of bargains and to join others like unto themselves for matinees and promenades.
This sort of shelter is increasing more rapidly than any other in all the cities investigated. An estimate has been made that 80 or 90 per cent of the recent building has been of this sort. Six rooms in an unfashionable locality rent for about $25 or $30 a month; in a fashionable quarter, for $200 to $250 per month, with a floor-space one half larger. These latter cost about 50 cents per week per room for daily care, whereas the former, if cared for from outside, are served only at intervals of two weeks or a month. The inmates do most of the daily care themselves. While the building is new and fresh this means little work; but as time goes on the poor construction shows, the surface varnish wears off, cracks come, and a general shabbiness appears, so that the tenant prefers to move into a new building. The owner, or more probably the agent, puts on a little shining varnish, and rents again without real repair, and these buildings also go from bad to worse. Many of them are known to change tenants two or three times a year. There is always a demand for the newest house.
A study of social conditions reveals the fact that for the larger part of the wage-earners the house has come to be the place where money is spent, not earned or even saved. It has gone back to its primitive use—shelter from weather and a sleeping-place, a temporary one at that. A real-estate authority has made the assertion that three fifths of the rent-payers in large cities are made up of non-householders and one half of these are confined to one room—mostly women. This indicates a change in requirements for the housing of the individual as distinguished from the family. And it is this element which has complicated city living to a great extent, and to which attention has been drawn by the accusation that home life is shirked by it.
To the bachelor man and maid are added the commercial traveller who leaves wife and possibly child behind four fifths of the time. For him, as for several other classes of young business men, the locality which he can choose for headquarters changes with the requirements of business. He is under orders and must go at a moment's notice across the continent, perhaps. It is not his fault but the exigency of business that destroys the desire for a permanent abiding-place. The numbers of such homeless young people are far greater than any one but the real-estate agent realizes. Then this loosening of the home tie renders easy the shifting from city to country and seashore. A considerable proportion of the $2000 to $5000 class shut up the flat or leave the boarding-house several times in the year. There is usually one place where the furniture and bric-a-brac and the other season's clothing are kept, but it is only a storehouse or a temporary retreat that holds their property, growing less and less as they move, until they may practically live in their trunks.
The legacy which outranks all the others in disastrous consequences is the notion that the young people must begin where their parents left off; that the house must be, if anything, a little more elaborate. Therefore in starting life the rent is allowed to consume one third the income in sight, without considering the cost of maintaining such an establishment. With a probable income of $2000 a year the young man does not hesitate to pay $500 for a house, not realizing that at least half as much more should be spent on wages for the care of the nineteenth-century house, and as much more on incidentals, car-fares, and unexpected demands. What wonder that the young people find themselves in debt by the second year?
The parents are quite as much, if not more, to blame for encouraging this extravagance. The father and mother are entitled to their ease and to the use of their income for it, but the newly married pair have, in this age, no right to assume the same attitude. They have their way to make, their work to do in the years ahead of them. They should not mortgage the future for the sake of the present luxury; and because of the uncertainties of occupation and of health it is wise to take out of the expected income one fourth or one third for a reserve fund and divide the remainder for expenses. For instance, from $2000 a year subtract $500, then divide the $1500 into $300 for rent, $300 for food, $300 for operating expenses, $200 for clothing, $200 for travel, leaving $200 for the other expenses. If unlooked-for expenses must be incurred, there is the $500 to draw upon; but do not court the extra outlay: save the nest-egg if possible.
The ideals of the home are said to rule the world. The young business man who does not take the sane view of his own expenses will not rightly consider his employer's interests. It is more than probable that the much-deplored laxness, to call it by no harsher name, in business circles is directly traceable to this falseness and dishonesty in standards of home life. This moral effect is what makes the housing problem so serious. It leads to an outward show not balanced by an ability to maintain an inner life in harmony. It leads to an attempt to carry on a four-servant house with two servants, or a three servant establishment with one.
Lack of study and experience leads the family living in the suburbs, in one of the worst legacies of the past, to attempt the same style as friends maintain in a lately built apartment house, without in the least understanding wherein the difference lies.
