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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

It is simply thou gavest to be with me


farmer, advocate, clerk,--each

one has a peculiar calling for which he is supposed to have a special taste, fitness, or motive, perhaps all; but their wives have no room for choice. Whether they have a gift of it or not, they have the same routine of baking and brewing and house-cleaning. Suppose the woman does not like it? The supposition is not an impossible, not even an unnatural one. Woman's-sphere writers confound distinctions; they seem to think that woman was not created in the garden in native honor clad like man, but rather, like the turtle, with her house on her back, and that a modern American house and its belongings; so that if she dislikes any of the conclusions which such a house premises, it is as unnatural and unwomanly as if she should be coarse or cruel. Womanliness, in their vocabulary, implies fondness of and pleasure in domestic drudgery. Their ideal woman is enamored of wash-tubs and broom-handles and frying-pans. But modern housekeeping is no more woman's sphere than farming is man's sphere, nor so much. If you go back far enough, you will find that man was directly and divinely ordained to that very pursuit. The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, _to dress it and to keep it_. His sphere was expressly marked out. He was to be a gardener, a farmer, a tiller of the soil. What of the woman? "The Lord God said, It is not good _that the man should be alone_: I will make him an help meet for him." What kind of help was meant is here implied, but is more clearly discovered
further on by Adam's own interpretation: "The woman whom thou gavest _to be with me_." She was made for society, to be company for him; to talk and laugh and cheer and keep him from being lonesome. Not a word about housekeeping. Adam is concerned to put the very best face on the matter, and he does not say, "the woman whom thou gavest to train up the vines, to pare the apples, to stone the raisins, to gather the currants, to press the grapes, to preserve the peaches," or for any other purposes of an Eden household. It is simply "thou gavest _to be with me_." Whatever may have come in afterwards to modify the original arrangement, came for "the hardness of your hearts." But here, before the fall, is seen, in all its beauty and simplicity, the original plan. You have the whole "woman question" in a nutshell. Yet people who are fond of quoting the Bible manage to skip this. They go back to the curse, "thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee," and there they stop. Their nature is nature accursed, and even that is silent on the point of menial service: they do not go back to nature innocent, where it is excluded by implication. But if the Bible is proof on one side, it is proof on the other. If the husband is made to be the head of the woman, he is also made to be her serving-man. Nay, even the silence of the curse is more golden than the speech of man, for the same allotment of penalty which lays upon her the sorrow of conception lays upon him the sorrow of toil: so that every man whose wife is obliged to eat bread in the sweat of her brow is out of his sphere, and has failed of his "mission." He lays upon the shoulders of a weak woman his own burden as well as hers. And every man who is not a farmer is out of his sphere, and should put himself into it before he casts a single stone at any woman; and he is as much more guilty as his sphere is more accurately defined.

So much for the revelation of the word; now for the revelation of nature.

Naturally, I suppose women's tastes are not any more likely to be uniform than men's tastes. The narrow range of their lives has undoubtedly tended to keep them down towards one standard, but every new-born child is a new protest of nature,--a new outburst of individuality against monotony, so that the work is really never done, and never comes anywhere near being so far done as that all women, or the majority of women, should choose the life of a housekeeper. As far as my observation goes, the best women, the brightest women, the noblest women, are the very ones to whom it is most irksome. I do not mean housekeeping with well-trained servants, for that is general enough to admit a "brother near the throne"; but that, alas! is almost unknown in the world wherein _I_ have lived; and a woman who is satisfied with the small cares, the small economies, the small interests, the constant contemplation of small things which many a household demands, is a very small sort of woman. I make the assertion both as an inference and an observation. A noble discontent--not a peevish complaining, but an inward and spiritual protest--is a woman's safeguard against the deterioration which such a life threatens, and her proof of capacity and her note of preparation for a higher. Such a woman does not do her work less well, but she rises ever superior to her work. I know such women.


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