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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

And you do well to apply your goad


I drawn a cold, harsh picture? The coldness and harshness are not alone in the drawing. It spreads before you every day and all around you: a picture whose figures throb with hidden life,--a very _tableau vivant_. What else can be expected from our social principles? What kind of husbands do you look for in men who have set their affections on fortune or fame? What kind of husbands can a society turn out that publicly and shamelessly avows the preservation and increase of property to be the object of marriage? A people's practice is sometimes, but very rarely, better than its principles. If wealth or position be the chief goal of a man's ambition, he only acts consistently in harnessing his wife along with all his other powers and possessions to his chariot. Looking at it dispassionately, freed from the glamour which popular opinion throws upon our eyes, it would seem to be better for a woman to marry the Grand Turk, since a friendly bowstring might put a period to her trouble, or she might hope to be tied up in a sack and safely and quietly deposited in the Bosphorus; while in America there is no such possibility. You must live on to the end, come it never so tardily.

And how far extends even so much protection as this,--the protection which consists in appropriating a woman's time and strength, and deteriorating both her mind and body by incessant, chiefly menial, and not unfrequently repulsive toil, and giving her in return--food, clothing,

and shelter, which, if female labor were justly paid, she could earn by one fourth of the effort, and which is often bestowed with more or less reluctance and unpleasant conditioning, as a favor rather than a right? Look around upon all the people whose circumstances you know, and see if the number of families is small whose support depends partly upon the mother? Do you know any families which depend chiefly or entirely upon the mother? Do you know any, where the husbands are invalids, and have laid by nothing for a rainy day? any, where the husbands are lazy and inefficient, and perhaps intemperate, and neglect to provide for their families? any, where they have been unfortunate and lost all, and only the mother's courage and energy supply deficiency? any, where the husband has died insolvent, and the survivor struggles single-handed against the tide? any, where the husband's death was the lifting of an incubus, which removed, the family seemed at once to be prosperous and happy? Do you ever see a woman, with a family of children and a husband, taking the entire care of her household, and, besides this, earning a little money at knitting or sewing or washing? Judging from my own observation, setting aside inability from disease, where you find one woman who is a dead-weight upon her energetic husband, you will find seven men who are a dead-weight upon their energetic wives.

But all this is "protection." All this is the superior sex cherishing the inferior; the chivalrous sex defending the helpless; the strong caring for the delicate; the able providing for the dependent. To all this you urge women when you goad them on to marriage. And you do well to apply your goad. You are wise in your generation, when you create such an overwhelming outside pressure; without it, women would not go down quick into the pit. Left to their own unprejudiced reason, to their own clear eyes and rapid and just conclusions, they would not choose, the greatest of all evils,--a living death. In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird. If you cannot help this state of things, where is your logic? If you can help it, where is your conscience?

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