From the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Maine to Texas, comes the same dull and sullen roar of domestic unrest. Lack of faithful service is causing the abandonment of the family home, and the fear of the obstacles in the way of establishing new ones threatens the whole social fabric.
The housewife is inclined to connect this state of things almost entirely with food preparation, and is prone to fancy that if eating could be abolished peace would return.
The trouble goes much deeper, however, even to the foundations. The nineteenth-century house is not suited to twentieth-century needs. In other words, lack of adaptation to present conditions of the houses we live in is a large factor in the prevailing domestic discontent. The next largest has been referred to as attempting a style of living beyond one's income.
In all other walks of life, in transportation, in manufacturing, machinery has come in to replace the heavier and more mechanical portions of labor. The steam-shovel, the hoisting-engine, an infinite combination of mechanical principles have been applied to the doing of things to save human muscle. To stand by the machine which turns out the familiar grape-basket, ready to fill with the fruit, and then to watch the housemaid bending over some piece of work, is to realize the difference. In few, very few operations is it necessary to-day that men should bend their backs, but in how many household processes is the worker expected to get down on all fours? The free-born American rebels. Perchance it is the unconscious protest over a four-footed ancestry, or it may be that disuse has really weakened the spinal column. Whatever the cause, the fact remains. It is not the idea of work, of service, but of bending the back to work that is so repugnant; likewise the effect on the hands of hot water and scrubbing. Close observation has convinced me that care of the hands has become an indication of freedom from manual labor quite unthought of fifteen or twenty years ago. The increase of manicuring-rooms, like the increase of restaurants, is a clear sign of the trend of the times. Not only the class who likes to waste conspicuously, but many a teacher, many a young man in State or Government employ with an income of one, two, or three thousand a year patronizes these rooms.
This daintiness reflects downward, and the girl whose acquaintances in her high-school days are in a position to keep well manicured, if not "lily-white," hands does not like to have hers show the effect of housework, when that means scrubbing the floor and cleaning the stove. Gloves? Ah, well, James Nasmyth once wrote: "Kid-gloves are great non-conductors of knowledge." I believe that gloves of any kind are a makeshift in real cleaning of dirty corners; but there should not be corners to catch dirt.
The unnecessary nastiness of the scrub-water with its fine soot which works into every pore is a great objection to the girl who must work for her living. If she goes to visit her friends, her hands betray her. She can remove the other badges of her toil, her cap and apron; she may go out on the street as brave as her mistress; but the moment her gloves are removed her hands tell the tale. With the means at hand this need not be. It is one of the legacies which have come down to us, and which we have connected with the servant problem. The work in the most modern apartments does not require the soiling of the hands in a serious way. With hard wood floors, bright gas-stoves, porcelain lined dishes, no pots and kettles, all the stairs, halls, etc., cared for by the janitor, the work is of a far less smutting kind than in the suburban house, where there is still need for much cleaning up of a roughening sort which cannot be escaped. This has more to do than we are apt to think with the distaste for the country, unless several servants are kept, some for this work only. In the old type of city house the travel up-and down-stairs to answer bell and telephone has demanded strength of back not possessed by the modern maid. The house is not yet adapted to the new demands of the workers, and they shun it. The mistress herself finds it beyond her strength, even if the traces of rough work were not quite so distasteful to her.
Miss Pettengill in her story of domestic service brings out the great part played by sooty dust, sifting in even through closed windows, in the burden of the waitress who is expected to keep the dining-room immaculate.
This is only one instance where the blame really belongs on the actual material house rather than on the mistress, except that she does not discover a remedy, does not even know where to look for the cause. I have great faith in the business woman, who does see much that is better done and who will bring it back into the home.
Fashions in philanthropy do not yet tend in the direction of house betterment.
"A busy man cannot stop his life-work to teach architects what they ought to know," says Wells; but on the other hand "we cannot be expected to teach men and their wives, as well as draw plans for them," says the architect who has tried it.
