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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

All independence is unfeminine


"In

short," proceeds the advocate of the oak-and-vine humanity, "_all independence is unfeminine_; the more dependent that sex becomes, the more will it be cherished."

Independence is unfeminine: what a pity that starvation and insanity are not unfeminine also! Independence is unfeminine, but what provision is made for dependence? Look about the world. How many men are there, dependence on whom would be agreeable to a sensitive woman? and what shall the women do who have nobody to be dependent on,--the women without husbands or fathers, and the women with drunken, thriftless, extravagant, miserly, feeble or incapable husbands or fathers? When every woman in the country is placed above the possibility of want, it will be time enough to talk about the sweets of dependence; but so long as women are liable, and are actually reduced to want, to shame, to ignominy, to starvation, and degradation and death, through the meanness, the misconduct, or the inability of their natural protectors, it will be well at least to connive at their efforts to help themselves. An independent woman may be a nuisance, but I think rather less so than an immoral woman, or an insane woman, or a dead woman in the bottom of a canal in Lowell, or a live woman making shirts for Milk Street merchants in Boston, at five cents apiece. O men, you who shut your eyes to the stern and awful facts of life, and rhapsodize over your fine-spun theories, what will you say when the Lord maketh

inquisition for blood? In that great and terrible day that shall open the books of judgment, that shall wrest from the earth and the sea the secrets which are in them, when the dead women come forth from their suicidal graves, when they swarm up from under the river-bridges, when they pour out from the gateways of hell, will it seem to you then a wise and righteous thing that you branded independence as unfeminine?

Apart from the bearings of this doctrine, one word as to its facts. There are two kinds of dependence,--the one of love, the other of necessity. Each may comprise the other, and all is well. But each may exist without the other, and then half is ill. The first is a delight. The second is a dread. The first is a delight,--but no more to woman than to man, for though the matters in which they are dependent differ, the dependence itself is mutual, and mutually dear and precious. Nobody need enforce it by argument. It commends itself by its own inherent sweetness. But the second is an evil, and only an evil under the sun,--a state which no man and no woman of any spirit will for a moment willingly endure. Dependence is a joy only where it is a boon; other wise it is a burning torture if there is any soul to feel.

But masculine deprecation of feminine independence is not entirely owing to a tender regard for the preservation unimpaired of feminine loveliness. Men think if women strike out in a career of their own, the matter of securing and disposing of a wife may not be quite the easy thing it is at present.

They now have things their own way. The world is all before them where to choose. They have only to walk leisurely on, and it is O whistle and I'll come to you, my lad. You think I put it too strongly: that is because you are looking into the bucket. I am speaking of the atmosphere. You have only to listen to the usual talk of usual people in villages and cities, and to the floating literature. You are not to take the intellectual


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