THE CHILDLESS WOMAN AND THE FRIENDLESS CHILD
One of the first conclusions forced on a thoughtful unprejudiced observer of society is that the major percentage of its pains and its vices result from a failure to make good connections. Children pine and even die for fruit in the cities, while a hundred miles away thousands of barrels of apples are rotting on the ground. Famine devastates one country, while the granaries of another are bursting with food. Men and women drink themselves into the gutter from sheer loneliness, while other men and women shrivel up in isolated comfort. One of the most pitiful examples of this failure to connect is that of the childless woman and the friendless, uncared-for child.
There never at any time in any country in the world’s history existed so large a group of women with whom responsibility and effort were a matter of choice, as exists to-day in the United States. While a large number of these free women are devoting themselves whole-heartedly to public service of the most intelligent and ingenious kind, the great majority recognize no obligation to make any substantial return to society for its benefits. A small percentage of these are self-supporting, but the majority are purely parasitical. Indeed, the heaviest burden to-day on productive America, aside from the burden imposed by a vicious industrial system, is that of its nonproductive women. They are the most demanding portion of our society. They spend more money than any other group, are more insistent in their cry for amusement, are more resentful of interruptions of their pleasures and excitements; they go to greater extremes of indolence and of uneasiness.
The really serious side to the existence of this parasitical group is that great numbers of other women, not free, forced to produce, accept their standards of life. We hear women, useful women, everywhere talking about the desirability of not being obliged to do anything, commiserating women who must work, commiserating those who have heavy household responsibilities, and by the whole gist of their words and acts influencing those younger and less experienced than themselves to believe that happiness lies in irresponsible living.
Various gradations of the theory of which this is the extreme expression show themselves. Thus there are great numbers of women of moderate means, who by a little daily effort can keep comfortable and attractive homes for themselves and their husbands, and yet who are utterly regardless of outside responsibilities, who are practically isolated in the community. They pass their lives in a little round of household activities, sunning and preening themselves in their long hours of leisure like so many sleek cats.