The centrifugal forces that our social prophets are so fond of invoking, holding that the words "town" and "city" may become as obsolete as "mail-coach," will have to reckon with these features of country life.
It is assumed that the work of women is "housekeeping." I should like to put the question suddenly to a thousand men. What is twentieth-century housekeeping? I venture the guess that less than a hundred would take into account the utter difference in their wives' duties from their mothers', as they remember them; and yet the house, even the flat, is built more or less along the old lines. The women do not know enough to assert themselves, and have not the skill to show the builder what is wrong. The architects could tell tales if they would. The utter ignorance of what a house means, of the steps necessary to make a successful livable place, is appalling. The young man who has $3000 as a legacy feels he can build. His wife chooses the location near her friends whose houses she likes, and the architect is called in. Do you wish back stairs? Are you to keep three servants or none? Do you wish the rooms separate or connecting? All such questions find a blank stare. "What difference does that make in the style and price?" the would-be owner says. The architect is not always able to show him that these little things are the whole problem in building a home. The house as a home is merely outer clothing, which should fit as an overcoat should, without wrinkles and creases that show their ready-made character. The woman, born housekeeper as she considers herself, is rigid in her ideas of what she thinks she wants, but when the builder has followed her plans she is far from satisfied with the result. She is used to material which puckers and stretches in her clothing; she cannot understand the inflexibility of wood and stone. The remedy is for high-school girls, probably even grammar-school pupils as well, to have along with their drawing some problems in house-planning and some lessons in carpentry.
It will be seen from the foregoing glance at the rapid change and steady deterioration of houses that the care of such living-places must involve special discomforts in most cases.
The time required to keep clean old splintered floors, to carry pails of water up and down stairs, to dry out the cloths—the base boards with their grimy streaks tell the story of carelessness—is not counted in the wage schedule.
Why is there so much dirt brought into the house? Because shoes and streets are muddy. Why is there so much lint? Because we have too many things in a room—too much wear and tear.
And unnecessary dirt is found even in the newer apartment-houses with the ever-changing population and ever-lessening space for maids' quarters, together with the sham character of construction due to the fact that most of these houses have been put up by speculators at the lowest cost of the cheapest materials which will show wear in a few months. Flimsy construction is a direct result of the notorious lack of care taken by the tenant, so that quick returns must be the rule; also of the probability that the neighborhood will deteriorate and that a class which will bear crowding and be less critical will replace the first tenants.
Conveniences for doing work in the houses built to rent, that is to bring in the greatest returns in the shortest time, will not be put in (for the first cost is great) unless the house will rent for more. The sharpest Hebrew or Irish landlord will allow his architect to add bathtubs if he believes the flat will rent for a few dollars more, where he will not do it for the sake of cleanliness. The supply of hot water, together with the gas stove, has done much to reconcile the housewife who does her own work to the cramped quarters of the flat, and also has done more than anything else to render the maids discontented with that legacy from the nineteenth century which requires the building of a coal fire before hot water can be had. The coal fire makes necessary rising an hour earlier and this, after the late hours the seven-o'clock dinner enforces, causes friction all along the line.
The acceptance by young women without a study of cause and effect of whatever presents itself makes them bad housekeepers, in the sense of ignorant ones unable to cope with present conditions, because lack of experience is not supplemented by a spirit of investigation and a resolution to work out the problem. They seem to think that housekeeping is to go on in the same old way no matter whatever else may change, whereas it is most sensitive to the general direction of progress if they but knew it. The wage-earner is more fully aware of the currents of the irresistible river modern life has become (the slow-moving car of Juggernaut is no longer an adequate symbol) than is the money spender.
Indeed is any part of the house, as we now most frequently find it, adapted to the uses of the twentieth century?
The careless capitalist who makes possible the "cockroach landlord," he who sublets and crowds and skimps the tenants for his own gain, is greatly to blame for the distressing conditions of the lower income limit of the wage-earner, but I fear he is not altogether blameless for the sort of house the $1500 man has to look for in the city. Decent living with light and air within half an hour of work is growing so rare that society must take a hand in the matter.
