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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

Which she must not lift an eyelash to secure


Laying

aside now all question of the dignity and delicacy of such proceedings, assuming for the time that it is the proper course, let us notice whether it is followed out to its conclusions. Not in the least. Having done its best to transpose the feminine raw material into the orthodox texture and pattern of "good wives," society lays it on the shelf to run its own risk of finding a purchaser. It neither provides husbands for the "good wives" which it has made, nor suffers them to go and look up husbands for themselves. If a girl is ready to enter service, she can enroll her name at the intelligence office. If she is prepared to teach, she sends to the "Committee." If she desires to be a saleswoman, she applies at the different shops; but your "good wife" candidate must wait patiently,--not the grand old theological "waiting in the use of means," but the Micawber waiting for something to turn up. She has learned the bread-making and the clear-starching; she is mistress of domestic economy; she is familiar with all the little details of puddings and preserves; she is ripe for wifehood and green for all else, and now she wants an arena for the exercise of her skill. But she would better pull her tongue out at once than say so. People may talk to girls at pleasure of the fair domestic realm where they will be queen, of the glory of such a kingdom, and the unsatisfying emptiness of any and every other; but no crime is more fatal to a girl's reputation and prospects than the suspicion of
husband-hunting. That fate, that career, that glory, which has been constantly mapped out to her as the very Land of Promise, the goal of her ambition, the culmination of her happiness, is the one fate, the one career, the one glory, which she must not lift an eyelash to secure. Let a girl, the very same girl whom you have been pushing through a course of the received proper training, be supposed to set but so much as a feather on her hat, a smile on her lips, a tone in her voice, to attract the admiration which she has been constantly taught is the guerdon of all the virtues,--and her reputation sinks at once to zero. "Trying to get a husband," whether couched in the decorous phrase of polite society, or in the uncompromising language of more primitive circles, is the death-warrant of a girl's good name. She must sedulously prepare herself for a position to which she must be totally indifferent. She must learn all domestic accomplishments, but she must take no measures, she must exhibit no symptoms of a desire to secure a domestic situation. You bid her make ready the wedding-garments and the marriage feast, and then sit quietly waiting till the bridegroom cometh, her small hands folded, her meek eyelashes drooping, no throb of impatience or discontent or anxiety in her heart, no reaching out for any career at home or abroad, except a meek ministration in her father's house, or a mild village benevolence. But will Nature set aside her laws at your behest? Is it of any use for you to lay down your yardstick and say, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther"? Do you not see the inevitable result is a course of falsehood?

Is this a strong statement, a libel upon the female sex? But you read novel after novel in which the larger number of women--all, perhaps, except the heroine--are represented as artful, sly, deceitful, managing; and generally the main object of their artifice is to secure a husband for themselves or for their daughters: yet you do not at once cry out in indignant protest against such misrepresentation. On the contrary, you follow the plot with lively interest, think the author has a very clear insight into human nature, and especially excels in the delineation of female character!


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