It is possible that if the European War had been averted the history of Feminism would have made far different reading---say fifty years hence. The militant suffragettes of England had degenerated from something like real politicians into mere neurasthenics and not only had lost what little chance they seemed for a time to have of being taken seriously by the British Government, but had very nearly alienated the many thousands of women without the ranks that were wavering in the balance. This was their most serious mistake, for the chief handicap of the militants had been that too few women were disposed toward suffrage, or even interested. The history of the world shows that when any large body of people in a community want anything long enough and hard enough, and go after it with practical methods, they obtain it in one form or another. But the women of Britain as well as the awakening women of other nations east and west of the Atlantic, were so disgusted and alarmed by this persisting lack of self-control in embryonic politicians of their sex that they voted silently to preserve their sanity under the existing régime. It has formed one of the secret sources of the strength of the antis, that fear of the complete demoralization of their sex if freed from the immemorial restraints imposed by man.
This attitude of mind does not argue a very distinguished order of reasoning powers or of clear thinking; but then not too many men, in spite of their centuries of uninterrupted opportunity, face innovations or radical reforms with unerring foresight. There is a strong conservative instinct in the average man or woman, born of the hereditary fear of life, that prompts them to cling to old standards, or, if too intelligent to look inhospitably upon progress, to move very slowly. Both types are the brakes and wheel-horses necessary to a stable civilization, but history, even current history in the newspapers, would be dull reading if there were no adventurous spirits willing to do battle for new ideas. The militant women of England would have accomplished wonders if their nervous systems had not broken down under the prolonged strain.
It is probable that after this war is over the women of the belligerent nations will be given the franchise by the weary men that are left, if they choose to insist upon it. They have shown the same bravery, endurance, self-sacrifice, resource, and grim determination as the men. In every war, it may be argued, women have displayed the same spirit and the same qualities, proving that they needed but the touchstone of opportunity to reveal the splendor of their endowment, but treated by man, as soon as peace was restored, as the same old inferior annex.
This is true enough, but the point of difference is that never, prior to the Great War, was such an enormous body of women awake after the lethargic submission of centuries, and clamoring for their rights. Never before have millions of women been supporting themselves; never before had they even contemplated organization and the direct political attack. Of course the women of Europe, exalted and worked half to death, have, with the exception of a few irrepressibles, put all idea of self-aggrandizement aside for the moment; but this idea had grown too big and too dominant to be dismissed for good and all, with last year's fashions and the memory of delicate plats prepared by chefs now serving valiantly within the lines. The big idea, the master desire, the obsession, if you like, is merely taking an enforced rest, and there is persistent speculation as to what the thinking and the energetic women of Europe will do when this war is over, and how far men will help or hinder them.
I have written upon this question in its bearings upon the women of France more fully in another chapter; but it may be stated here that such important feminists as Madame Vérone, the eminent avocat, and Mlle. Valentine Thompson, the youngest but one of the ablest of the leaders, while doing everything to help and nothing to embarrass their Government, never permit the question to recede wholly to the background. Mlle. Thompson argues that the men in authority should not be permitted for a moment to forget, not the services of women in this terrible chapter of France's destiny, for that is a matter of course, as ever, but the marked capabilities women have shown when suddenly thrust into positions of authority. In certain invaded towns the wives of imprisoned or executed Mayors have taken their place almost automatically and served with a capacity unrelated to sex. In some of these towns women have managed the destinies of the people since the first month of the war, understanding them as no man has ever done, and working harder than most men are ever willing to work. Thousands have, under the spur, developed unsuspected capacities, energies, endurance, above all genuine executive abilities. That these women should be swept back into private life by the selfishness of men when the killing business is over, is, to Mlle. Thompson's mind, unthinkable. In her newspaper, La Vie Feminine, she gives weekly instances of the resourcefulness and devotion of French womanhood, and although the women of her country have never taken as kindly to the idea of demanding the franchise as those of certain other nations, still it is more than possible that she will make many converts before the war is over.
These are not to be "suffrage" chapters. There is no doubt in my mind that the women of all nations will have the franchise eventually, if only because it is ridiculous that they should be permitted to work like men (often supporting husbands, fathers, brothers) and not be permitted all the privileges of men. Man, who grows more enlightened every year---often sorely against his will---must appreciate this anomaly in due course, and by degrees will surrender the franchise as freely to women as he has to negroes and imbeciles. When women have received the vote for which they have fought and bled, they will use it with just about the same proportion of conscientiousness and enthusiasm as busy men do. One line in the credo might have been written of human nature A.D. 1914-1917: "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be."
But while suffrage and feminism are related, they are far from identical. Suffrage is but a milestone in feminism, which may be described as the more or less concerted sweep of women from the backwaters into the broad central stream of life. Having for untold centuries given men to the world they now want the world from men. There is no question in the progressive minds of both sexes that, outside of the ever-recurrent war zones, they should hereafter divide the great privileges of life and civilization in equal shares with men.
Several times before in the history of the world comparatively large numbers of women have made themselves felt, claiming certain equal rights with the governing sex. But their ambitions were generally confined to founding religious orders, obtaining admission to the universities, or to playing the intellectual game in the social preserves. In the wonderful thirteenth century women rivaled men in learning and accomplishments, in vigor of mind and decision of character. But this is the first time that millions of them have been out in the world "on their own," invading almost every field of work, for centuries sacrosanct to man. There is even a boiler-maker in the United States who worked her way up in poor-boy fashion and now attends conventions of boiler-makers on equal terms. In tens of thousands of cases women have made good, in the arts, professions, trades, businesses, clerical positions, and even in agriculture and cattle raising. They are brilliant aviators, yachtsmen, automobile drivers, showing failure of nerve more rarely than men, although, as they are not engaged in these pursuits in equal numbers perhaps that is not a fair statement. Suffice it to say that as far as they have gone they have asked for no quarter. It is quite true that in certain of the arts, notably music, they have never equaled men, and it has been held against them that all the great chefs are men. Here it is quite justifiable to take refuge in the venerable axiom, "Rome was not made in a day." It is not what they have failed to accomplish with their grinding disabilities but the amazing number of things in which they have shown themselves the equal if not the superior of men. Whether their success is to be permanent, or whether they have done wisely in invading man's domain so generally, are questions to be attacked later when considering the biological differences between men and women. The most interesting problem relating to women that confronts us at present is the effect of the European War on the whole status of woman.
If the war ends before this nation is engulfed we shall at least keep our men, and the males of this country are so far in excess of the females that it is odd so many American women should be driven to self-support. In Great Britain the women have long outnumbered the men; it was estimated before the war that there were some three hundred thousand spinsters for whom no husbands were available. After the war there will be at best something like a proportion of one whole man to three women (confining these unwelcome prophecies to people of marriageable age); and the other afflicted countries, with the possible exception of Russia, will show a similar dislocation of the normal balance. The acute question will be repopulation---with a view to another trial of military supremacy a generation hence!---and all sorts of expedients are being suggested, from polygamy to artificial fertilization. It may be that the whole future of woman as well as of civilization after this war is over depends upon whether she concludes to serve the State or herself.
While in France in the summer of 1916, I heard childless women say: "Would that I had six sons to give to France!" I heard unmarried women say: "Thank heaven I never married!" I heard bitterness expressed by bereft mothers, terror and despair by others when the curtain had rung down and they could relax the proud and smiling front they presented to the world. Not one would have had her son shirk his duty, nor asked for compromise with the enemy, but all prayed for the war to end. It is true that these men at the front are heroes in the eyes of their women, worshiped by the majority when they come home briefly as permissionnaires, and it is also true that France is an old military nation and that the brain-cells of its women are full of ancestral memories of war. But never before have women done as much thinking for themselves as they are doing to-day, as they had done for some fifteen or twenty years before the war. That war has now lasted almost three years. During this long and terrible period there has been scarcely a woman in France, as in Britain, Russia, Italy, Germany, who has not done her share behind the lines, working, at her self-appointed tasks or at those imposed by the Government, for months on end without a day of rest. They have had contacts that never would have approached them otherwise, they have been obliged to think for themselves, for thousands of helpless poor, for the men at the Front. The Frenchwomen particularly have forced men to deal with them as human beings and respect them as such, dissipating in some measure those mists of sex through which the Frenchman loves to stalk in search of the elusive and highly-sophisticated quarry. As long as a woman was sexually attractive she could never hope to meet man on an equal footing, no matter how entrancing he might find her mental qualities. She must play hide-and-seek, exercise finesse, seduction, keep the flag of sex flying ever on the ramparts. It is doubtful if Frenchmen will change in this respect, but it is more than doubtful if women do not.
There is hardly any doubt that if this war lasts long enough women for the first time in the history of civilization will have it in their power to seize one at least of the world's reins. But will they do it---I am now speaking of women in mass, not of the advanced thinkers, or of women of the world who have so recently ascertained that there is a special joy in being free of the tyranny of sex, a tyranny that emanated no less from within than without.
It is to be imagined that all the men who are fighting in this most trying of all wars are heroes in the eyes of European women---as well they may be---and that those who survive are likely to be regarded with a passionate admiration not unmixed with awe. The traditional weakness of women where men are concerned (which after all is but a cunning device of Nature) may swamp their great opportunity. They may fight over the surviving males like dogs over a bone, marry with sensations of profound gratitude (or patriotic fervor) the armless, the legless, the blind, the terrible face mutilés, and drop forever out of the ranks of Woman as differentiated from the ranks of mere women. What has hampered the cause of Woman in Great Britain and Europe so far is the quite remarkable valuation put upon the male by the female. This is partly temperamental, partly female preponderance, but it is even more deeply rooted in those vanished centuries during which man proclaimed and maintained his superiority. Circumstances helped him for thousands of years, and he has been taken by the physically weaker and child-bearing sex at his own estimate. It is difficult for American women to appreciate this almost servile attitude of even British women to mere man. One of the finest things about the militant woman, one by which she scored most heavily, was her flinging off of this tradition and displaying a shining armor of indifference toward man as man. This startled the men almost as much as the window smashing, and made other women, living out their little lives under the frowns and smiles of the dominant male, think and ponder, wonder if their small rewards amounted to half as much as the untasted pleasures of power and independence.
It is always a sign of weakness to give one side of a picture and blithely ignore the other. Therefore, let me hasten to add that it is a well-known fact that Mrs. Pankhurst had borne and reared six children before she took up the moribund cause of suffrage; and that after a season's careful investigation in London at the height of the militant movement I concluded that never in the world had so many unattractive females been banded together in any one cause. Even the young girls I heard speaking on street corners, mounted on boxes, looked gray, dingy, sexless. Of course there were many handsome, even lovely, women,---like Mrs. Cavendish-Bentinck and Lady Hall, for instance---interested in "the movement," contributing funds, and giving it a certain moral support; but when it came to the window smashers, the jail seekers, the hunger-strikers, the real martyrs of that extraordinary minor chapter of England's history, there was only one good-looking woman in the entire army---Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence---and militant extravagances soon became too much for her. There were intelligent women galore, women of the aristocracy born with a certain style, and showing their breeding even on the soap-box, but sexually attractive women never, and even the youngest seemed to have been born without the bloom of youth. The significance of this, however, works both ways. If men did not want them, at least there was something both noble and pitiful in their willingness to sacrifice those dreams and hopes which are the common heritage of the lovely and the plain, the old and the young, the Circe and the Amazon, to the ultimate freedom of those millions of their sisters lulled or helpless in the enchanted net of sex.
It is doubtful if even the militants can revert to their former singleness of purpose; after many months, possibly years, of devotion to duty, serving State and man, the effacement of self, appreciation of the naked fact that the integrity of their country matters more than anything else on earth, they may be quite unable to rebound to their old fanatical attitude toward suffrage as the one important issue of the Twentieth Century. Even the very considerable number of those women that have reached an appearance which would eliminate them from the contest over such men as are left may be so chastened by the hideous sufferings they have witnessed or heard of daily, so moved by the astounding endurance and grim valor of man (who nearest approaches to godhood in time of war) that they will have lost the disposition to tear from him the few compensations the new era of peace can offer. If that is the case, if women at the end of the war are soft, completely rehabilitated in that femininity, or femaleness, which was their original endowment from Nature, the whole great movement will subside, and the work must begin over again by unborn women and their accumulated grievances some fifty years hence.
Nothing is more sure than that Nature will take advantage of the lull to make a desperate attempt to recover her lost ground. Progressive women, and before the war their ranks were recruited daily, were one of the most momentous results of the forces of the higher civilization, an evolution that in Nature's eye represented a lamentable divergence from type. Here is woman, with all her physical disabilities, become man's rival in all of the arts, save music, and in nearly all of the productive walks of life, as well as in a large percentage of the professional and executive; intellectually the equal if not the superior of the average man---who in these days, poor devil, is born a specialist---and making a bold bid for political equality.