THE PLACE OF THE HOUSE IN THE SOCIAL ECONOMY OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
"We have entered upon the period of conscious evolution, have begun the adaptation of the environment to the organism."—Sir OLIVER LODGE.
The hopeless pessimism of the past, that saw in the unmerciful progress of organic evolution no escape for the human animal from the grip of fate, is about to give way to the enthusiasm of conscious directing and controlling power.
This is the beneficent result of the age of the machine. Man has discovered that he can not only change his environment, but that by this change he can modify himself. The hope of the future lies in the moulding of man's surroundings to his needs. In physiological terms, "the adaptation of structure to function."
The day is long past when shelter implied chiefly a tight roof and a dry floor. The housing of the twentieth-century family means location, central and fashionable. It means in cost far more than what the roof covers and the floor supports. It means plumbing and interior finish; it also means a finish on the outside, smoothly shaven lawns and immaculate sidewalks.
Sigh as we may for the colonial house, we confess that the standards of the time did not include the comfort of hot baths, polished floors, plate-glass windows, elevators, ice-closets, and lawn-mowers. These are necessary adjuncts to what is held as merely decent living; how can the $2000 man have them, not why will he not?
What then is the house and the life in it to become for the great majority of families and individuals with an income of $3000 a year and necessarily nomadic habits. I say necessarily, because these families are at the mercy of business and social conditions quite beyond their control and impossible to foretell.
So far as prophetic vision sees through the mists of time, the aim of the twentieth century is to live the effective life.
The simple life has been preached, the strenuous life has been lauded, but, as William Barclay Parsons recently stated it: "We need force, we need a vigorous force; we need that direction and avoidance of the unnecessary which is simplicity, but with either one alone there is something lacking. Instead of latent force and great energy without control, instead of quiet gentleness, of power of control without vigor to be controlled, what we need is force and energy applied where necessary and always under control, always working to a definite purpose, and at the same time avoiding complications and unnecessary friction.
[Footnote 1: William Barclay Parsons, N.E.A., Asbury Park, 1905. Eng. Record, Aug. 12, 1905.]
"That is to have a life whose great underlying motive is effectiveness. Instead of speaking of the strenuous life or the simple life, let us have as a doctrine 'the effective life.'
"What we need is not merely a man who acts, but one who does; that is, one who will do what he has to do regardless of intervening obstacles. Efficiency and effectiveness are the key-notes of success in actual life. They are also the lessons taught by every parable in the New Testament, even if that work is regarded as a code of ethics, and they form the spirit of that stirring definition of engineering which is based on the direction of the vital forces of nature and the doing of things for mankind."
[Footnote 1: "Ability to do and the doing, efficiency, and the use of it all for mankind."—Tredgold's definition of Engineering.]
Manufacturing concerns have found it pays them to provide decent tenements for their workers, but society has not yet awakened to the fact that the rank and file of the great army of salaried employees is left to fend for itself in a world only too prone to take advantage of its necessities. There is danger in this neglect of wholesome living surroundings, because from this stratum develops normally the intelligence of the future, and how can mentally active children grow up under the prevailing unsightly and unsanitary conditions?
Of course with the passing of pioneer conditions will pass in a measure the courage and adaptability which braced itself to meet and overcome obstacles. The salaried position in a great combine, instead of work for one's self in an independent business, tends to magnify the value of mere money-income gained through smartness rather than by ability. If life is made too easy, men will settle into indolent sterility, just as animals and plants degenerate with too much food.
The future will surely bring greater mechanical perfection and thus leave it possible for the individual, for each member of the family group, to do for himself many little things which are not comfortable to do now. But will he be willing to do them? Not unless he feels it to be a duty or a pleasure. Not unless there is an undercurrent of principle which carries him along. Without this principle strong enough to give an impetus over hard places in the early stages of life, the individual and the family will surely drift into the hotel and boarding-house, where everything is done on a money basis and nothing for love of one's kind; where a tip salves the hurt of menial work. These habits once gained are hard to break up; therefore it is much better for young people to begin life doing some things for themselves in a house where machinery responds to their call without a tip, where they may economize without loss of self-respect. We need to revive some of the pagan ideals of the beauty and value of the human body and human life which consists in the care and use of this body. There is no menial work in the daily living rightly carried out; that which the last century wrongly permitted is made needless by the machinery of to-day.
