It is a new knowledge of that tide of life which breaks at her very gate that the childless and the free American woman needs, if she is to discharge her obligation to the uncared-for child. To force these facts upon her, to cry to her, “You are the woman,—you cannot escape the guilt of the woe and crime which must come from the neglect of childhood in your radius,”—this is the business of every man and woman who has had the pain and the privilege of seeing something of the actual life of the people of this world.
ON THE ENNOBLING OF THE WOMAN’S BUSINESS
That the varied, delicate, and difficult problems which crowd the attention of the woman in her social laboratory should ever be considered unworthy of first-class brains and training is but proof of the difficulty the human mind has in distinguishing values when in the throes of social change. We rightly believe to-day that the world is not nearly so well run as it would be if we could—or would—apply unselfishly what we already know. Each of us advocates his own pet theory of betterment, often to the exclusion of everybody else’s theory.
One of the most disconcerting characteristics of advocates, conservative and radical, is their conscienceless treatment of facts. Rarely do they allow full value to that which qualifies or contradicts their theories. The ardent and single-minded reformer is not infrequently the worst sinner in this respect. To stir indignation against conditions, he paints them without a background and with utter disregard of proportion.
He wins, but he loses, by this method. He makes converts of those of his own kind, those who like him have rare powers for indignation and sacrifice, but little capacity or liking for the exact truth or for self-restraint. He turns from him many who are as zealous as he to change conditions, but who demand that they be painted as they are and that justice be rendered both to those who have fought against them in the past and to those who are in different ways doing so to-day.
The movement for a fuller life for American women has always suffered from the disregard of some of its noblest followers, both for things as they are and for things as they have been. The persistent belittling for campaign purposes of the Business of Being a Woman I have repeatedly referred to in this little series of essays; indeed, it has been founded on the proposition that the Uneasy Woman of to-day is to a large degree the result of the belittlement of her natural task and that her chief need is to dignify, make scientific, professionalize, that task.
I doubt if there is to-day a more disintegrating influence at work—one more fatal to sound social development—than that which belittles the home and the position of the woman in it. As a social institution nothing so far devised by man approaches the home in its opportunity, nor equals it in its successes.