It has been a magnificent accomplishment, and it has marked one of the most brilliant and picturesque milestones in human progress. It seems incredible that woman, in spite of the tremendous pressure that Nature will put upon her, may revert weakly to type. The most powerful of all the forces working for Nature and against feminism will be the quite brutal and obscene naturalness of war, and the gross familiarity of civilization with it for so long a period. There is reversion to type with a vengeance! The ablest of the male inheritors of the accumulated wisdom and experiences and civilizing influences of the ages were in power prior to August 1914, and not one of them nor all combined had the foresight to circumvent, or the diplomatic ingenuity to keep in leash the panting Hun. They are settling their scores, A.D. 1914-1917, by brute fighting. There has been some brain work during this war so far, but a long sight more brute work. As it was in the beginning, etc.
And the women, giving every waking hour to ameliorating the lot of the defenders of their hearth and their honor, or nursing the wounded in hospital, have been stark up against the physical side: whether making bombs in factories, bandages or uniforms, washing gaping wounds, preparing shattered bodies for burial, or listening to the horrid tales of men and women home on leave.
The European woman, in spite of her exalted pitch, is living a more or less mechanical life at present. Even where she has revealed unsuspected creative ability, as soon as her particular task is mapped she subsides into routine. As a rule she is quite automatically and naturally performing those services and duties for which Nature so elaborately equipped her, ministering to man almost exclusively, even when temporarily filling his place in the factory and the tram-car. Dienen! Dienen! is the motto of one and all of these Kundrys, whether they realize it or not, and it is on the cards that they may never again wish to somersault back to that mental attitude where they would dominate not serve.
On the other hand civilization may for once prove stronger than Nature. Thinking women---and there are a few hundred thousands of them---may emerge from this hideous reversion of Europe to barbarism with an utter contempt for man. They may despise the men of affairs for muddling Europe into the most terrible war in history, in the very midst of the greatest civilization of which there is any record. They may experience a secret but profound revulsion from the men wallowing in blood and filth for months on end, living only to kill. The fact that the poor men can't help it does not alter the case. The women can't help it either. Women have grown very fastidious. The sensual women and the quite unimaginative women will not be affected, but how about the others? And only men of the finest grain survive a long period of war with the artificial habits of civilization strong upon them.
The end of this war may mark a conclusive revulsion of the present generation of European women from men that may last until they have passed the productive age. Instead of softening, disintegrating back to type, they may be insensibly hardening inside a mould that will eventually cast them forth a more definite third sex than any that threatened before the war. Woman, blind victim of the race as she has been for centuries, seldom in these days loves without an illusion of the senses or of the imagination. She has ceased, in the wider avenues of life, lined as they are with the opulent wares of twentieth century civilization, to be merely the burden-bearing and reproductive sex. Life has taught her the inestimable value of illusions, and the more practical she becomes, the more she cherishes this divine gift. It is possible that man has forfeited his power to cast a glamour over all but the meanest types of women. If that should be the case women will ask: Why settle down and keep house for the tiresome creatures, study their whims, and meekly subside into the second place, or be eternally on the alert for equal rights? As for children? Let the state suffer for its mistakes. Why bring more children into the world to be blown to pieces on the field of battle, or a burden to their women throughout interminable years? No! For a generation at least the world shall be ours, and then it may limp along with a depleted population or go to the dogs.
Few, no doubt, will reason it out as elaborately as this or be so consciously ruthless, but a large enough number are likely enough to bring the light of their logic to bear upon the opportunity, and a still larger number to feel an obscure sense of revolt against man for his failure to uphold civilization against the Prussian anachronism, combined with a more definite desire for personal liberty. And both of these divisions of their sex are likely to alter the course of history---far more radically than has ever happened before at the close of any fighting period. Even the much depended upon maternal instinct may subside, partly under the horrors of field hospitals where so many mother's sons are ghastly wrecks, partly under a heavy landslide of disgust that the sex that has ruled the world should apparently be so helpless against so obscene a fate.
They will reflect that if women are weak (comparatively) physically, there is all the more hope they may develop into giants mentally; one of man's handicaps being that his more highly vitalized body with its coercive demands, is ever waging war with a consistent and complete development of the mind. And in these days, when the science of the body is so thoroughly understood, any woman, unless afflicted with an organic disease, is able to keep her brain constantly supplied with red unpoisoned blood, and may wax in mental powers (there being no natural physical deteriorations in the brain as in the body) so long as life lasts.
Certainly these women will say: We could have done no worse than these chess players of Europe and we might have done better. Assuredly if we grasp and hold the reins of the world there will never be another war. We are not, in the first place, as greedy as men; we will divide the world up in strict accordance with race, and let every nation have its own place in the sun. Commercial greed has no place in our make-up, and with the hideous examples of history it will never obtain entrance.
How often has it been the cynical pleasure of mere ministers of state to use kings as pawns? Well, we despise the game. Also, we shall have no kings, and republics are loth to make war. Our instincts are humanitarian. We should like to see all the world as happy as that lovely countryside of Northeastern France before August 1914. We at least recognize that the human mind is as yet imperfectly developed; and if, instead of setting the world back periodically, and drenching mankind in misery, we would have all men and women as happy as human nature will permit, we should devote our abilities, uninterrupted by war, to solving the problem of poverty (the acutest evidence of man's failure), and to fostering the talents of millions of men and women that to-day constitute a part of the wastage of Earth. Of course, being mortal, we shall make mistakes, give way, no doubt, to racial jealousies, and personal ambitions; but our eyes have been opened wide by this war and it is impossible that we should make the terrible mistakes we inevitably would have made had we obtained power before we had seen and read its hideous revelations---day after day, month after month, year after year! It is true that men have made these resolutions many times, but men have too much of the sort of blood that goes to the head, and their lust for money is even greater than their lust for power.
Now, this may sound fantastic but it is indisputably probable. Much has been said of the patriotic exaltation of young women during war and just after its close, which leads them to marry almost any one in order to give a son to the state, or even to dispense with the legal formality. But although I heard a great deal of that sort of talk during the first months of the war I don't hear so much of it now. Nor did I hear anything like as much of it in France as I expected. To quote one woman of great intelligence with whom I talked many times, and who is one of the Government's chosen aids; she said one day, "It was a terrible distress to me that I had only one child, and I consulted every specialist in France. Now I am thankful that I did have but one son to come home to me with a gangrene wound, and then, after months of battling for his life, to insist upon going back to the Front and exposing it every day. I used to feel sad, too, that Valentine Thompson" (who is not only beautiful but an Amazon in physique) "did not marry and be happy like other girls, instead of becoming a public character and working at first one scheme or another for the amelioration of the lot of woman. Now, I am thankful that she never married. Her father is too old to go to war and she has neither husband nor son to agonize over. Far better she live the life of usefulness she does than deliberately take upon herself the common burdens of women." No Frenchwoman could be more patriotic than the one who made this speech to me, and if she had had many sons she would have girded them all for war, but she had suffered too much herself and she saw too much suffering among her friends daily, not to hate the accursed institution of war, and wish that as many women could be spared its brutal impositions as possible.
Nobody has ever accused me of being a Pacifist. Personally, I think that every self-respecting nation on the globe should have risen in 1914 and assisted the Allies to blast Prussia off the face of the Earth, but after this war is over if the best brains in these nations do not at once get to work and police the world against future wars, it will be a matter for regret that they were not all on the German ship when she foundered.
It is to be remembered that woman has, in her subconscious brain-cells, ancestral memories of the Matriarchate. It is interesting to quote in this connection what Patrick Geddes and G. Arthur Thompson have to say on the mooted question of the Mother-Age:
"Prehistoric history is hazardous, but there is a good case to be made out for a Mother-Age. This has been reconstructed from fossils in the folk lore of agriculture and housewifery, in old customs, ceremonies, festivals, games; in myths and fairy tales and age-worn words.
"Professor Karl Pierson finds in the study of witchcraft some of the fossils that point back to the Matriarchate. In the older traditions 'the witch resumes her old position as the wise-woman, the medicine woman, the leader of the people, the priestess.' 'We have accordingly to look upon the witch as essentially the degraded form of the old priestess, cunning in the knowledge of herbs and medicine, jealous of the rights and of the goddess she serves, and preserving in spells and incantations such wisdom as early civilization possessed.'
"The witch's weather wisdom is congruent with the fact that women were the earliest agriculturists; her knowledge of herbs with that of the ancient medicine women; her diablerie with that of the ancient group relations of the sexes so different from what we call marriage to-day; her nocturnal dances with the ancient choruses of marriage-ripe maidens. The authority and magic circle kept by the broom are those of the hearth and floor in her primeval roundhut; and her distaff and pitchfork, her caldron, her cat and dog, are all in keeping with the rôle of woman in the Mother-Age.
"But there is another way, and that certainly not less reliable, by which we can arrive at some understanding of the Mother-Age, and how it naturally came about, namely, by a study of our 'contemporary ancestors,' of people who linger on the matriarchal level. Such people, as well as others on the still lower nomad stage of civilization, are to be found at this day in Australia.
"While the purely nomad stage lasted, little progress could be made, because the possessions of a group were limited by the carrying powers of its members. But in a favorite forest spot a long halt was possible, the mothers were able to drop their babies and give a larger part of their attention to food-getting. As before, the forest products---roots and fruits---were gathered in, but more time and ingenuity were expended in making them palatable and in storing them for future use. The plants in the neighborhood, which were useful for food or for their healing properties, were tended and kept free of weeds, and by and by seeds of them were sown in cleared ground within easy reach of the camp. Animals gathered about the rich food area, and were at first tolerated---certain negro tribes to-day keep hens about their huts, though they eat neither them nor their eggs---and later encouraged as a stable source of food-supply. The group was anchored to one spot by its increasing possessions; and thus home-making, gardening, medicine, the domestication of animals and even agriculture, were fairly begun. Not only were all these activities in the hands of women, but to them, too, were necessarily left the care and training of the young.
"The men meanwhile went away on warlike expeditions against other groups, and on long hunting and fishing excursions, from which they returned with their spoils from time to time, to be welcomed by the women with dancing and feasting. Hunting and war were their only occupations, and the time between expeditions was spent in resting and in interminable palavers and dances, which we may perhaps look upon as the beginnings of parliaments and music halls.
"Whether this picture be accurate in detail or not there is at any rate a considerable body of evidence pointing to the 'Matriarchate' as a period during which women began medicine, the domestication of the smaller animals, the cultivation of vegetables, flax and corn, the use of the distaff, the spindle, the broom, the fire-rake and the pitchfork.
"In the Mother-Age the inheritance of property passed through the mother; the woman gave the children her own name; husband and father were in the background---often far from individualized; the brother and uncle were much more important; the woman was the depository of custom, lore, and religious tradition; she was, at least, the nominal head of the family, and she had a large influence in tribal affairs."
For some years past certain progressive women have shown signs of a reversion to the matriarchal state---or shall we say a disposition to revive it? In spite of human progress we travel more or less in circles, a truth of which the present war and its reversions is the most uncompromising example.
In the married state, for instance, these women have retained their own name, not even being addressed as Mrs., that after all is a polite variation of the Spanish "de," which does not by any means indicate noble birth alone, women after marriage proudly announcing themselves as legally possessed. For instance a girl whose name has been Elena Lopez writes herself after marriage Elena Lopez de Morena, the "de" in this case standing for "property of." It will be some time before the women of Spain travel far on the Northern road toward pride in sex deliverance, but with us, and in Britain, the custom is growing prevalent.
Then there is the hyphen marriage, more common still, in which the woman retains her own name, but condescends to annex the man's. Once in a way a man will prefix his wife's name to his own, and there is one on record who prefixed his own to his wife's. But any woman may have her opinion of him.
So far as I have been able to ascertain these marriages are quite as successful as the average; and if the woman has a career on hand---and she generally has---she pursues it unhampered. The grandmother or aunt takes charge of the children, if there are any, while she is at her duties without the home, and so far, the husband has been permitted the compensation of endowing the children with his name.
The reversion to the prehistoric matriarchate can hardly be complete in these days, but there are many significant straws that indicate the rising of a new wind blown by ancient instincts. To look upon them as shockingly advanced or abnormal is an evidence of conservatism that does not reach quite far enough into the past.
A still more significant sign of the times (in the sense of linking past with present) is the ever-increasing number of women doctors and their success. Men for the most part have ceased to sneer or even to be more than humanly jealous, often speaking in terms of the warmest admiration not only of their skill but of their conscientiousness and power of endurance. When I went to live in Munich (1903) a woman surgeon was just beginning to practice. This, to Germany, was an innovation with a vengeance, and the German male is the least tolerant of female encroachment within his historic preserves. The men practitioners threw every possible obstacle in her way, and with no particular finesse. But nothing could daunt her, and two or three years later she was riding round in her car---a striking red one---while the major number of her rivals were still dependent upon the ambling cab-horse, directed off and on by a fat driver who was normally asleep. Jealousy, however, for the most part had merged into admiration; for your average male, of whatever race, is not only philosophical but bows to success; she was both recognized and called in for consultation. Hang on! Hang on! should be the motto of all women determined to make their mark in what is still a man's world. Life never has denied her prizes to courage and persistence backed by ability.
A curious instance of man's inevitable recognition of the places of responsibility women more and more are taking is in the new reading of the Income Tax papers for 1917. Heretofore only married men were exempted taxation on the first $4000 but from now on, apparently, women who are also "heads of families" are likewise favored. As thousands of women are supporting their aged parents, their brothers while studying, their children and even their husbands, who for one reason or other are unequal to the family strain, this exemption should have been made coincidentally with the imposing of the tax. But men are slow to see and slower still to act where women are concerned.