The point of view is most important.
The first steps toward social betterment will come through a cooperation of three forces: (1) a recognition of the need; (2) an awakening of social conscience to the duty of supplying the need; and (3) the movement of moneyed philanthropy to fulfil the requirement quickly.
As was natural, sympathy flowed first to the class which had the most visible need, not necessarily the greater need.
The New York Model Tenement Association has shown the world how easy it is, when there is a will, to find a way. That association has already taken the first step in advanced housing, and reduced the cost of safe and rentable city shelter to its lowest terms. Fireproof, sanitary, and convenient so far as rooms go (it is quite a climb for the mother with a baby in her arms to the sixth story), with neighbors carefully sorted, repairs well looked after, a sympathetic woman as agent always in the office; but only a minimum of light and air and sun; bedrooms 7x8, living-rooms 10x13; the smallest spaces the law allows; no grass, no flowers outside, no pets, nothing of one's own that cannot be put in a cart; common stairways where only partial privacy is gained; clothes-yards on the roof, and laundry in the basement, to be used in turn by twenty tenants. Because this is better than the slums for the emerging class, and because they like the gregariousness, is no argument for continuing the type up into the range of the $2000 group. But this is just what most of the small apartments do—those built to make all the money that they will bear. Hardly any better facilities are given. It will be easy for more roomy living-places to be built on similar plans, with elevators and labor-saving devices, and yet within the limit of moderate incomes, such blocks to be always under competent sanitary supervision.
From these model tenements it will not be difficult to advance to the suburban square with sufficient variety in house plans to content those who are willing to yield small personal whims. Hitherto the erratic fancy of would-be tenants, the dissatisfaction with the arrangements provided, has made building en masse difficult. As long as the builder was called upon to suit those who had lived in houses of their own for many years his task was difficult, but now he will have to do with the young people who know no other life and who will more readily fall in with the standards set by the house itself.
For this very reason those who have social welfare at heart must come to the rescue, and devise and put up samples, of the best that modern science can offer, to rent for $300 to $500 a year. Let any one who loves his kind, if he have a talent this way, not wrap it in a napkin, but give it to the builder and the philanthropist to materialize. Now is the time to set standards for the next thirty years. The electric car is opening new country as never before. Who will make the practical advance?
These new houses will be roomy and yet, I think, will not fail of sun-parlors or enclosed piazzas which will serve as extensions of the house when occasion demands. I am sure they will not contain the forbidding "front room" set apart for weddings and funerals and rare family gatherings. More open-air life will be fashionable and practicable as soon as we have learned that a wind-break and not a tightly-enclosed space is what we need. In northern latitudes especially it is the wind which makes the climate seem so inclement. The amount of accessible sunshine may be doubled with great advantage in most of the semi-country-houses. Shelter should not suggest a prison.
The education of the child demands that housing shall include land for pets, for vegetables and flowers; not merely to increase beauty and selfish pleasure, but for the ethical value of contact with things dependent on care and forethought. The thoughtful sociologist recognizes as one of the greatest needs for the children of to-day a closer companionship with fathers—is urging that even money-making should be secondary to the time given to moulding the character of the little ones, instead of leaving them to nurses and coachmen or to the school of the streets. Companionship in the garden-work will secure this opportunity in a natural way.
It is only by going into the country that sufficient land for a simple house with yard in front and garden in the rear—the ideal English home—can be had. There will be a sacrifice of some of the things the city gives, but a compromise is the only possible outcome of many claims.
