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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

It would be marvellous if it were a libel


Hear

what one of your own writers says: "If all the world were paper, all the sea ink, all the plants and trees pens, and every man a writer,--yet were they not able, with all labor and cunning, to set down all the craft and deceits of women."

If my statement is a libel, it is less a libel than statements and implications under which people have hitherto rested with a wonderful degree of equanimity. It would be marvellous if it were a libel. A girl receives such training that it is wellnigh impossible for her to be sincere. You cannot give her whole life for six or a dozen years one direction, and then set her face suddenly towards another quarter, banishing from her mind every remembrance of past lessons, and every thought of her portrayed future. But unless such an erasure is made, or seems to be made, she knows that she forfeits good opinion, and stands in great danger of losing the one prize which has been placed before her, and which she may hope, but must not be detected in hoping, to win. Consequently she learns to dissemble. It is her only resource. Duplicity passes into her blood, and she learns to conceal and deny what you have taught her it is improper to feel, but what you have also made it impossible for her not to feel. I only wonder that any uprightness is left among women. That there are women upon whose garments the smell of fire has not passed,--that there are women whose robes of whiteness have but a faint tinge of flame,--is not

because the fagots have not been piled around them and the torch applied.

This is one result of the famous, the infamous "good wife" doctrines.

Another, less fatal but sufficiently evil and more vexatious, is the injury that is inflicted upon natural and healthful association. Men and women are not allowed to look upon each other as rational beings; every woman is a wife in the grub, every man is a possible husband in the chrysalis state. If young people enjoy each other's conversation, and make opportunities to secure it, there are dozens of gossips, male and female, who proceed to forecast "a match." Intelligent interchange of opinion and sentiments between a man and a woman for the mere delight in it, with no design upon each other's name or fortune, is a thing of which a large majority of civilized Americans have no conception. Such a commodity never had a place in their inventory. A man and a woman find each other agreeable, they cultivate each other's society, and anon, East, West, South, and North goes the report that they are "engaged." It is easy to see what a check this gives to an intercourse that would be in the highest degree beneficial to both sexes; beneficial, by giving to each a more accurate knowledge of the other, and by improving what in each is good, and diminishing what is bad.

One of three things should be done: cease to urge a girl on to marriage by every terror threatened and every allurement displayed; by making it the reward of all her exertion, the arena of all her accomplishment, the condition of all her development; or take measures to provide her with a suitable husband, so that she shall not be left for an indefinite time in uncertainty and doubt, settling, perhaps, at length into frivolity, waste, and despair; or cease to condemn her for taking matters into her own hand, and furnishing herself an opportunity for the exercise of those powers whose cultivation you have strenuously urged, and for whose employment you have made no provision. "Get a husband!" Why should she not get a husband? What should you think of a boy who had been fitted by long training for the duties and responsibilities of a clergyman, or a lawyer, or a statesman, and should then make no attempt to become a clergyman, a lawyer, or a statesman? What would you think of a father who should train his son for any especial office, and should then forbid his son, upon pain of universal derision, to do anything to secure an induction into office?


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