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What “Home” is, and Ilock to Save it.
Many women were interested in the idea of Co-operative Housekeeping, but the literary women of the country, my compeers, and the very ones from whom I hoped for sympathy, when they noticed the theory at all, took the ground that I was attacking the Home, and seemed to think there would be an alarming disintegration going on if the family potatoes were boiled in a kettle with somebody else's potatoes. They forgot that the family” has perfectly survived the introduction of baker's bread, confectioner's cake, and factory-made cottons and woollens, and that “home” is not necessarily where the kitchen and the wash-room are, but is, always, where the husband and the wife and their children meet in sacred isolation from the rest of the world, and which, surely, therefore, should
sweet and sheltered retreat of beauty and rest, where the machinery of life is as much as possible out of sight. I would ask, as the best solution of the problem of human vice and woe, that every man and woman and child shall have such a home; and the world will only come near to getting this when, as far as money goes, every man can marry a wife whenever he can find one, because every woman can be a wife without being an added burden.
Co-operative Housekeeping" may or may not be a mere vision, but it must cerlainly be preceded by and founded upon Co-operative Storekeeping; and Co-operative Storekeeping is neither theory nor experiment. It is a mighty, fixed, all-beneficent FACT, to succeed in which women need only follow the broad beaten track laid for them by hundreds of such stores in England. If I have no other mission in my generation, I have certainly this :--To entreat American women to believe that only by combining among themselves to save the retail profit of the middlemen who now prey upon the household, can they save that without which our half the race had better be blotted out-the FAMILY, as founded upon the IDEAL Conjugal Relation. Let each parish in the land but add to the religious and charitable organizations already carried on by its devoted women, the Co-operative Store, and the thing is done !*
As discussion is admitted after each paper, Mrs. Livermore took the floor for a few moments to tell the audience, in her charming, motherly way, what she knew about the Grangers, and as a counterpoise to Mrs. Pierce's intimation that women are but a burden, related a few thrilling incidents of lahors which American women have performed.
*The following Prospectus and Rules for a Co-operative Store, drawn from English and our Cambridge experiences, will be sure io conquer a success if attempted in the spirit of faith, selfsacrifice, mutual concession and mutual upholding on the part oi the members and officers of the association.
1. Raise a capital of $1,000 in two hundred shares of $5 each. 2. Allow no member to own less than one or more than five shares. 3. Do not start the store until all the two hundred shares are paid up, and until at least thirty members have pledged it their family custom for one year. 4. All transactions to be strictly for cash. 5. Sales to the members to be at the usual retail prices, and metal checks to be returned them for all sums spent at the store; the checks to be added up at the end of the quarter and a margin of profit credited to the member in proportion to the amount expended. 6. Premises and fixtures to be as cheap and rent as low as possible until success is secured. 7. All services to be voluntary except bookkeeping and porterage until success is secured. 8. The store not to send for orders or to deliver goods. 9. The store to be open only twice a week at first. 10. The business to be managed by an Executive Committee of not less than nine or more than thirteen, elected by the members. 11. The young girls of the association to be interested in helping the lady managers to do up supplies in convenient parcels for customers, as 22, 5 and 10 pound packages of tea, sugar, etc., etc. 12. The members to hold monthly, and the managers weekly business meetings, at which the treasurer shall always exhibit the state of the finances. 13. No expenditure to be made by any officer of the association without a majority vote of the executive committee authorizing the same. monthly financial statement to be always copied and hung in the store for the inspection of members. 15. No profits to be paid to members who own less than five shares in the store. 16. Poor women who cannot afford to pay for one share to be allowed to buy at the store until their profits equal the value of one share; after which, they to be members on the same terms as the other members.
NOW AND then the world is convulsed by a violent revolution, which, for the time being, upturns everything, and brings with it, in addition to the good which it accomplishes, a great train of evil. But, for the most part, revolutions come gently and silently. We do not know that the thing is doing, until we are enabled to look back, and perceive that it is done. The process has been evolution, instead of revolution. So it has been with women's induction into literature. Through all the ages, exceptional women have been poets, historians and novelists. But if we look back only for thirty years, we will realize that it is only in our generation that women have obtained a recognized and a thoroughly respected position in literature. The term “blue stocking," applied to all women who used the pen, did not lose its sting until a very recent period. And it was more than hinted that such women not only had ink-blacked fingers, uncombed hair, and slip-shod feet, but that they must necessarily be neglectsul of all recognized womanly duties.
Thirty years ago there were two or three women editors in the world. To-day there are scores of them; while reporters and special correspondents of the same sex are like the daisies of the field for multitude. Thirty years ago there were a few indifferent novels produced by women in England; scarcely one in this country. Mrs. Radcliffe and Mrs. Behn may be taken as types of the women novelists of a still remoter generation. To-day the novelists in America and England can be told off, considering not only numbers, but excellence, a woman for a man, a woman for a man, through the whole list; while George Eliot, a man in name and a woman in nature, stands supreme over them all.
The field of literature is conquered for women. There are no longer bars or obstructions of any sort in the way. A woman who has anything to say is privilegedi to say it; and if it is worth hearing the world will lend an attentive ear,
Nevertheless, there are numbers of women who verily think that they are prevented in some way by the disabilities of sex from winning wealth and renown in this field. They would have us believe that, because they are women, men delight to place obstacles in their way. Margaret Fuller never wrote truer words than these: “Man is not willingly ungenerous.
He wants faith and love, because he is not yet himself an elevated being. He cries with sneering skepticism, Give us a sign!' But if the sign appears, his eyes glisten and he offers not merely approval, but homage.”