As we all know, women have invaded practically every art, trade, and industry, but---aside from the arts, for occasionally Nature is so impartial in her bestowal of genius that art is accepted as sexless---in no walk of life has woman been so uniformly successful as in medicine. This is highly significant in view of the fact that they invented and practiced it in the dawn of history, while man was too rudimentary to do anything but fight and fill the larder. It would seem that the biological differences between the male and the female which are so often the cause of woman's failure in many spheres preëmpted throughout long centuries by man, is in her case counteracted not only by her ancestral inheritance, but by the high moral element without which no doctor or surgeon can long stand the exactions and strain of his terrible profession. No woman goes blithely into surgery or medicine merely to have a career or to make a living, although ten thousand girls to her one will essay to write, or paint, or clerk, or cultivate her bit of voice, with barely a thought expended upon her fitness or the obligations involved.
But the woman who deliberately enters the profession of healing has, almost invariably, a certain nobility of mind, a lack of personal selfishness, and a power of devotion to the race quite unknown to the average woman, even the woman of genius when seeking a career.
During the Great War there have been few women doctors at the Front, but hundreds of women nurses, and they have been as intrepid and useful as their rivals in sex. They alone, by their previous experience of human suffering, bad enough at best, were in a measure prepared for the horrors of war and the impotence of men laid low. But that will not restore any lost illusions, for they took masculine courage for granted with their mothers' milk, and they cannot fail to be imbued to the marrow with a bitter sense of waste and futility, of the monstrous sacrifice of the best blood of their generation.
Certain doctors of England have gone on record as predicting a lamentable physical future for the army of women who are at present doing the heavy work of men, particularly in the munition factories. They say that the day-long tasks which involve incessant bending and standing and lifting of heavy weights will breed a terrible reaction when the war ends and these women are abruptly flung back into domestic life. There is almost no man's place in the industrial world that English women are not satisfactorily filling, with either muscle or brains, and the doctors apprehend a new problem in many thousand neurotics or otherwise broken-down women at the close of the war. Although this painful result of women's heroism would leave just that many women less to compete for the remaining men sound of wind and limb, still, if true, it raises the acute question: Are women the equal of men in all things? Their deliverance from the old marital fetish, and successful invasion of so many walks of life, have made such a noise in the world since woman took the bit between her teeth, more or less en masse, that the feministic pæan of triumph has almost smothered an occasional protest from those concerned with biology; but as a matter-of-fact statistics regarding the staying power of women in what for all the historic centuries have been regarded as avocations heaven-designed and with strict reference to the mental and physical equipment of man, are too contradictory to be of any value.
Therefore, the result of this prolonged strain on a healthy woman of a Northern race evidently predestined to be as public as their present accomplishment, will be awaited with the keenest interest, and no doubt will have an immense effect upon the future status of woman. She has her supreme opportunity, and if her nerves are equal to her nerve, her body to her spirit, if the same women are working at the severe tasks at the end of the war as during the first months of their exaltation, and instead of being wrecks are as hardened as the miserable city boys that have become wiry in the trenches---then, beyond all question woman will have come to her own and it will be for her, not for man, to say whether or not she shall subside and attend to the needs of the next generation.
Before I went to France in May 1916 I was inclined to believe that only a small percentage of women would stand the test; but since then I have seen hundreds of women at work in the munition factories of France. As I have told in another chapter, they had then been at work for some sixteen months, and, of poor physique in the beginning, were now strong healthy animals with no sign of breakdown. They were more satisfactory in every way than men, for they went home and slept all night, drank only the light wines of their country, smoked less, if at all, and had a more natural disposition toward cleanliness. Their bare muscular arms looked quite capable of laying a man prostrate if he came home and ordered them about, and their character and pride had developed in proportion.[F]
It is not to be imagined, however, that the younger, at least, of these women will cling to those greasy jobs when the world is normal again and its tempered prodigals are spending money on the elegancies of life once more. And if they slump back into the sedentary life when men are ready to take up their old burdens, making artificial flowers, standing all day in the fetid atmosphere of crowded and noisy shops, stitching everlastingly at lingerie, there, it seems to me, lies the danger of breakdown. The life they lead now, arduous as it is, not only has developed their muscles, their lungs, the power to digest their food, but they are useful members of society on the grand scale, and to fall from any height is not conducive to the well-being of body or spirit. No doubt, when the sudden release comes, they will return to the lighter tasks with a sense of immense relief; but will it last? Will it be more than a momentary reaction to the habit of their own years and of the centuries behind, or will they gradually become aware (after they have rested and romped and enjoyed the old life in the old fashion when off duty) that with the inferior task they have become the inferior sex again. The wife, to be sure, will feel something more than her husband's equal, and the Frenchwoman never has felt herself the inferior in the matrimonial partnership. But how about the wage earners? Those that made ten to fifteen francs a day in the Usines de Guerre, and will now be making four or five? How about the girls who cannot marry because their families are no longer in a position to pay the dot, without which no French girl dreams of marrying? These girls not only have been extraordinarily (for Frenchwomen of their class) affluent during the long period of the war, but they order men about, and they are further upheld with the thought that they are helping their beloved France to conquer the enemy. They live on another plane, and life is apt to seem very mean and commonplace under the old conditions.
That these women are not masculinized is proved by the fact that many have borne children during the second year of the war, their tasks being made lighter until they are restored to full strength again. They invariably return as soon as possible, however. It may be, of course, that the young men and women of the lower bourgeoisie will forswear the dot, for it would be but one more old custom giving way to necessity. In that case the sincere, hardworking and not very humorous women of this class no doubt would find full compensation in the home, and promptly do her duty by the State. But I doubt if any other alternative will console any but the poorest intelligence or the naturally indolent---and perhaps Frenchwomen, unless good old-fashioned butterflies, have less laziness in their make-up than any other women under the sun.
The natural volatility of the race must also be taken into consideration. Stoical in their substratum, bubbling on the surface, it may be that these women who took up the burdens of men so bravely will shrug their shoulders and revert to pure femininity. Those past the age of allurement may fight like termagants for their lucrative jobs, their utter independence; but coquetry and the joy in life, or, to put it more plainly, the powerful passions of the French race, may do more to effect an automatic and permanent return to the old status than any authoritative act on the part of man.
The women of England are (or were) far more neurotic than the women of France, as they have fewer natural outlets. And the struggle for legal enfranchisement, involving, as it did, a sensationalism that affected even the non-combatants, did much to enhance this tendency, and it is interesting to speculate whether this war will make or finish them. Once more, personally, I believe it will make them, but as I was not able to go to London after my investigations in France were concluded and observe for myself I refuse to indulge in speculations. Time will show, and before very long.
No doubt, however, when the greater question of winning the war is settled, the question of sex equality will rage with a new violence, perhaps in some new form, among such bodies of women as are not so subject to the thrall of sex as to desert their new colors. It would seem that the lot of woman is ever to be on the defensive. Nature handicapped her at the start, giving man a tremendous advantage in his minimum relationship to reproduction, and circumstances (mainly perpetual warfare) postponed the development of her mental powers for centuries. Certainly nothing in the whole history of mankind is so startling as the abrupt awakening of woman and her demand for a position in the world equal to that of the dominant male.
I use the word abrupt, because in spite of the scattered instances of female prosiliency throughout history, and the long struggle beginning in the last century for the vote, or the individual determination to strive for some more distinguished fashion of coping with poverty than school-teaching or boarding-house keeping, the concerted awakening of the sex was almost as abrupt as the European War. Like many fires it smouldered long, and then burst into a menacing conflagration. But I do not for a moment apprehend that the conflagration will extinguish the complete glory of the male any more than it will cause a revulsion of nature in the born mother.
But may there not be a shuffling of the cards? Take the question of servant-girls for instance. Where there are two or more servants in a family their lot is far better than that of the factory girl. But it is quite a different matter with the maid-of-all-work, the household drudge, who is increasingly hard to find, partly because she, quite naturally, prefers the department store, or the factory, with its definite hours and better social status, partly because there is nothing in the "home" to offset her terrible loneliness but interminable hours of work. In England, where many people live in lodgings, fashionable and otherwise, and have all meals served in their rooms, it is a painful sight to see a slavey toiling up two or three flights of stairs---and four times a day. In the United States, the girls who come over from Scandinavia or Germany with roseate hopes soon lose their fresh color and look heavy and sullen if they find their level in the household where economy reigns.
Now, why has no one ever thought of men as "maids" of all work? On ocean liners it is the stewards that take care of the state-rooms, and they keep them like wax, and make the best bed known to civilization. The stewardesses in heavy weather attend to the prostrate of their sex, but otherwise do nothing but bring the morning tea, hook up, and receive tips. Men wait in the diningroom (as they do in all first-class hotels), and look out for the passengers on deck. Not the most militant suffragette but would be intensely annoyed to have stewardesses scurrying about on a heaving deck with the morning broth and rugs, or dancing attendance in a nauseous sea.
The truth of the matter is that there is a vast number of men of all races who are fit to be nothing but servants, and are so misplaced in other positions where habit or vanity has put them, that they fail far more constantly than women. All "men" are not real men by any means. They are not fitted to play a man's part in life, and many of the things they attempt are far better done by strong determined women, who have had the necessary advantages, and the character to ignore the handicap of sex.
I can conceive of a household where a well-trained man cooks, does the "wash," waits on the table, sweeps, and if the mistress has a young child, or is indolent and given to the rocking-chair and a novel-a-day, makes the beds without a wrinkle. He may lack ambition and initiative, the necessary amount of brains to carry him to success in any of the old masculine jobs, but he inherits the thoroughness of the ages that have trained him, and, if sober, rides the heavy waves of his job like a cork. I will venture to say that a man thus employed would finish his work before eight P.M. and spend an hour or two before bed-time with his girl or at his club.
Many a Jap in California does the amount of work I have described, and absorbs knowledge in and out of books during his hours of leisure. Sometimes they do more than I have indicated as possible for the white man. Energetic boys, who want to return to Japan as soon as possible, or, mayhap, buy a farm, make a hundred dollars a month by getting up at five in the morning to wash a certain number of stoops and sweep sidewalks, cook a breakfast and wash up the dinner dishes in one servantless household, the lunch dishes in another, clean up generally in another, cook the dinner, wait on the table, clean up in still another. As white men are stronger they could do even more, and support a wife in an intensive little flat where her work would be both light and spiritually remunerative. Domestic service would solve the terrible problem of life for thousands of men, and it would coincidentally release thousands of girls from the factory, the counter, and the exhausting misery of a "home" that never can be their own. At night he could feel like a householder and that he lived to some purpose. If he is inclined to complain that such a life is not "manly," let him reflect that as he is not first-rate anyhow, and never can compete with the fully equipped, he had best be philosophical and get what comfort out of life he can. Certainly the increased economic value of thousands of men, at present slaving as underpaid clerks and living in hall bedrooms, would thin the ranks of the most ancient of all industries, if, according to our ardent reformers, they are recruited from the ranks of the lonely servant-girl, the tired shop-girl, and the despairing factory hand.
For it is largely a question of muscle and biology.
I have stated elsewhere that I believe in equal suffrage, if only because women are the mothers of men and therefore their equals. But I think there are several times more reasons why American women at least should not overwork their bodies and brains and wear themselves out trying to be men, than why it is quite right and fitting they should walk up to the polls and cast a vote for men who more or less control their destinies.
To digress a moment: When it comes to the arts, that is quite another matter. If a woman finds herself with a talent (I refrain from such a big word as genius, as only posterity should presume to apply that term to any one's differentiation from his fellows), by all means let her work like a man, take a man's chances, make every necessary sacrifice to develop this blessed gift; not only because it is a duty but because the rewards are adequate. The artistic career, where the impulse is genuine, furnishes both in its rewards and in the exercise of the gift itself far more happiness, or even satisfaction, than husband, children, or home. The chief reason is that it is the supreme form of self-expression, the ego's apotheosis, the power to indulge in the highest order of spiritual pride, differentiation from the mass. These are brutal truths, and another truth is that happiness is the universal goal, whatever form it may take, and whatever form human hypocrisy may compel it to take, or even to deny. Scientific education has taught us not to sacrifice others too much in its pursuit. That branch of ancestral memory known as conscience has morbid reactions.
To create, to feel something spinning out of your brain, which you hardly realize is there until formulated on paper, for instance; the adventurous life involved in the exercise of any art, with its uncertainties, its varieties, its disappointments, its mistakes; the fight, the exaltations, the supreme satisfactions---all this is the very best life has to offer. And as art is as impartial as a microbic disease, women do achieve, individually, as much as men; sometimes more. If their bulk has not in the past been as great, the original handicaps, which women in general, aided by science and a more enlightened public, are fast shedding, alone were to blame. Certainly as many women as men in the United States are engaged in artistic careers; more, if one judged by the proportion in the magazines.
Although I always feel that a man, owing to the greater freedom of his life and mental inheritances, has more to tell me than most women have, and I therefore prefer men as writers, still I see very little difference in the quality of their work. Often, indeed, the magazine fiction (in America) of the women shows greater care in phrase and workmanship than that of the men (who are hurried and harried by expensive families), and often quite as much virility.