Those who are feeling the return to Nature, who find pleasure in gardening and in all the soothing effects of country life, or who can bring themselves to it with moderate pleasure for the sake of the children who must be encouraged to delight in it, should go out at least ten miles from the city. In a well-regulated household the early breakfast will be a natural thing, and the meal will be no more hurried than any other. It is the class which tries to be both city and country that fills the columns of the magazines with the trials of the commuter. The father need not see less of his children, and the common occupation and interest will furnish opportunities for wise counsel. Much nonsense is written about the perils of habit and the dangers of routine. It all depends upon what those habits are. All animal functions are better performed as a matter of habit, without thought; it saves energy for more intellectual pursuits, which, I grant, are better kept under volitional control. The animal act of breakfasting at a given hour, of taking a given train, can be accomplished as unconsciously as breathing. Early rising should be the rule, because the children are then available as they are not at night.
We shall assume that the sane man will hold the little home in the country with all outdoors to breathe in as worth the half-hour journey and the early breakfast, and that the woman will have time set free by the labor-saving devices sure to come as fast as she will use them wisely. This free time she will give to the aesthetic side of life and will make of her home a more attractive place than the club.
But once a week let them both go into town either to the club or to some other place for dinner and an entertainment afterward. This will be sufficient to keep them out of an intellectual rut, will brighten the appetite with needed variety, and make the next quiet evening more delightful.
Once a week is sufficient to break the monotony of diet and routine, and not often enough to create that insatiable appetite for the glare of lights and the rush of people which makes all family life "deadly dull," as one cafe-haunting woman confessed.
While this country life is the only thing for a family of young children and for those who really enjoy the country, there is a larger number needing rational housing which will be left behind, let us hope with more room because of the flitting of these others.
Much as I deprecate the evils of the present apartment system, I do believe that an idealized modification will be needed for many years, especially for the elderly, for the commercial traveler, for the bachelor men and maids temporarily or permanently living single, for the newly married as yet unsettled in business or profession, for the man who does not know his own mind or whose employers do not know theirs. An instance has come to the writer's knowledge of a young man who, after his wedding cards were out, was ordered to take charge of an office in another city.
Marrying for shelter is and should be no longer necessary; and as for the fear that this habit of bachelor quarters will be hard to break up and tend to delay marriage, it will all depend upon whether it comes from the merely animal layer of the brain or from the intellectual.
This housing of the individual instead of the family has introduced an entirely new problem into house-building.
Formerly when a widow or widower, a maiden aunt, a homeless uncle or cousin made his home with relatives, it was "as one of the family"; only the minister was recognized as having need for a separate sitting-room. The trials of this forced companionship have been told in many a witty story; and pathetic instances that never came to print are matters of common knowledge.
Will any one dare question the fact that the sum of human happiness has been increased by the freedom given to these prisoned souls by the small independent apartment?
I have been reminded that here is no provision for the different generations to live together under the same roof; that the nineteenth century held it to be of great social value to have the children grow up with the elders. I am sorry for the twentieth-century grandparents if they are obliged to live in a flat with the twentieth-century child; some readjustment of manners and ideals must be made before such living will be comfortable, and it seems as if they are better apart until the new order is accepted or modified. The comfort of those whose work is done and who have leisure to enjoy life was never so easily secured as to-day. To turn the key and take the train at an hour's notice, leaving no cares to follow, tends to a serene old age.
Moralists may squabble over the discipline of living with one's mother-in-law, and of the loss to the children of grandmother's petting, but at least physical content and mental satisfaction have increased. Has selfishness also? Who shall say? And anyway it is a part of the progress of the age, and what are we to do about it?
For one group of single persons the change has been only beneficial. It was a strict code of the early nineteenth century that a single woman should find shelter under the roof of some family house, however independent, financially, her condition. Latch-key privileges were denied her. Result, the boarding-house of the later half of the century, nominally a family home, actually a hotbed of faultfinding and gossip, most wearing to the teacher and fledgling professional woman, however acceptable to the milliner and seamstress. Privacy could not be maintained in a house built for a family of five made to do duty for twelve, with one bath-room, thin-walled bedrooms with connecting doors through which the light streamed when one wished to sleep, and words frequently came not intended for outsiders. Who that has experienced the two could ever think the bachelor apartment with its neat bath-room and double-doored entrance an objectionable feature in modern intellectual life? Ah! here is the key. We are to-day living a life of the intellect far more than ever before, and for that a certain amount of withdrawal from our fellow man is needed, at least a withdrawal from that portion which finds its interest in the affairs of others.
