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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

And constant contact with stimulating circumstances


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difficult hills over which you urge women to climb when you urge them on to marriage. Of the levels between, of the plains over which lies the every-day path of the great majority of married women, I have spoken with sufficient distinctness in another connection. Whether they are the wives of inefficient or of enterprising men makes small difference. The overwhelming probability is, that your blooming bride will encounter a fate similar to that of the prince in the fairy-tale, who, enchanted by an ugly old witch, was compelled to spend his life sitting inside a great iron stove; only, instead of sitting comfortably inside, she will be kept in perpetual motion outside. Poverty or wealth, ignorance or education, in the husband, may affect the quality, but scarcely the quantity, of the wife's work. Hard, grinding, depressing toil is not the peculiar lot of the poor housewife. It is the "protection," the "cherishing," which men "well to do in the world" award their wives,--the thriving farmers, the butchers, the blacksmiths, who "get a good living," and perhaps have "money at interest." What advantageth it a woman to be the wife of a "rising man"? He rises by reading, by reasoning, by attention to his business, by intercourse with intelligent people, by journeys, by constant growth, and constant contact with stimulating circumstances; but she is tied down by the endless details of housekeeping and the nursery. Growth, intelligence, and rising in the world are not for her. His increasing
business and fair political prospects only bring more cares to her, and bring them long before any permanent increase of income justifies, or can command, anything approximating to adequate assistance in the home department. And his increase of business, his widening circle of acquaintance, are sure to take him more away from home, to absorb more of his time and his thoughts, and so not only create heavier burdens, but call to other tasks the strength that ought to bear them. The selfsame circumstances which raise the man depress the woman. If he does not make especial effort to upbear her with himself, the result will presently be, that, while he rides on the crest of the wave, she is engulfed in the trough of the sea. There is small reason to suppose he will make the effort. It is the men in "comfortable circumstances," shrewd, with an eye to the main chance, who often sin most deeply in this respect. Their main chance does not include husbandly love, wifely repose. It is a part of their "business talent" to turn their wives to account just as they turn everything else. She is a partner in the concern. She is a part of the stock in trade. She is one of the stepping-stones to eminence or competence. All that she can earn or save, all the labor or supervision that can be wrested from her, is so, much added to the working capital; and so long as she does not lose her health, so long as she remains in good working order, they never suspect that anything is wrong. If she were not doing the house-work or taking care of the children, she would not be doing anything that would bring in money, or nearly so much money, as her economy and foresight save. Even if she does lose her health, her husband scarcely so much as thinks of laying the sin at his own door. It was not hard work or low spirits, it was rheumatism or slow fever, that brought her down. If her life lapses away, and she descends into the grave before she has lived out half her days, her sorrowing husband lays it to the account of a mysterious Providence, and--"the world is all before him where to choose."


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