No one ever has found life a lake. Life is a stormy ocean at best, and if any woman with a real gift prefers to sink rather than struggle, or to float back to shore on a raft, she deserves neither sympathy nor respect. Women born with that little tract in their brain sown by Nature with bulbs of one of the arts, may conquer the world as proudly as men, although not as quickly, for they rouse in disappointed or apprehensive men the meanest form of sex jealousy; but if they have as much courage as talent, if they are willing to dedicate their lives, not their off hours, to the tending of their rich oasis in the general desert of mind, success is theirs. Biological differences between the sexes evaporate before these impersonal sexless gifts (or whims or inadvertencies) of conservative Nature.
Of course women have worked themselves to death in their passionate devotion to art. So have men. Women have starved to death in garrets, their fine efforts rejected by those that buy, and sell again to an uncertain public. So have men. The dreariest anecdotes of England and France, so rich in letters, are of great men-geniuses who died young for want of proper nourishment or recognition, or who struggled on to middle-age in a bitterness of spirit that corroded their high endowment. I do not recall that any first-rate women writers have died for want of recognition, possibly because until now they have been few and far between. The Brontës died young, but mainly because they lived in the midst of a damp old churchyard and inherited tubercular tendencies. The graves and old box tombs crowd the very walls of the parsonage, and are so thick you hardly can walk between them. I spent a month in the village of Haworth, but only one night in the village inn at the extreme end of the churchyard; I could read the inscriptions on the tombs from my windows.
Charlotte had immediate recognition even from such men as Thackeray, and if the greater Emily had to wait for Swinburne and posterity it was inherited consumption that carried her off in her youth. Although much has been made of their poverty I don't think they were so badly off for their times. The parsonage is a well-built stone house, their father had his salary, and the villagers told me that the three girls looked after the poor in hard winters, often supplying whole families with coal. Of course they led lives of a maddening monotony, but they were neither hungry nor bitter, and at least two of them developed a higher order of genius than was possible to the gifted Jane Austin in her smug life of middle-class plenty, and, to my mind, far more hampering restrictions.
Even if the Brontës had been sufficiently in advance of their times to "light out" and seek adventure and development in the great world, their low state of health would have kept them at home. So impressed was I with the (to a Californian) terrible pictures of poverty in which the Brontes were posed by their biographers that I grew up with the idea that one never could develop a gift or succeed in the higher manner unless one lived in a garret and half starved. I never had the courage to try the regimen, but so deep was the impression that I never have been able to work except in austere surroundings, and I have worked in most abominably uncomfortable quarters with an equanimity that was merely the result of the deathless insistence of an old impression sunk deep into a mind then plastic.
Let me hasten to add that many successful authors work in the most luxurious quarters imaginable. It is all a matter of temperament, or, it may be, of accident. Moreover this outer evidence of prosperity makes a subtle appeal to the snobbery of the world and to a certain order of critic, by no means to be despised. Socially and in the arts we Americans are the least democratic of people, partly because we are so damnably unsure of ourselves; and if I were beginning my career to-day I doubt if I should be so unbusiness-like as to take the lowly Brontes as a model.
If I have digressed for a moment from the main theme of this book it has been not only to show what the influence of such brave women as the Brontes has been on later generations of writers, but that biology must doff its hat at the tomb in Haworth Church. Their mental virility and fecundity equalled that of any man that has attained an equal eminence in letters, and they would have died young and suffered much if they never had written a line. They had not a constitution between the four of them and they spent their short lives surrounded by the dust and the corruption of death.
But when it comes to working like men for the sake of independence, of avoiding marriage, of "doing something," that is another matter. To my mind it is abominable that society is so constituted that women are forced to work (in times of peace) for their bread at tasks that are far too hard for them, that extract the sweetness from youth, and unfit them physically for what the vast majority of women want more than anything else in life---children. If they deliberately prefer independence to marriage, well and good, but surely we are growing civilized enough (and this war, in itself a plunge into the dark ages, has in quite unintentional ways advanced civilization, for never in the history of the world have so many brains been thinking) so to arrange the social machinery that if girls and young women are forced to work for their daily bread, and often the bread of others, at least it shall be under conditions, including double shifts, that will enable them, if the opportunity comes, as completely to enjoy all that home means as falls to the lot of their more fortunate sisters. Even those who launch out in life with no heavier need than their driving independence of spirit should be protected, for often they too, when worn in body and mind, realize that the independent life per se is a delusion, and that their completion as well as their ultimate happiness and economic security lies in a brood and a husband to support it.
There used to be volumes of indignation expended upon the American mother toiling in the home, at the wash-tub for hire, or trudging daily to some remunerative task, while her daughters, after a fair education, idly flirted, and danced, and read, and finally married. Now, although that modus operandi sounds vulgar and ungrateful it is, biologically speaking, quite as it should be. Girls of that age should be tended as carefully as young plants; and, for that matter, it would be well if women until they have passed the high-water mark of reproductivity should be protected as much as possible from severe physical and mental strain. If women ever are to compete with men on anything like an equal basis, it is when they are in their middle years, when Nature's handicaps are fairly outgrown, child-bearing and its intervening years of lassitude are over, as well as the recurrent carboniferous wastes and relaxations.
Why do farmers' wives look so much older than city women of the same age in comfortable circumstances? Not, we may be sure, because of exposure to the elements, or even the tragic loneliness that was theirs before the pervasion of the automobile. Women in city flats are lonely enough, but although those that have no children or "light housekeeping" lead such useless lives one wonders why they were born, they outlast the women of the small towns by many years because of the minimum strain on their bodies.[G]
As a matter of fact in the large cities where the struggle of life is superlative they outlast the men. About the time the children are grown, the husband, owing to the prolonged and terrific strain in competing with thousands of men as competent as himself, to keep his family in comfort, educate his children, pay the interest on his life insurance policy, often finds that some one of his organs is breaking down and preparing him for the only rest he will ever find time to take. Meanwhile his prospective widow (there is, by the way, no nation in the world so prolific of widows and barren of widowers as the United States) is preparing to embark on her new career as a club woman, or, if she foresees the collapse of the family income, of self-support.
And in nine cases out of ten, if she has the intelligence to make use of what a combination of average abilities and experience has developed in her, she succeeds, and permanently; for women do not go to pieces between forty and fifty as they did in the past. They have learned too much. Work and multifarious interests distract their mind, which formerly dwelt upon their failing youth, and when they sadly composed themselves in the belief that they had given the last of their vitality to the last of their children; to-day, instead of sitting down by the fireside and waiting to die, they enter resolutely upon their second youth, which is, all told, a good deal more satisfactory than the first.
Every healthy and courageous woman's second vitality is stronger and more enduring than her first. Not only has her body, assisted by modern science, settled down into an ordered routine that is impregnable to anything but accident, but her mind is delivered from the hopes and fears of the early sex impulses which so often sicken the cleverest of the younger women both in body and mind, filling the body with lassitude and the mind either with restless impatience or a complete indifference to anything but the tarrying prince. To blame them for this would be much like cursing Gibraltar for not getting out of the way in a storm. They are the tools of the race, the chosen mediums of Nature for the perpetuation of her beloved species. But the fact remains---that is to say, in the vast majority of girls. There is, as we all know, the hard-shell division of their sex who, even without a gift, infinitely prefer the single and independent life in their early youth, and only begin to show thin spots in their armor as they approach thirty, sometimes not until it is far too late. But if you will spend a few days walking through the department stores, for instance, of a large city and observing each of the young faces in turn behind the counters, it will be rarely that you will not feel reasonably certain that the secret thoughts of all that vast army circle persistently about some man, impinging or potential. And wherever you make your studies, from excursion boats to the hour of release at the gates of a factory, you must draw the same conclusion that sex reigns, that it is the most powerful factor in life and will be so long as Earth at least continues to spin. For that reason, no matter how persistently girls may work because they must or starve, it is the competent older women, long since outgrown the divine nonsense of youth, who are the more satisfactory workers. Girls, unless indifferently sexed, do not take naturally to work in their youth. Whether they have the intelligence to reason or not, they know that they were made for a different fate and they resent standing behind a counter all day long or speeding up machinery for a few dollars a week. Even the highly intelligent girls who find work on newspapers often look as if they were at the end of their endurance. It is doubtful if the world ever can run along without the work of women but the time will surely come when society will be so constituted that no woman in the first flush of her youth will be forced to squander it on the meager temporary reward, and forfeit her birthright. If she wants to, well and good. No one need be deeply concerned for those that launch out into life because they like it. Women in civilized countries are at liberty to make their own lives; that is the supreme privilege of democracy. But the victims of the propelling power of the world are greatly to be pitied and Society should come to their rescue. I know that the obvious answer to this is "Socialism." But before the rest of us can swallow Socialism it must spew out its present Socialists and get new ones. Socialists never open their mouths that they do not do their cause harm; and whatever virtues their doctrine may contain we are blinded to it at present. This war may solve the problem. If Socialism should be the inevitable outcome it would at least come from the top and so be sufferable.
It is all very well to do your duty by your sex and keep up the birth-rate, and there are compensations, no doubt of that, when the husband is amiable, the income adequate, and the children are dears and turn out well; but the second life is one's very own, the duty is to one's self, and, such is the ineradicable selfishness of human nature after long years of self-denial and devotion to others, there is a distinct, if reprehensible, satisfaction in being quite natural and self-centered. If, on the other hand, circumstances are such that the capable middle-aged woman, instead of living entirely for herself, in her clubs, in her increasing interest in public affairs, and her chosen work, finds herself with certain members of her family dependent upon her, she also derives from this fact an enormous satisfaction, for it enables her to prove that she can fill a man's place in the world, be quite as equal to her job.
Instead of breaking down, this woman, who has outlived the severest handicap of sex without parting with any of its lore, grows stronger and more poised every year, retaining (or regaining) her looks if she has the wisdom to keep her vanity alive; while the girl forced to spend her days on her feet behind a counter (we hear of seats for these girls but we never see them occupied), or slave in a factory (where there is no change of shift as in the munition factories of the European countries in war time), or work from morning until night as a general servant---"one in help"---wilts and withers, grows pasée, fanée, is liable to ultimate breakdown unless rescued by some man.
The expenditure of energy in these girls is enormous, especially if they combine with this devitalizing work an indulgence in their natural desire to play. Rapid child-bearing would not deplete them more; and it is an intensely ignorant or an intensely stupid or, in the United States, an exceptionally sensual woman who has a larger family than the husband can keep in comfort. Moreover, unless in the depths of poverty, each child means a period of rest, which is more than the girl behind the counter gets in her entire working period.
These women, forced by a faulty social structure to support themselves and carry heavy burdens, lack the intense metabolism of the male, his power to husband his stores of carbon (an organic exception which renders him indifferent to standing), and the superior quality of his muscle. Biologically men and women are different from crown to sole. It might be said that Nature fashioned man's body for warfare, and that if he grows soft during intervals of peace it is his own fault. Even so, unless in some way he has impaired his health, he has heretofore demonstrated that he can do far more work than women, and stand several times the strain, although his pluck may be no finer.
If one rejects this statement let him look about among his acquaintance at the men who have toiled hard to achieve an independence, and whose wives have toiled with them, either because they lived in communities where it was impossible to keep servants, or out of a mistaken sense of economy. The man looks fresh and his wife elderly and wrinkled and shapeless, even if she has reasonable health. It is quite different in real cities where life on a decent income (or salary) can be made very easy for the woman, as I have just pointed out; but I have noticed that in small towns or on the farm, even now, when these scattered families are no longer isolated as in the days when farmers' wives committed suicide or intoxicated themselves on tea leaves, the woman always looks far older than the man if "she has done her own work" during all the years of her youth and maturity. If she renounces housekeeping in disgust occasionally and moves to an hotel, she soon amazes her friends by looking ten years younger; and if her husband makes enough money to move to a city large enough to minimize the burdens of housekeeping and offer a reasonable amount of distraction, she recovers a certain measure of her youth, although still far from being at forty or fifty what she would have been if her earlier years had been relieved of all but the strains which Nature imposes upon every woman from princess to peasant.
It remains to be seen whether the extraordinary amount of work the European women are doing in the service of their country, and the marked improvement in their health and physique, marks a stride forward in the physical development of the sex, being the result of latent possibilities never drawn upon before, or is merely the result of will power and exaltation, and bound to exhibit its definite limit as soon as the necessity is withdrawn. The fact, of course, remains that the women of the farms and lower classes generally in France are almost painfully plain, and look hard and weather-beaten long before they are thirty, while the higher you mount the social scale in your researches the more the women of France, possessing little orthodox beauty, manage, with a combination of style, charm, sophistication, and grooming, to produce the effect not only of beauty but of a unique standard that makes the beauties of other nations commonplace by comparison.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that these girls and young women working in the Usines de Guerre, are better looking than they were before and shine with health. The whole point, I fancy, lies in the fact that they work under merciful masters and conditions. If they were used beyond their capacity they would look like their sisters on the farms, upon whom fathers and husbands have little mercy.