But if we eliminate the house itself, and the heavy furniture from the "home" possessions, what have we left? The little girl was right: "My home is where my dishes is." My possessions, whatever they are—the things I can call my own under all circumstances make my home. These circumstances change from time to time, but the ideal is there. As a concrete instance: let us have books, not a lot of books, but books that are friends with whom one may spend a comforting hour anywhere; books that have power to charm away the gloom of discontent, books to lend gayety to festal days.
Rugs and draperies a few, those you find satisfying to your sense of color, of design, and with which you feel at home. Ugly tables, chairs, and "sofas" disappear under an Indian shawl. A Persian or a Navajo blanket covers a multitude of aesthetic sins. Only let these harmonize with each other, let them be chosen once for all to go in company; then if they are distributed, it will not matter; but in any case avoid the "museum" look given by mere collecting. Alas! these are expensive articles, and the young people may not be able to get all at once. Let society then turn over a new leaf in the wedding-present line, and cease this senseless giving of cut-glass and silver to those who may go to a mining-camp in the Rockies or to Mexico, or even into a ten-by-twelve New York apartment. Let there be a committee—we are so fond of committees—to receive contributions in a money-bank or in sealed envelopes, and then when all is collected, let this committee scour the shops for articles of value, and when found consult the bridal pair as to their preferences. The choice may be made of one or more, as the money permits. The particular gift will still be a surprise and yet of permanent value. Lace and embroideries are always good, but let the waste of money on the "latest" in orange-knives, oyster-plates, go up higher, that is, to the class with money for conspicuous waste, if it must still exist, but let sensible people be sensible, and not require the young folks to live up to their hopes for future advancement. Wedding gifts are meant to be kindly help to a young housewife, not a burden which drags her down to the level of a drudge. But if the house is surely their own, and in the country, there will be shelves to fill and walls to cover; then is the opportunity for individual gifts of china, glass, and pictures.
To make the best of the increasing tendency to a semi-country living, there is need for students of domestic architecture, women with a trained taste added to an experience in doing things, not merely seeing them already done. Let these evolve beautiful exteriors, with interiors so finely proportioned that they will be a delight to all beholders, so adapted to their purposes that no one will wish to change them. There is a right dimension, in relation to other dimensions, which is always satisfying and independent of furniture or decoration.
The ugly houses, ill adapted to any useful purpose, which line the roadside bear witness to the ignorance of the women of to-day. The effort for mere decoration, for pretentious show, is so evident that one wishes for an earthquake to swallow them all.
Another cause for rise in rent demanded for a given space is the heavy tax borne by real estate for public improvement, for good lighting, clean streets, plentiful water, sufficient sewerage, free baths, parks, and schools. Again, this falls heaviest on our three- to five-thousand dollar class, who pay more than their share, especially when the millionaire shirks his duty by paying his taxes elsewhere. What can the man with limited income do but avoid the responsibility of a family? Has he a moral right to bring unhappiness to his wife and two children? Having been caught in the trap, why give him all the blame if he tries to increase his income by speculation?
The more one studies this question of shelter for the salaried group, the more is one convinced that it lies at the root of our social discontent and is a large factor in our moral as well as physical deterioration.
POSSIBILITIES IN SIGHT PROVIDED THE HOUSEWIFE IS PROGRESSIVE.
"We are far from the noon of man: There is time for the race to grow."—TENNYSON.
"There appears no limit to the invasion of life by the machine." H.G. WELLS.
