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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

Nor strong enough to front prejudice and mould society


friend, and they will descant

on the absurdity of going about moaning and weeping all your days. They attach no meaning to life-long tenderness but life-long namby-pambyism, something excusable in youth and "courting," but savoring strongly of weakness of character after the honeymoon has waned. Put before them the general allegation of selfishness, indifference, cruelty, and they will deny it with vehemence. Of course. Without such denial they could have no excuse. Moral ignorance alone saves them from utter condemnation. If they sinned wittingly,--if they said, "Yes, I am cold and hard and hateful to my wife, neglectful of my children, I give grudgingly money barely sufficient for the necessities of life, or I provide for my wife every luxury, but have no sympathy or companionship for her,"--if men said or could say this, even to themselves, they would be--not men, but demons. They are not demons, but men, capable of generosity, devotion, and self-sacrifice. If they knew that they were cruel, outrageous, intolerable in their most intimate relations, they would at once cease to be so, and begin to become everything that could be desired. More than this, I have so great faith in the noble possibilities of men, I believe they have so strong an inward bias towards holiness, that they will welcome the friendly hand which sets their iniquities before them. They will hear the sad story with amazement, and say one to another: "Who can understand his errors? A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand
this. We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. So foolish was I and ignorant; I was as a beast. But now I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." And, when men shall have grown good, there will be no further complaint of women. To Lavater's list of impossible good women, Blake, the "mad painter," appends, "Let the men do their duty, and the women will be such wonders: the female life lives from the life of the male." There are exceptions, but in the mass women are not independent of received opinions, nor strong enough to front prejudice and mould society, or where they cannot mould it, to guide their own lives in its very spite. Therefore opinion needs to be right, prejudice removed, and society renovated; and men must do it. Women are generally said to make society. It is not so. Men make women, and men and women together make society. Men are the rocky stratum, women the soil which covers it. Men determine the outline, the level, the general character; women give the curves, the bloom, the grace. Rear your hills and lay your valleys, and the land shall speedily flow with milk and honey; but if you will upheave mountains and spread deserts, you may expect scant herbage on the one and but scattered oases on the other.

I cannot, of course, pronounce that it is absolutely impossible for woman to attain a truer life without man's co-operation. The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will. What revolution may await us in the future no one knows. Fired by what impulse woman may throw off the stupor which has enthralled her so long, array herself in her beautiful garments and mount upward to the heavenly heights, whose air alone her spirit pants to breathe, whose paths alone her feet are framed to tread, I do not know. Yet blessed as is that day, come when and how it will, I would it were ushered in by a peaceful dawn. Better that woman should take her place alone, moved by an ineffable disdain, than that she should remain forever in her low estate. Better still that man and woman should go together, he bringing his sturdy strength to shorten, she lending her manifold grace to lighten, the path that leads up thither; and both, following the still, small voice of love, shall find no roughness, shall feel no grief, shall fear no evil, but shall walk softly till the end come, and shall rest in the peace of the beloved.


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