When girls in good circumstances become infected with the microbe of violent exercise and insist upon walking many miles a day, besides indulging for hours in games which permit no rest, they look like hags. Temporarily, of course. When they recover their common sense they recover their looks, for it is in their power to relax and recuperate. Men will walk twenty miles, take a cold shower, a good meal, a night's rest, and look as well as ever the next day---or at the end of the walk, for that matter. They can afford the waste. Women cannot. If women succeed in achieving hard unyielding muscles in the wrong place they suffer atrociously in childbirth; for Nature, who is as old-fashioned and inhospitable to modern ideas as a Tory statesman, takes a vicious pleasure in punishing one sex every time it succeeds in approaching the peculiar level of the other, or which diverges from the normal in any way. Note how many artists, who are nine-tenths temperament and one-tenth male, suffer; not only because they are beset with every sort of weakness that affects their social status, but because the struggle with life is too much for them unless they have real men behind them until their output is accepted by the public, and themselves with it.
Some day Society will be civilized enough to recognize the limitations and the helplessness of those who are artists first and men afterwards. But meanwhile we can only rely upon the sympathy and the understanding of the individual.
Far be it from me to advise that girls refrain from doing their part in the general work of the home, if servants are out of the question; that won't hurt them; but if some one must go out and support the family it would better be the mother or the maiden aunt.
Better still, a husband, if marriage is their goal and children the secret desire of their hearts.
If girls are so constituted mentally that they long for the independent life, self-support, self-expression, they will have it and without any advice from the worldly-wise; it is as driving an impulse as the reproductive instinct in those who are more liberally sexed. And these last are still in the majority, no doubt of that. Therefore, far better they marry and have children in their youth. They, above all, are the women whose support and protection is the natural duty of man, and while it is one of life's misfortunes for a girl to marry simply to escape life's burdens, without love and without the desire for children, it is by far the lesser evil to have the consolation of home and children in the general barrenness of life than to slave all day at an uncongenial task and go "home" to a hall bedroom.
These views were so much misunderstood when they appeared in magazine form that I have felt obliged to emphasize the differences between the still primitive woman and the woman who is the product of the higher civilization. One young socialist, who looked quite strong enough to support a family, asked me if I did not think it better for a girl to support herself than to be the slave of a man's lust and bear innumerable children, whether she wished for them or not, children to whose support society contributed nothing. But why be a man's slave, and why have more children than you can support? We live in the enlightened twentieth century, when there is precious little about anything that women do not know, and if they do not they are such hopeless fools that they should be in the State Institutions. The time has passed for women to talk of being men's slaves in any sense, except in the economic. There are still sweatshops and there is still speeding up in factories, because society is still far from perfect, but if a woman privately is a man's slave to-day it is because she is the slave of herself as well.
Personally, although nothing has ever tempted me to marry a second time, I am very glad I married in my early youth, not only because matrimony enables a potential writer to see life from many more viewpoints than if she remains blissfully single, but because I was sheltered from all harsh contacts with the world. No one was ever less equipped by nature for domesticity and all the responsibilities of everyday life, and if circumstances had so ordered that I had not blundered into matrimony before twenty-four-or-five, no doubt I never should have married at all.
But at that time---I was home on a vacation from boarding-school, and had had none of that illuminating experience known as being "out," I did no reasoning whatever. On the other hand I was far too mentally undeveloped and arrogant to be capable at that tender age of falling deeply in love. My future husband proposed six times (we were in a country house). I was flattered, divided between the ambition to graduate brilliantly and to be an author with no further loss of time, and wear becoming caps and trains to my frocks. On the other hand I wanted neither a husband particularly nor to go back to school, for I felt that as my grandfather had one of the best libraries in California nothing could be more pleasant or profitable than to finish my education in it undisturbed. Nevertheless, quite abruptly I made up my mind and married; and, if the truth were known, my reasons and impulses were probably as intelligent as those of the average young girl who knows the world only through books and thinks it has little more to teach her. My life had been objective and sheltered. If forced to earn my living at sixteen no doubt the contacts impossible to escape would soon have given me a real maturity of judgment and I should have grown to love, jealously, my freedom.
That is to say, if I had been a strong girl. As a matter-of-fact I was extremely delicate, with a weak back, a threat of tuberculosis, and very bad eyes. Most of this was the result of over-study, for I had been a healthy child, but I loved books and was indifferent to exercise and nourishment. No doubt if I had been turned out into the world to fare for myself I should have gone into a decline. Therefore, it was sheer luck that betrayed me into matrimony, for although my mental energies were torpid for several years my first child seemed to dissipate the shadows that lay in my blood, and at twenty-five I was a normally strong woman. We lived in the country. My husband looked after the servants, and if we were without a cook for several days he filled her place (he had learned to cook "camping out" and liked nothing better) until my mother-in-law sent a woman from San Francisco. I read, strolled about the woods, storing up vitality but often depressed with the unutterable ennui of youth, and haunted with the fear that my story-telling faculty, which had been very pronounced, had deserted me.
When my husband died I had but one child. I left her with her two adoring grandmothers and fled to New York. I was still as callow as a boarding-school girl, but my saving grace was that I knew I did not know anything, that I never would know enough to write about life until I had seen more of it than was on exhibition in California.
But by that time my health was established. I felt quite equal to writing six books a year if any one would publish them, besides studying life at first hand as persistently and deeply as the present state of society will permit in the case of a mere woman. For that reason I shall always be sorry I did not go on a newspaper for a year as a reporter, as there is no other way for a woman to see life in all its phases. I had a letter to Charles Dana, owner of the New York Sun, and no doubt he would have put me to work, but I was still too pampered, or too snobbish, and, lacking the spur of necessity, missed one of the best of educations. Now, no matter who asks my advice in regard to the literary career, whether she is the ambitious daughter of a millionaire or a girl whose talent is for the story and whose future depends upon herself, I invariably give her one piece of advice: "Go on a newspaper. Be a reporter. Refuse no assignment. Be thankful for a merciless City Editor and his blue pencil. But, if you feel that you have the genuine story-telling gift, save your money and leave at the end of a year, or two years at most."
As for myself, I absorbed life as best I could, met people in as many walks of life as possible. As I would not marry again, and, in consequence, had no more children, nor suffered from the wearing monotonies of domestic life, I have always kept my health and been equal to an immense amount of work.
But the point is that I had been sheltered and protected during my delicate years. No doubt it was a part of my destiny to hand on the intensely American qualities of body and mind I had inherited from my Dutch and English forefathers, as well as to do my share in carrying on the race. But I got rid of all that as quickly as possible, and struck out for that plane of modern civilization planted and furrowed and replenished by daughters of men.
There is nothing paradoxical in affirming that while no woman before she has reached the age of thirty-five or forty should, if she can avoid it, compete with men in work which the exigencies of civilization (man-made civilization) have adapted to him alone, still, every girl of every class, from the industrial straight up to the plutocratic, should be trained in some congenial vocation during her plastic years. Civilization in certain respects is as inadequate as it was a thousand years ago. Socialism might solve the problem if it were not for the Socialists. Certainly no man or body of men has yet arisen with the proper amount of imagination, selflessness, brains and constructive genius, necessary to plan a social order in which all men shall work without overworking and support all women during the best years of the child-bearing and child-rearing span. If men had been clever enough to make even an imperfect attempt to protect women without independent means from the terrors of life, say by taxing themselves, they would not be pestered to-day with the demand for equal rights, see themselves menaced in nearly all of the remunerative industries and professions, above all by the return of the Matriarchate.
It is Life that has developed the fighting instinct in woman, bred the mental antagonism of sex. Nature did not implant either. Nor has she ever wavered a jot from the original mix compounded in her immemorial laboratory. Man is man and woman is woman to-day, even to the superior length of limb in the male (relative to the trunk) and the greater thickness of hairs in the woman's eyelashes. In England women of the leisure class showed during the years of the sports craze a tendency to an unfeminine length of limb, often attaining or surpassing the male average. But Nature avenged herself by narrowing the pelvis and weakening the reproductive organs. Free trade drove the old sturdy yeoman into the towns and diminished the stature and muscular power of their descendants, but ten months of trench life and Nature laughed at the weak spot in civilization. The moment false conditions are removed she claims her own.
Women to-day may prove themselves quite capable of doing, and permanently, the work of men in ammunition and munition factories, but it is patent that when human bipeds first groped their way about the terrifying Earth, she was not equal to the task of leveling forests, killing the beasts that roamed them, hurling spears in savage warfare, and bearing many children for many years. She played her part in the scheme of things precisely as Nature had meant she should play it: she cooked, she soothed the warrior upon his return from killing of man or beast, and she brought up her boys to be warriors and her girls to serve them. There you have Nature and her original plan, a bald and uninteresting plan, but eminently practical for the mere purpose (which is all that concerns her) of keeping the world going. And so it would be to-day, even in the civilized core, if man had been clever enough to take the cue Nature flung in his face and kept woman where to-day he so ingenuously desires to see her, and before whose deliverance he is as helpless as old Nature herself.
Man obeyed the herding instinct whose ultimate expression was the growth of great cities, invented the telegraph, the cable, the school, the newspaper, the glittering shops, the public-lecture system; and, voluntarily or carelessly, threw open to women the gates of all the arts, to say nothing of the crafts. And all the while he not only continued to antagonize woman, proud and eager in her awakened faculties, with stupid interferences, embargoes and underhand thwartings, but he permitted her to struggle and die in the hideous contacts with life from which a small self-imposed tax would have saved her. Some of the most brilliant men the world will ever know have lived, and administered, and passed into history, and the misery of helpless women has increased from generation to generation, while coincidentally her intelligence has waxed from resignation or perplexity through indignation to a grim determination. Man missed his chance and must take the consequences.
Certainly, young women fulfill their primary duty to the race and, incidentally, do all that should be expected of them, in the bringing forth and rearing of children, making the home, and seeing to the coherence of the social groups they have organized for recreation or purely in the interest of the next generation.
Perhaps the women will solve the problem. I can conceive the time when there will have developed an enormous composite woman's brain which, combining superior powers of intuition and sympathy with that high intellectual development the modern conditions so generously permit, added to their increasing knowledge of and interest in the social, economic, and political problems, will make them a factor in the future development of the race, gradually bring about a state of real civilization which twenty generations of men have failed to accomplish.
But that is not yet, and we may all be dead before its heyday. The questions of the moment absorb us. We must take them as they arise and do the best we can with existing conditions. The world is terribly conservative. Look at the European War.
Nowhere are fortunes so insecure as in the United States. The phrase, "Three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves," was not coined in Europe. But neither does it embrace a great American truth Many a fortune rises and falls within the span of one generation. Many a girl reared in luxury, or what passes in her class for luxury, is suddenly forced out into the economic world with no preparation whatever. It would be interesting to gather the statistics of men who, with a large salary, or a fair practice, and indulged family, and a certain social position to keep up, either vaguely intend to save and invest one of these days---perhaps when the children are educated---or carry a large life insurance which they would find too heavy a tax at the moment.
Often, indeed, a man does insure his life, and then in some year of panic or depression is forced to sell the policy or go under. Or he insures in firms that fail. My father insured in three companies and all failed before he died. In San Francisco the "earthquake clause" prevented many men from recovering a penny on their merchandise or investments swept away by the fire. Even a large number of the rich were embarrassed by that fire, for, having invested millions in Class A buildings, which were fire-proof, they saw no necessity for expending huge sums annually in premiums. They never thought of a general conflagration whose momentum would carry the flames across the street and into their buildings through the windows, eating up the interiors and leaving the fire-proof shell. One family lost six million dollars in a few hours, and emigrated to one of the Swiss lakes in order to be able to educate their children while their fortunes slowly recovered with the aid of borrowed capital.
A large number of girls, who, without being rich, had led the sheltered life before the fire, were obliged to go to work at once. Some were clever enough to know what they could do and did it without loss of time, some were assisted, others blundered along and nearly starved.
Often men who have done well and even brilliantly up to middle life, are not equal to the tremendous demand upon the vital energies of beginning life over again after some disastrous visitation of Nature, or a panic, or an ill-advised personal venture has wrecked their own business or that of the concern in which they were a highly paid cog. In the mining States men are dependent upon the world's demand for their principal product. Farmers and stock-raisers are often cruelly visited, strikes or hard times paralyze mills and factories; and in times of panic and dry-rot the dealers in luxuries, including booksellers---to say nothing of the writers of books as well as the devotees of all the arts---are the first to suffer. And it is their women that suffer acutely, because although many of these men may hang on and recover, many more do not. They have used up their vital forces. It is not so much a matter of will as of physics. A woman in the same conditions who had been obliged to tax her vital organs for an equal number of years would no doubt have lasted as long.
Unless defective, there is not a girl alive, certainly not an American girl, who is wholly lacking in some sort of ability. The parasite type (who is growing rare in these days, by the way, for it is now the fashion to "do things") either fastens herself upon complacent relatives or friends when deserted by fortune, or drifts naturally into the half-world, always abundantly recruited from such as she.