The house as a centre of manufacturing industry has passed (for even if village industries do spring up, the work-rooms will be separate from the living-rooms); the house as a sign of pecuniary standing is passing: what next? Why, of course, the house as the promoter of "the effective life." Rebel as the artistic individual may at this word, it expresses the spirit of the twentieth century as nothing else can. Social advance must be made along the line of efficiency, even if it lead to something different and not at first sight better. The appeal to self-interest is soonest answered. The man or woman with any ambition will keep clean, will buy better milk for the baby, will pay more for rent if he or she is convinced that it will bring in or save money in the end, because money has been the measure of success in the nineteenth century. But as the full significance of this "machine-made" age is grasped it will be seen that it has set free the human laborer, if only he will qualify himself to use the power at his hand. The house will become the first lesson in the use of mechanical appliances, in control of the harnessed forces of nature, and of that spirit of cooperation which alone can bring the benefits of modern science to the doors of all. One family cannot as a rule put up in a city or in the suburbs—and half the world lives in cities—its own idea of a house without undue expenditure; but ten families may combine and secure a building which fairly suits them all. I say fairly, because all cooperation means some sacrifice of whim or special liking. The well-balanced individual will, however, choose the plan yielding on the whole the greater efficiency, thus following a law of natural selection which, so far, the human race has ignored—a neglect which has been carrying him toward destruction as surely as there is law in nature. Is this neglect to go on, or is man to turn before it is too late to a cultivation of the effective life? In everything else he has advanced, but in his intimate personal relations with nature and natural force he has acted as if he believed himself not only lord of the beasts of the field, but of the very laws of nature without understanding them. Mechanical progress has come from an humble attitude toward the powers of wind and water. Home efficiency will arrive just as soon as the home-keeper will put herself in a receptive frame of mind and be prepared to learn her limitations and the extent of her control of material things. When she will stop saying "I do not believe" and set herself to learn patiently the facts in the case, then will housekeeping take on a new phase and the house become the nursery of effective workers who will at the same time enjoy life. To manage this machine-driven house will require delicate handling; but let women once overcome their fear of machinery and they will use it with skill.
The undue influence of sentiment retards all domestic progress. Because our grandfather's idea of perfect happiness was to sit before the fire of logs, we are satisfied with the semblance in the form of the asbestos-covered gas-log. "It is not for the iconoclastic inventor or architect to improve the hearth out of existence." Sentiment is a useful emotion, but when it held open funerals of diphtheria victims, society stepped in and forbade. With a certain advance in social consciousness public opinion will step in and regulate sentiment in regard to many things depending on individual whim.
Heating might now be accomplished without dust and ashes, without the destructive effects of steam, if enough houses would take electricity to enable a company to supply it in the form of a sort of dado carrying wires safely embedded in a non-conducting substance, or in the form of a carpet threaded with conducting wire. Both heating and cooling apparatus could be installed in the shape of a motor to replace the punkah man and the present buzz-wheel fan, and to give fresh air without the opening of windows which leads to half our housekeeping miseries. O woman, how can you resist the thought of a clean, cool house, sans dust, sans flies and mosquitoes, sans the intolerable street-noise, with abundance of fresh filtered air at the desired temperature! It is all ready at your hand. A windmill on the roof can store power, or a solar motor can save the sun's rays, or capsules of compressed air may be had to run the machine, if only you were not so afraid of the very word machine that no man dares propose it to you. Of what use is all the invention of the time if it cannot save the lives of the children, half of whom fall victims to house diseases, if it cannot sweep away consumption and influenza and all the kindred diseases arising from over-shelter and under-cleanliness of that shelter (lack of air). Both men and women are sentimental and non-progressive, but education is assumed to make wiser human beings. Women are said to be monopolizing the education; is it making them more amenable to reasonableness and less under the control of unprogressive conservatism?
It does require quick adaptation to keep up with the possibilities of invention, but should we not aim at that which will advance our race on a par with its opportunities? Every other department is getting ahead of us. We should hang our heads in shame that we have neglected so long the means for saner living.
It has been said that the highest modern civilization is shown not so much by costly monuments and works of art as by the perfection of house conveniences. Where then do we stand? And in what direction are we to look for the coming advance? We have had some sixty years of public sanitation; we have secured a supply of sanitary experts to whom all questions affecting the physical welfare of masses of people may be referred. We have a few architects who know the requirements of a livable house, not merely one which shows off well as first built.