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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

This ascription of female extravagance


Men,

have you read this paragraph? Please to read it again! Think of all your inveighing against female extravagance and incapacity, and read it yet again. Put on sackcloth and ashes, and read it aloud to your wife, to your mother, to your daughter, to your sister, to your grandmother, to your aunt, to your niece, to your mother-in-law, and all your relatives-in-law, and to every woman who suffers your presence, and then lay your hand on your mouth, and your mouth in the dust, and cry, "Woe is me! for I am undone." Inexperience? Had Mrs. Hoge and Mrs. Livermore any more experience in feeding fifteen hundred mouths a day than the quartermaster of a regiment? Have the women of Chicago generally devoted their lives to trafficking in tame ducks, loads of hay, threshing-machines, and beef and bacon? Yet you have the very essence of business tact in "nothing came amiss, and nothing failed to come"; and the very essence of economy in "always enough, and never too much"; and the crowning glory--write it on the posts of thy house, and on thy gates; teach it diligently unto thy children, and talk of it when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up; bind it for a sign upon thine hand, and let it be as a frontlet between thine eyes--"the ordering of all this was in the hands of women."

This ascription of female extravagance, whether made publicly in newspapers or privately in family conclave,

is not only false and fatal, but it is fatal in the very innermost and vital points of life. What is destroyed is not an adventitious thing, but the spring of all satisfaction. The relations between a man and his wife decide the weal of his life. The whole chain of his circumstances can be no stronger than the link between him and her. He may be ever so rich or renowned, but he can bear no heavier weight of happiness than that link can sustain. The newspaper paragraphs do the harm of confirming individual men in their notions that it is the wife who incurs the unnecessary expense, and so divert their attention from their own duties, and urge them on in their evil courses to their own undoing. But a man is just as powerful for good as he is for evil. By as much as he can alienate his wife from himself by his petty financiering, by so much can he draw her to his heart by a gentle chivalry. Invested by the law with power, he has only to transmute it into love to secure a loyalty capable of any sacrifice. Let a wife read in her husband's face and bearing how grateful is her society, how precious her life, how sweetest of all pleasures to him is the knowledge of her pleasure; let her feel that she is to him something different from all earthly interests,--something above and beyond all other joys; let her see that, with her coming, money ceased to be mere current coin, that labor acquired a new dignity, and prudence a new charm, because they all might minister to her convenience or delight; let her see that she adjusts, harmonizes, and completes his life; that she is the central sun, about which all minor interests and plans revolve; and--what have you gained? A good housekeeper? A well-ordered household? More than this. An empire. Supreme dominion. You have only to be tender and true, and nothing can sweep away the golden mist through which, whatever you may be to others, you shall appear to her eyes a knight without fear and without reproach.


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