Many girls have a certain facility in the arts and crafts, which, with severe training, might fit them for a second place in the class which owes its origin to Heaven-born gifts. If their facility manifests itself in writing they could be trained at college, or even on the small local newspaper to write a good mechanical story, constructed out of popular elements and eminently suited to the popular magazine. Or they may fit themselves for dramatic or musical criticism, or advertisement writing, which pays enormously but is not as easy as it sounds. Or if every school (I am saying nothing about girls' colleges) would train their promising "composition" writers in reporting, their graduates would plant their weary feet far more readily than they do now when they come to a great city and beseech a busy editor to give them a chance.
Almost anything can be done with the plastic mind. But not always. It is the better part of wisdom for proud parents to discover just what their offspring's facility amounts to before spending money on an art or a musical education, for instance. I had a painful experience, and no doubt it has been duplicated a thousand times, for Europe before the war was full of girls (many living on next to nothing) who were studying "art" or "voice culture," with neither the order of endowment nor the propelling brain-power to justify the sacrifice of their parents or the waste of their own time.
Some years ago, finding that a young relative, who was just finishing her school course, drew and painted in water colors with quite a notable facility, and the family for generations having manifested talents in one way or another, I decided to take her abroad and train her faculty that she might be spared the humiliation of dependence, nor feel a natural historic inclination to marry the first man who offered her an alternative dependence; and at the same time be enabled to support herself in a wholly congenial way. I did not delude myself with the notion that she was a genius, but I thought it likely she would become apt in illustrating, and I knew that I could throw any amount of work in her way, or secure her a position in the art department of some magazine.
I took her to the European city where I was then living and put her in the best of its art schools. To make a long story short, after I had expended some five thousand dollars on her, including traveling expenses and other incidentals, the net result was an elongated thumb. I was forced to the conclusion that she had not an atom of real talent, merely the treacherous American facility. Moreover, she lost all her interest in "art" when it meant hard work and persistent application. I was wondering what on earth I was to do with her when she solved the problem herself. She announced with unusual decision that she wanted to be a nurse, had always wanted to be a nurse (she had never mentioned the aspiration to me) and that nothing else interested her. Her mother had been an invalid; one way or another she had seen a good deal of illness.
Accordingly I sent her back to this country and entered her, through the influence of friends, at a hospital. She graduated at the head of her class, and although that was three or four years ago she has never been idle since. She elected to take infectious cases, as the remuneration is higher, and although she is very small, with such tiny hands and feet that while abroad her gloves and boots had to be made to order, no doubt she has so trained her body that the strains in nursing fall upon no particular member.
In that case I paid for my own mistake, and she found her level in ample time, which is as it should be. Of what use is experience if you are to be misled by family vanity? As she is pretty and quite mad about children, no doubt she will marry; but the point is that she can wait; or, later, if the man should prove inadequate, she can once more support herself, and with enthusiasm, for she loves the work.
To be a nurse is no bed of roses; but neither is anything else. To be dependent in the present stage of civilization is worse, and nothing real is accomplished in life without work and its accompaniment of hard knocks. Nursing is not only a natural vocation for a woman, but an occupation which increases her matrimonial chances about eighty per cent. Nor is it as arduous after the first year's training is over as certain other methods of wresting a livelihood from an unwilling world---reporting, for instance. It is true that only the fit survive the first year's ordeal, but on the other hand few girls are so foolish as to choose the nursing career who do not feel within themselves a certain stolid vitality. After graduation from the hospital course their future depends upon themselves. Doctors soon discover the most desirable among the new recruits, others find permanent places in hospitals; and, it may be added, the success of these young women depends upon a quality quite apart from mere skill---personality. In the spring of 1915 I was in a hospital and there was one nurse I would not have in the room. I was told that she was one of the most valuable nurses on the staff, but that was nothing to me.
I could not see that any of the nurses in this large hospital was overworked. All looked healthy and contented. My own "night special," save when I had a temperature and demanded ice, slept from the time she prepared me for the night until she rose to prepare me for the day, with the exception of the eleven o'clock supper which she shared with the hospital staff. Being very pretty and quite charming she will marry, no doubt, although she refuses to nurse men. But there are always the visiting doctors, the internes, and the unattached men in households, where in the most seductive of all garbs, she remains for weeks at a time.
In fact nearly all nurses are pretty. I wonder why?
The hospital nurses during the day arrived at intervals to take my temperature, give me detestable nourishment, or bring me flowers or a telephone message. It certainly never occurred to me to pity any of them, and when they lingered to talk they entertained me with pleasant pictures of their days off. They struck me as being able to enjoy life very keenly, possibly because of being in a position to appreciate its contrasts.
I know the daughter of a wealthy and historic family, whose head---he is precisely the type of the elderly, cold-blooded, self-righteous, self-conscious New York aristocrat of the stage---will not permit her to gratify her desire to write for publication, "for," saith he, "I do not wish to see my honored name on the back of works of fiction."
I do not think, myself, that he has deprived the world of one more author, for if she had fiction in her brain-cells no parental dictum could keep it confined within the walls of her skull; but the point is that being a young woman of considerable energy and mental activity, she found mere society unendurable and finally persuaded her father to make her one of his secretaries. She learned not only stenography and typewriting but telegraphy. There is a private apparatus in their Newport home for her father's confidential work, and this she manipulates with the skill of a professional. If the fortunes of her family should go to pieces, she could find a position and support herself without the dismal and health-racking transition which is the fate of so many unfortunate girls suddenly bereft and wholly unprepared.
The snobbishness of this old gentleman is by no means a prerogative of New York's "old families." One finds it in every class of American men above the industrial. In Honoré Willsie's novel, Lydia of the Pines, an American novel of positive value, the father was a day laborer, as a matter of a fact (although of good old New England farming stock), earning a dollar and a half a day, and constantly bemoaning the fact; yet when "young Lydia," who was obliged to dress like a scarecrow, wished to earn her own pin-money by making fudge he objected violently. The itching pride of the American male deprives him of many comforts and sometimes of honor and freedom, because he will not let his wife use her abilities and her spare time. He will steal or embezzle rather than have the world look on while "his" wife ekes out the family income. The determined Frenchwomen have had their men in training for generations, and the wife is the business partner straight up to the haute bourgeoisie; but the American woman, for all her boasted tyranny over the busy male of her land, is either an expensive toy or a mere household drudge, until years and experience give her freedom of spirit. This war will do more to liberate her than that mild social earthquake called the suffrage movement. The rich women are working so hard that not only do they dress and entertain far less than formerly but their husbands are growing quite accustomed to their separate prominence and publicly admitted usefulness. The same may be said of groups of women in less conspicuous classes, and when the war is over it is safe to say these women will continue to do as they please. There is something insidiously fascinating in work to women that never have worked, not so much in the publicity it may give but in the sense of mental expansion; and, in the instance of war, the passion of usefulness, the sense of dedication to a high cause, the necessary frequent suppression of self, stamp the soul with an impress that never can be obliterated. That these women engaged in good works often quarrel like angry cats, or fight for their relief organization as a lioness would fight for her hungry cub, is beside the point. That is merely another way of admitting they are human beings; not necessarily women, but just human beings. As it was in the beginning, is now, etc. Far better let loose their angry passions in behalf of the men who are fighting to save the world from a reversion to barbarism, than rowing their dressmakers, glaring across the bridge table, and having their blood poisoned by eternal jealousy over some man.
And if it will hasten the emancipation of the American man from the thralldom of snobbery still another barrier will go down in the path of the average woman. Just consider for a moment how many men are failures. They struggle along until forty or forty-five "on their own," although fitted by nature to be clerks and no more, striving desperately to keep up appearances---for the sake of their own pride, for the sake of their families, even for the sake of being "looked up to" by their wife and observant offspring. But without real hope, because without real ability (they soon, unless fools, outlive the illusions of youth when the conquest of fortune was a matter of course) always in debt, and doomed to defeat.
How many women have said to me---women in their thirties or early forties, and with two or three children of increasing demands: "Oh, if I could help! How unjust of parents not to train girls to do something they can fall back on. I want to go to work myself and insure my children a good education and a start in the world, but what can I do? If I had been specialized in any one thing I'd use it now whether my husband liked it or not. But although I have plenty of energy and courage and feel that I could succeed in almost anything I haven't the least idea how to go about it."
If a woman's husband collapses into death or desuetude while her children are young, it certainly is the bounden duty of some member of her family to support her until her children are old enough to go to school, for no one can take her place in the home before that period. Moreover, her mind should be as free of anxiety as her body of strain. But what a ghastly reflection upon civilization it is when she is obliged to stand on her feet all day in a shop or factory, or make tempting edibles for some Woman's Exchange, because she cannot afford to spend time upon a belated training that might admit her lucratively to one of the professions or business industries.
The childless woman solves the problem with comparative ease. She invariably shows more energy and decision, provided, of course, these qualities have been latent within her.
Nevertheless, it is often extraordinary just what she does do. For instance I knew a family of girls upon whose college education an immense sum had been expended, and whose intellectual arrogance I never have seen equalled. When their father failed and died, leaving not so much as a small life insurance, what did they do? Teach? Write? Edit? Become some rich and ignorant man's secretary? Not a bit of it. They cooked. Always noted in their palmy days for their "table," and addicted to relieving the travail of intellect with the sedative of the homeliest of the minor arts, they began on preserves for the Woman's Exchange; and half the rich women in town were up at their house day after day stirring molten masses in a huge pot on a red-hot range.
It was sometime before they were taken seriously, and, particularly after the enthusiasm of their friends waned, there was a time of hard anxious struggle. But they were robust and determined, and in time they launched out as caterers and worked up a first-class business. They took their confections to the rear entrances of their friends' houses on festive occasions and accepted both pay and tips with lively gratitude. They educated their younger brothers and lost their arrogance. They never lost their friends.
Owing to dishonest fiction the impression prevails throughout the world that "Society" is heartless and that the rich and well-to-do drop their friends the moment financial reverses force them either to reduce their scale of living far below the standard, or go to work. When that happens it is the fault of the reversed, not of the entrenched. False pride, constant whining, or insupportable irritabilities gradually force them into a dreary class apart. If anything, people of wealth and secure position take a pride in standing by their old friends (their "own sort"), in showing themselves above all the means sins of which fiction and the stage have accused them, and in lending what assistance they can. Even when the head of the family has disgraced himself and either blown out his brains or gone to prison, it depends entirely upon the personalities of his women whether or not they retain their friends. In fact any observant student of life is reminded daily that one's real position in the world depends upon personality, more particularly if backed by character. Certainly it is nine-tenths of the battle for struggling women.
Another woman whom I always had looked upon as a charming butterfly, but who, no doubt, had long shown her native shrewdness and determination in the home, stepped into her husband's shoes when he collapsed from strain, abetted by drink, and now competes in the insurance business with the best of the men. But she had borne the last of her children and she has perfect health.
Galsworthy's play, The Fugitive, may not have been good drama but it had the virtue of provoking thought after one had left the theater. More than ever it convinced me, at least, that the women of means and leisure with sociological leanings should let the working girl take care of herself for a time and devote their attention to the far more hopeless problem of the lady suddenly thrown upon her own resources.
No doubt this problem will have ceased to exist twenty years hence. Every girl, rich or poor, and all grades between, will have specialized during her plastic years on something to be used as a resource; but at present there are thousands of young women who find the man they married in ignorance an impossible person to live with and yet linger on in wretched bondage because what little they know of social conditions terrifies them. If they are pretty they fear other men as much as they fear their own husbands, and for all the "jobs" open to unspecialized women, they seem to be preeminently unfitted. If the rich women of every large city would build a great college in which every sort of trade and profession could be taught, from nursing to stenography, from retouching photographs to the study of law, while the applicant, after her sincerity had been established, was kept in comfort and ease of mind, with the understanding that she should repay her indebtedness in weekly installments after the college had launched her into the world, we should have no more such ghastly plays as The Fugitive or hideous sociological tracts as A Bed of Roses.
The world is willing and eager to buy what it wants. If you have goods to sell you soon find your place at the counter, unless owing to some fault of character your fellow barterers and their patrons will have none of you. Of course there is always the meanest of all passions, jealousy, waiting to thwart you at every turn, but no woman with a modicum of any one of those wares the world wants and must have need fear any enemy but her own loss of courage.
The pity is that so many women with no particular gift and only minor energies are thrust into the economic world without either natural or deliberate equipment. All that saves them in nine cases out of ten is conserved energies, and if they are thrust out too young they are doubly at a disadvantage.
A good deal has been written about the fresh enthusiasm of the young worker, as contrasted with the slackened energies and disillusioned viewpoint of middle life. But I think most honest employers will testify that a young girl worker's enthusiasm is for closing time, and her dreams are not so much of the higher skilfulness as of the inevitable man. Nature is inexorable. She means that the young things shall reproduce. If they will not or cannot that is not her fault; she is always there with the urge. Even when girls think they sell themselves for the adornments so dear to youth they are merely the victims of the race, driven toward the goal by devious ways. Nature, of course, when she fashioned the world reckoned without science. I sometimes suspect her of being of German origin, for so methodical and mechanical is her kultur that she will go on repeating "two and two make four" until the final cataclysm.
I think that American women are beginning to realize that American men are played out at forty-five; or fifty, at the most. There are exceptions, of course, but with the vast majority the strain is too great and the rewards are too small. They cannot retire in time. I have a friend who, after a brilliant and active career, has withdrawn to the communion of nature and become a philosopher. He insists that all men should be retired by law at forty-five and condemned to spend the rest of their days tilling the soil gratis for women and the rising generation. The outdoor life would restore a measure of their dissipated vitality and prolong their lives.
This may come to pass in time: stranger things have happened. But, as I remarked before, it is the present we have to consider. It seems to me it would be a good idea if every woman who is both protected and untrained but whose husband is approaching forty should, if not financially independent, begin seriously to think of fitting herself for self-support. The time to prepare for possible disaster is not after the torpedo has struck the ship.
A thousand avenues are open to women, and fresh ones open yearly. She can prepare secretly, or try her hand at first one and then another (if she begins by being indeterminate) of such congenial occupations as are open to women of her class, beyond cooking, teaching, clerking. Those engaged in reforms, economic improvements, church work, and above all, to-day, war relief work, should not be long discovering their natural bent as well as its marketable value, and the particular rung of the ladder upon which to start.
Many women whose energies have long been absorbed by the home are capable of flying leaps. These women still in their thirties, far from neglecting their children when looking beyond the home, are merely ensuring their proper nourishment and education.
Why do not some of the public spirited women, whose own fortunes are secure, form bureaus where all sorts of women, apprehensive of the future, may be examined, advised, steered on their way? In this they would merely be taking a leaf from the present volume of French history its women are writing. It is the women of independent means over there who have devised so many methods by which widows and girls and older spinsters tossed about in the breakers of war may support themselves and those dependent upon them. There is Mlle. Thompson's École Feminine, for instance, and Madame Goujon's hundred and one practical schemes which I will not reiterate here.
Women of the industrial class in the United States need new laws, but little advice how to support themselves. They fall into their natural place almost automatically, for they are the creatures of circumstances, which are set in motion early enough to determine their fate. If they do hesitate their minds are quickly made up for them by either their parents or their social unit. The great problem to-day is for the women of education, fastidiousness, a certain degree of ease, threatened with a loss of that male support upon which ancient custom bred them to rely. Their children will be specialized; they will see to that. But their own problem is acute and it behooves trained and successful women to take it up, unless the war lasts so long that every woman will find her place as inevitably as the working girl.
For a long time to come women will be forced to leave the administering of the nation as well as of states and cities to men, for men are still too strong for them. The only sort of women that men will spontaneously boost into public life are pretty, bright, womanly, spineless creatures who may be trusted to set the cause of woman back a few years at least, and gratify their own sense of humorous superiority.
Women would save themselves much waste of energy and many humiliations if they would devote themselves exclusively to helping and training their own sex. Thousands are at work on the problems of higher wage and shorter hours for women of the industrial class, but this problem of the carefully nurtured, wholly untrained, and insecurely protected woman they have so far ignored. To my mind this demands the first consideration and the application of composite woman's highest intelligence. The industrial woman has been trained to work, she learns as she grows to maturity to protect herself and fight her own battles, and in nine cases out of ten she resents the interference of the leisure class in her affairs as much as she would charity. The leaders of every class should be its own strong spirits. And the term "class consciousness" was not invented by fashionable society.
There is another problem that women, forced imminently or prospectively to support themselves, must face before long, and that is the heavy immigration from Europe. Of course some of those competent women over there will keep the men's jobs they hold now, and among the widows and the fatherless there will be a large number of clerks and agriculturists. But many réformés will be able to fill those positions satisfactorily, and, when sentiment has subsided, young women at least (who are also excellent workers) will begin to think of husbands; and, unless the war goes on for many years and reduces our always available crop, American girls of the working class will have to look to their laurels both ways.
Here is the reverse of the picture, which possibly may save the too prosperous and tempting United States from what in the end could not fail to be a further demoralization of her ancient ideals and depletion of the old American stock:
No matter how many men are killed in a war there are more males when peace is declared than the dead and blasted, unless starvation literally has sent the young folks back to the earth. During any war children grow up, and even in a war of three years' duration it is estimated that as against four million males killed there will be six million young males to carry on the race as well as its commerce and industries. For the business of the nation and high finance there are the men whose age saved them from the dangers of the battlefield.
There will therefore be many million marriageable men in Europe if the war ends in 1917. But they will, for the most part, be of a very tender age indeed, and normal young women between twenty and thirty do not like spring chickens. They are beloved only by idealess girls of their own age, by a certain type of young women who are alluded to slightingly as "crazy about boys," possibly either because men of mature years find them uninteresting or because of a certain vampire quality in their natures, and by blasée elderly women who generally foot the bills.
Dr. Talcott Williams pointed out to me not long [Pg 284]since that after all great wars, and notably after our own Civil War, there has been a notable increase in the number of marriages in which the preponderance of years was on the wrong side. Also that it was not until after our own war that the heroine of fiction began to reverse the immemorial procedure and marry a man her inferior in years. In other words, anything she could get. This would almost argue that fiction is not only the historian of life but its apologist.
It is quite true that young men coming to maturity during majestic periods of the world's history are not likely to have the callow brains and petty ideals which distinguished the average youth of peace. Even boys of fourteen these days talk intelligently of the war and the future. They read the newspapers, even subscribing for one if at a boarding-school. In the best of the American universities the men have been alive to the war from the first, and a large proportion of the young Americans who have done gallant service with the American Ambulance Corps had recently graduated when the war broke out. Others are serving during vacations, and are difficult to lure back to their studies.
Some of the young Europeans of eighteen or twenty will come home from the trenches when peace is declared, and beyond a doubt will compel the love if not the respect of damsels of twenty-five and upward. But will they care whether they fascinate spinsters of twenty-five and upward, or not? The fact is not to be overlooked that there will be as many young girls as youths, and as these girls also have matured during their long apprenticeship to sorrow and duty, it is not to be imagined they will fail to interest young warriors of their own age---nor fail to battle for their rights with every device known to the sex.
Temperament must be taken into consideration, of course, and a certain percentage of men and women of unbalanced ages will be drawn together. That happens in times of peace. Moreover it is likely that a large number of young Germans in this country either will conceive it their duty to return to Germany and marry there or import the forlorn in large numbers. If they have already taken to themselves American wives it is on the cards that they will renounce them also. There is nothing a German cannot be made to believe is his duty to the Fatherland, and he was brought up not to think. But if monarchy falls in Germany, and a republic, socialistic or merely democratic, rises on the ruins, then it is more than likely that the superfluous women will be encouraged to transfer themselves and their maidenly dreams to the great dumping-ground of the world.
Unless we legislate meanwhile.
There are four other ways in which women (exclusive of the artist class) are enjoying remunerative careers: as social secretaries, play brokers, librarians, and editors; and it seems to me that I cannot do better than to drop generalities in this final chapter and give four of the most notable instances in which women have "made good" in these highly distinctive professions. I have selected four whom I happen to know well enough to portray at length: Maria de Barril, Alice Kauser, Belle da Costa Greene, and Honoré Willsie. It is true that Mrs. Willsie, being a novelist, belongs to the artist class, but she is also an editor, which to my mind makes her success in both spheres the more remarkable. To edit means hours daily of routine, details, contacts; mechanical work, business, that would drive most writers of fiction quite mad. But Mrs. Willsie is exceptionally well balanced.
A limited number of young women thrown abruptly upon their own resources become social secretaries if their own social positions have insensibly prepared them for the position, and if they live in a city large enough to warrant this fancy but by no means inactive post. In Washington they are much in demand by Senators' and Congressmen's wives suddenly translated from a small town where the banker's lady hobnobbed with the prosperous undertaker's family, to a city where the laws of social precedence are as rigid as at the court of the Hapsburgs and a good deal more complicated. But these young women must themselves have lived in Washington for many years, or they will be forced to divide their salary with a native assistant.
The most famous social secretary in the United States, if not in the world, is Maria de Barril, and she is secretary not to one rich woman but to New York society itself. Her position, entirely self-made, is unique and secure, and well worth telling.
Pampered for the first twenty years of her life like a princess and with all her blood derived from one of the oldest and most relaxed nations in Europe, she was suddenly forced to choose between sinking out of sight, the mere breath kept in her body, perhaps, on a pittance from distant relatives, or going to work.
She did not hesitate an instant. Being of society she knew its needs, and although she was too young to look far ahead and foresee the structure which was to rise upon these tentative foundations, she shrewdly began by offering her services to certain friends often hopelessly bewildered with the mass of work they were obliged to leave to incompetent secretaries and housekeepers. One thing led to another, as it always does with brave spirits, and to-day Miss de Barril has a position in life which, with its independence and freedom, she would not exchange for that of any of her patrons. She conducted her economic venture with consummate tact from the first. Owing to a promise made her mother, the haughtiest of old Spanish dames as I remember her, she never has entered on business the houses of the society that employs her, and has retained her original social position apparently without effort.
She has offices, which she calls her embassy, and there, with a staff of secretaries, she advises, dictates, revises lists, issues thousands of invitations a week during the season, plans entertainments for practically all of New York society that makes a business of pleasure.
Some years ago a scion of one of those New York families so much written about that they have become almost historical, married after the death of his mother, and wished to introduce his bride at a dinner-dance in the large and ugly mansion whose portals in his mother's day opened only to the indisputably elect.
The bridegroom found his mother's list, but, never having exercised his masculine faculties in this fashion before, and hazy as to whether all on that list were still alive or within the pale, he wrote to the social ambassadress asking her to come to his house on a certain morning and advise him. Miss de Barril replied that not even for a member of his family, devoted as she was to it, would she break her promise to her mother, and he trotted down to her without further parley. Moreover, she was one of the guests at the dinner.
Of course it goes without saying that Miss de Barril has not only brains and energy, but character, a quite remarkably fascinating personality, and a thorough knowledge of the world. Many would have failed where she succeeded. She must have had many diplomatists among her ancestors, for her tact is incredible, although in her case Latin subtlety never has degenerated into hypocrisy. No woman has more devoted friends. Personally I know that I should have thrown them all out of the window the first month and then retired to a cave on a mountain. She must have the social sense in the highest degree, combined with a real love of "the world."
Her personal appearance may have something to do with her success. Descended on one side from the Incas of Peru, she looks like a Spanish grandee, and is known variously to her friends as "Inca," "Queen," and "Doña Maria"---my own name for her. When I knew her first she found it far too much of an effort to pull on her stockings and was as haughty and arrogant a young girl as was to be found in the then cold and stately city of New York. She looks as haughty as ever because it is difficult for a Spaniard of her blood to look otherwise; but her manners are now as charming as her manner is imposing; and if the bottom suddenly fell out of Society her developed force of character would steer her straight into another lucrative position with no disastrous loss of time.
It remains to be pointed out that she would have failed in this particular sphere if New York Society had been as callous and devoid of loyalty even in those days, as the novel of fashion has won its little success by depicting it. The most socially eminent of her friends were those that helped her from the first, and with them she is as intimate as ever to-day.
Credit must be given to Elisabeth Marbury for inventing the now flourishing and even over-crowded business of play broker; but as she was of a strongly masculine character and as surrounded by friends as Miss de Barril, her success is neither as remarkable nor as interesting as that of Alice Kauser, who has won the top place in this business in a great city to which she came poor and a stranger.
Not that she had; grown up in the idea that she must make her own way in the world. Far from it. It is for that reason I have selected her as another example of what a girl may accomplish if she have character and grit backed up with a thorough intellectual training. For, it must never be forgotten, unless one is a genius it is impossible to enter the first ranks of the world's workers without a good education and some experience of the world. Parents that realize this find no sacrifice too great to give their children the most essential of all starts in life. But the extraordinary thing in the United States of America is how comparatively few parents do realize it. Moreover, how many are weak enough, even when with a reasonable amount of self-sacrifice they could send their children through college, to yield to the natural desire of youth to "get out and hustle."
Miss Kauser was born in Buda Pest, in the United States Consular Agency, for her father, although a Hungarian, was Consular Agent. It was an intellectual family and on her mother's side musically gifted. Miss Kauser's aunt, Etelka Gerster, when she came to this country as a prima donna had a brief but brilliant career, and the music-loving public prostrated itself. But her wonderful voice was a fragile coloratura, and her first baby demolished it. Berta Gerster, Miss Kauser's mother, was almost equally renowned for a while in Europe.
Mr. Kauser himself was a pupil of Abel Blouet at the Beaux Arts, but he fought in the Revolution of 1848 in Hungary, and later with Garibaldi in the Hungarian Legion in Italy.
Miss Kauser, who must have been born well after these stirring events, was educated by French governesses and Polish tutors. Her friends tell the story of her that she grew up with the determination to be the most beautiful woman in the world, and when she realized that, although handsome and imposing, she was not a great beauty according to accepted standards, she philosophically buried this callow ambition and announced, "Very well; I shall be the most intellectual woman in the world."
There are no scales by which to make tests of these delicate degrees of the human mind, even in the case of authors who put forth four books a year, but there is no question that Miss Kauser is a highly accomplished woman, with a deep knowledge of the literature of many lands, a passionate feeling for style, and a fine judgment that is the result of years of hard intellectual work and an equally profound study of the world. And who shall say that the wild ambitions of her extreme youth did not play their part in making her what she is to-day? I have heard "ambition" sneered at all my life, but never by any one who possessed the attribute itself, or the imaginative power to appreciate what ambition has meant in the progress of the world.
Miss Kauser studied for two years at the École Monceau in Paris, although she had been her father's housekeeper and a mother to the younger children since the age of twelve. Both in Paris and Buda Pest she was in constant association with friends of her father, who developed her intellectual breadth.
Financial reverses brought the family to America and they settled in Pensacola, Florida. Here Miss Kauser thought it was high time to put her accomplishments to some use and help out the family exchequer. She began almost at once to teach French and music. When her brothers were older she made up her mind to seek her fortune in New York and arrived with, a letter or two. For several months she taught music and literature in private families. Then Mary Bisland introduced her to Miss Marbury, where she attended to the French correspondence of the office for a year.
But these means of livelihood were mere makeshifts. Ambitious, imperious, and able, it was not in her to work for others for any great length of time. As soon as she felt that she "knew the ropes" in New York she told certain friends she had made that she wished to go into the play brokerage business for herself. As she inspires confidence---this is one of her assets---her friends staked her, and she opened her office with the intention of promoting American plays only. Her trained mind rapidly adapted itself to business and in the course of a few years she was handling the plays of many of the leading dramatists for a proportionate number of leading producers. When the war broke out, so successful was she that she had a house of her own in the East Thirties, furnished with the beautiful things she had collected during her yearly visits to Europe---for long since she had opened offices in Paris and London, her business outgrowing its first local standard.
The war hit her very hard. She had but recently left the hospital after a severe operation, which had followed several years of precarious health. She was quite a year reestablishing her former strength and full capacity for work. One of the most exuberantly vital persons I had ever met, she looked as frail as a reed during that first terrible year of the war, but now seems to have recovered her former energies.
There was more than the common results of an operation to exasperate her nerves and keep her vitality at a low ebb. Some thirty of her male relatives were at the Front, and the whole world of the theater was smitten with a series of disastrous blows. Sixteen plays on the road failed in one day, expensive plays ran a week in New York. Managers went into bankruptcy. It was a time of strain and uncertainty and depression, and nobody suffered more than the play brokers. Miss Kauser as soon as the war broke out rented her house and went into rooms that she might send to Hungary all the money she could make over expenses, and for a year this money was increasingly difficult to collect, or even to make. But if she despaired no one heard of it. She hung on. By and by the financial tide turned for the country at large and she was one of the first to ride on the crest. Her business is now greater than ever, and her interest in life as keen.
This "live wire," one of the outstanding personalities in New York, despite her youth, is the antithesis of the two previous examples of successful women in business, inasmuch as no judge on the bench nor surgeon at the Front ever had a severer training for his profession than she. People who meet for the first time the young tutelar genius of Mr. Morgan's Library, take for granted that any girl so fond of society, so fashionable in dress and appointments, and with such a comet's tail of admirers, must owe her position with its large salary to "pull," and that it is probably a sinecure anyway.
Little they know.
Belle Greene, who arrests even the casual if astute observer with her overflowing joie de vivre and impresses him as having the best of times in this best of all possible worlds, is perhaps the "keenest on her job" of any girl in the city of New York. Let any of these superficial admirers attempt to obtain entrance, if he can, to the Library, during the long hours of work, and with the natural masculine intention of clinching the favorable impression he made on the young lady the evening before, and he will depart in haste, moved to a higher admiration or cursing the well-known caprice of woman, according to his own equipment.
For Miss Greene's determination to be one of the great librarians of the world took form within her precocious brain at the age of thirteen and it has never fluctuated since. Special studies during both school and recreation hours were pursued to the end in view: Latin, Greek, French, German, history---the rise and spread of civilization in particular, and as demonstrated by the Arts, Sciences, and Literature of the world. When she had absorbed all the schools could give her, she took an apprenticeship in the Public Library system in order thoroughly to ground herself in the clerical and routine phases of the work.
She took a special course in bibliography at the Amherst Summer Library School, and then entered the Princeton University Library on nominal pay at the foot of the ladder, and worked up through every department in order to perfect herself for the position of University Librarian.
While at Princeton she decided to specialize in early printing, rare books, and historical and illuminated manuscripts. She studied the history of printing from its inception in 1445 to the present day. It was after she had taken up the study of manuscripts from the standpoint of their contents that she found that it was next to impossible to progress further along that line in this country, as at that time we had neither the material nor the scholars. She has often expressed the wish that there had been in her day a Morgan Library for consultation.
When she had finished the course at Princeton she went abroad and studied with the recognized authorities in England and Italy. Ten years, in fact, were spent in unceasing application, what the college boy calls "grind," without which Miss Greene is convinced it is impossible for any one to succeed in any vocation or attain a distinguished position. To all demands for advice her answer is, "Work, work, and more work."
She took hold of the Morgan Library in its raw state, when the valuable books and MSS. Mr. Morgan had bought at sales in Europe were still packed in cases; and out of that initial disorder Belle Greene, almost unaided, has built up one of the greatest libraries in the world. Soon after her installation she began a systematic course in Art research. She visited the various museums and private collections of this country, and got in touch with the heads of the different departments and their curators. She followed their methods until it was borne in upon her that most of them were antiquated and befogging, whereupon she began another course in Europe during the summer months in order to study under the experts in the various fields of art; comparing the works of artists and artisans of successive periods, applying herself to the actual technique of painting in its many phases, studying the influence of the various masters upon their contemporaries and future disciples.
By attending auction sales, visiting dealers constantly and all exhibitions, reading all art periodicals, she soon learned the commercial value of art objects.
Thus in time she was able and with authority to assist Mr. Morgan in the purchase of his vast collections which embraced art in all its forms. With the exception of that foundation of the library which caused Mr. Morgan to engage her services, she has purchased nearly every book and manuscript it contains.
Another branch of the collectors' art that engaged Miss Greene's attention was the clever forgery, a business in itself. She even went so far as to buy more than one specimen, thus learning by actual handling and examination to distinguish the spurious from the real. Now she knows the difference at a glance. She maintains there is even a difference in the smell Mr. Morgan bought nothing himself without consulting her; if they were on opposite sides of the world he used the cable.
Naturally Miss Greene to-day enjoys the entrée to that select and jealously guarded inner circle of authorities, who despise the amateur, but who recognize this American girl, who has worked as hard as a day laborer, as "one of them." But she maintains that if she had not thoroughly equipped herself in the first place not even the great advantages she enjoyed as Mr. Morgan's librarian could have given her the peculiar position she now enjoys, a position that is known to few of the people she plays about with in her leisure hours.
She has adopted the mottoes of the two contemporaries she has most admired: Mr. Morgan's "Onward and Upward" and Sarah Bernhardt's "Quand Même."
Honoré Willsie, who comes of fine old New England stock, although she looks like a Burne-Jones and would have made a furore in London in the Eighties, was brought up in the idea that an American woman should fit herself for self-support no matter what her birth and conditions. Her mother, although the daughter of a rich man, was brought up on the same principles, and taught school until she married. All her friends, no matter how well-off, made themselves useful and earned money.
Therefore, Mrs. Willsie was thoroughly imbued while a very young girl with the economic ideal, although her mother had planted with equal thoroughness the principle that it was every woman's primary duty to marry and have a family.
Mrs. Willsie was educated at Madison, Wisconsin, beginning with the public schools and graduating from the University. She married immediately after leaving college, and, encouraged by her husband, a scientist, and as hard a student as herself, she began to write. Her first story followed the usual course; it was refused by every magazine to which she sent it; but, undiscouraged, she rewrote it for a syndicate. For a year after this she used the newspapers as a sort of apprenticeship to literature and wrote story after story until she had learned the craft of "plotting." When she felt free in her new medium she began writing for the better magazines; and, compared with most authors, she has had little hard climbing in her upward course. Naturally, there were obstacles and setbacks, but she is not of the stuff that ten times the number could discourage.
Then came the third stage. She wrote a novel. It was refused by many publishers in New York, but finally accepted as a serial in the first magazine that had rejected it.
This was The Heart of the Desert. After that followed Still Jim which established her and paved the way for an immediate reception for that other fine novel of American ideals, Lydia of the Pines.
It was about two years ago that she was asked to undertake the editorship of the Delineator, and at first she hesitated, although the "job" appealed to her; she had no reason to believe that she possessed executive ability. The owner, who had "sized her up," thought differently, and the event has justified him. She ranks to-day as one of the most successful, courageous, and resourceful editors of woman's magazines in the country. The time must come, of course, when she no longer will be willing to give up her time to editorial work, now that there is a constant demand for the work she loves best; but the experience with its contacts and its mental training must always have its value. The remarkable part of it was that she could fill such a position without having served some sort of an apprenticeship first. Nothing but the sound mental training she had received at home and at college, added to her own determined will, could have saved her from failure in spite of her mental gifts.
Mrs. Willsie, like all women worth their salt, says that she never has felt there was the slightest discrimination made against her work by publishers or editors because she was a woman.
NOTE.---Six months ago I wrote asking Madame d'Andigné to send me notes of her work before becoming the President of Le Bien---Être du Blessé. She promised, but no woman in France is busier. The following arrived after the book was in press, so I can only give it verbatim.---G.A.
At the time this gigantic struggle broke out I was in America. My first thought was to get to France as soon as possible. I sailed on August 2nd for Cherbourg but as we were pursued by two German ships our course was changed and I landed in England. After many trials and tribulations I reached Paris. The next day I went to the headquarters of the French Red Cross and offered my services. I showed the American Red Cross certificate which had been given to me at the end of my services at Camp Meade during the Spanish-American War. As I had had practically little surgical experience since the course I took at the Rhode Island Hospital before the Spanish-American War I asked to take a course in modern surgery. I was told that my experience during that war and my Red Cross certificate was more than sufficient. After serious reflection I decided that I could render more service to France by getting in the immense crops that were standing in our property in the south of France than by nursing the wounded soldiers. Far less glorious but of vital importance! So off I went to the south of France. By the middle of October thousands of kilos of cereals and hay and over 20,000 hectoliters of wine were ready to supply the army at the front. I then spent my time in various hospitals studying the up-to-date system of hospital war relief work. It was not difficult to see the deficiencies---the means of rapidly transporting the wounded from the "postes de secours" to an operating table out of the range of cannons---in other words auto-ambulances---impossible to find in France at that time. So I cabled to America. The first was offered by my father. It was not until January that this splendid spacious motor-ambulance arrived and was offered immediately to the French Red Cross. Presently others arrived and were offered to the Service de Santé. These cars have never ceased to transport the wounded from the Front lines to hospitals in the War Zone. I heard of one in the north and another in the Somme. This work finished, I took up duty as assistant in an operating room in Paris to get my hand in. I next went to a military hospital at Amiens. This hospital was partly closed soon afterward, and, anxious to have a great deal of work, I went to the military hospital at Versailles.
The work in the operating room was very absorbing, as it was there that that wonderful apparatus for locating a bullet by mathematical calculation was invented and first used. There, between those four white walls I have seen bullets extracted from the brain, the lungs, the liver, the "vesicule biliaire," etc., etc.
From there I was called to a large military hospital at the time of the attack in Champagne in September, 1915. Soon I was asked to organize and superintend the Service of the Mussulman troops. At first it was hard and unsatisfactory. I spoke only a few words of Arabic and they spoke but little French. I had difficulty in overcoming the contempt that the Mussulmans have for women. They were all severely wounded and horribly mutilated, but the moral work was more tiring than the physical.
However, little by little they got used to me and I to them. We became the best of friends and I never experienced more simple childlike gratitude than with these "Sidis." I remember one incident worth quoting. I was suffering from a severe grippy cold---they saw that I was tired and felt miserable. I left the ward for a few moments. On returning I found that they had pushed a bed a little to one side in a corner and had turned down the bed-clothes and placed a hot-water jug in it (without hot water). The occupant was a Moroccan as black as the ace of spades; he was trepanned but was allowed up a certain number of hours a day. "Maman,"---they all called me Maman---"toi blessée, toi ergut (lie down) nous tubibe (doctor) nous firmli (nurse)." And this black, so-called savage, Moroccan took up his post beside the bed as I had often done for him. I explained as best as I could that I would have to have a permission signed by the Medecin-Chef, otherwise I would be punished; and the Medecin-Chef had left the hospital for the night. He shook his wise black head, "Maman blessée, Maman blessée!"
One called me one day and asked me what my Allah was like. I told him I thought he was probably very much like his. Well! if my Allah was not good to me, theirs would take care of me, they would see to that.
In May, 1916, I was asked to organize a war relief work[H] at the request of the Service de Santé. This work was to provide the "grands blessés et malades" with light nourishing food, in other words, invalid food. The rules and regulations of the French military hospitals are not sufficiently elastic to allow the administering of such food. In time of war it would be easier almost to remove Mt. Blanc than to change these rules and regulations. There was just one solution---private war relief work.
So, with great regret, I bade good-bye to these children I never would have consented to have left had it not been for the fact that I knew from experience how necessary was the war relief work which was forced upon me, as I had seen many men die from want of light nourishing food.