Women also tell us that because they are wives and mothers, they have neither time nor opportunity. What folly! Have not our best women writers been wives and mothers? And are not our men writers husbands and fathers? If they are not they should be, if they would gain the clearest, truest perception of human affairs, so that they shall be qualified to speak words of wisdom to the world.
I find it difficult to say what I have to say, especially to women, since, as many know, I believe in the co-education of the Sexes. What it is desirable for a man to learn, is equally desirable for a woman. That course of training for the development of mind and heart which is especially necessary for a woman, will not come amiss for a man. There is a great deal of human nature in both men and women. Therefore, though I shall speak of only women to-day, if there is any man in my audience who can derive aught of benefit from what I may say, he is welcome to it gratuitously.
There is no reason why women should need teiching and training in these matters more than men. Still under our present social arrangements, contact with the world, and the discipline of public life, bring these lessons to men earlier than to women, who in the retirement of their homes, have less opportunity to learn them.
The saddest letters which an editor receives contain literary contributions from women who vainly hope to add a little to the comfort of poverty-stricken homes, by the use of the pen; from broken-down women, especially teachers, who have been worsted in the battle of lise, and who with health and strength fast failing, find it necessary to struggle against absolute want, from widows with little children, and no dependance,- -so they write, -but their pen; from girls, earnest and ambitious, trying to make a way for themselves in the world, and gain education and independence, and who see no way before them but through literature.
A girl of sixteen who has never seen life beyond her own father's doorway, thinks herself perfectly capable of instructing the world. A woman of uncertain age, who wants to make a little money, sends a weak dilution of ideas she has gleaned from romances and fourth-rate books of sentiment. These people all think it an easy matter to dash off an article now and then, and expect to receive fabulous prices for such articles, and are astounded, and feel persecuted when they are rejected.
First of all, it will be well to disabuse women in general of their erroneous ideas concerning a literary career. A woman must not expect to find any play when she adopts literature for a profession. A practical writer leads a life of bona fide drudgery. She may, now and then, find her pet poems, or finely written stories or essays, accepted and paid for; but if she would make an actual living at the business, she must devote herself to it, just as she would to dress-making or dish-washing. Amateur writers only possess the inestimable privilege of waiting till they are inspired before they write. The professional writer must compel the inspiration, or write without it. A woman who writes for a living must hold herself in readiness to write at any time, and at all times. She must be ready to write upon any subject, and in any style. She must send a poem by return mail, if required, or write up a whole geographical division, without previous knowledge of it, and with nothing but a guide-book and a dictionary of dates for references; and yet have her article interesting, and read as if unlimited information was withheld solely for want of space. If she be a reporter, she must be able to write upon the wing, and in the midst of crowds and confusion which would bewilder the intelligence of either the ordinary
If she be a correspondent, she must be at her pen, headache or no headache, when her more favored companions are resting from the fatigues of journeying or sight-seeing. She cannot afford to be either wearied or ill until after the inevitable letter has been written and posted.
A woman can find ample time for domestic duties, and yet produce creditable and even voluminous works with her pen. But she must be prepared to sacrifice much that most women prize. She must ignore many of the demands of society upon her; she will find little time for fancy sewing or tancy cooking--those things clear to the
man or woman.
feminine heart. If she prizes these things more than a lise devoted to the seclusion of literature, she must renounce the latter.
Vext to be considered is the kind of training a woman needs. She must have had experience in life. Without it she will have nothing of any value to offer. We never learn from the experiences of others as we do from our own. Still less are we capable of teaching, our only preparation being at second-hand through the experiences of others. Therefore, until we shall have had a moral, emotional, or intellectual history, we can have little to say worth hearing.
Next to knowledge of one's self is required knowledge of the world. Wonen who have had deep heart histories, but are totally ignorant of the life and the people around them, are capable of writing very tender and touching things; but their writings produce no effect, since they fail to comprehend the affairs of the world as they are, and consequently fail to know how to cope with evils, of the very existence of which they are sometimes ignorant. There are floods of this class of literature deluging the world; doing its little good, perhaps, to other women, who live in the same isolated, ignorant world; but doing more harm, since it not only narrows the perceptions of those who are affected by it, but gives a character to the whole of feminine literature. It is so essentially feminine-not womanly---that it is only lately that wise and intelligent women have been able to raise the standard of the writings of their sex.
The Woman writer must have more knowledge than that concerning her fellowmen and women. She must be more or less informed on all the subjects of the day. She must remember that this is a wise world, and that it is ready to pitilessly ridicule any ignorance which she may unwittingly display. A woman who knows nothing of science, art, theology, political ecovomy, history, social reform, politics, and all the rest of the important subjects which are monopolizing the thoughts of intelligent minds of the age, has no business to put her pen to paper; since these subjects are brought down to such a degree of practicality that we can express no opinion on apparently the most indifferent topic that is not nearly related to some one of these.
The woman fresh from the school-room, kitchen or nursery, who thinks herself capable of edisying the world by writing, without a previous experience equal in amount to that required to make a good loaf of bread, may feel utterly disheartened at hearing this. She has no time, she says, for this amount of preparation. Would she venture to practice medicine without the necessary amount of reading and study ? Would she dream of being allowed to turn lawyer, without a proper course of Blackstone and Coke? A successful writer must be even a greater student than a lawyer or physician, since the knowledge of the two latter must be special, while that of the former is required to be general.
The most common, and at the same time, the most unjustifiable cry is this, among women, that they have “no time” for anything-especially for self-improvement. Women—the vast majority of them -waste more time in one way or another, than would be required to redeem the reputation of the whole sex. I will not say one word now about that time spent in superduous household duties; foolishly fashionable dress-making and dressing, unreasonable demands of society and all that. I will touch only on one point.
Who read one-half, is not three-fourths, of the hundreds of thousands of sensational newspapers which are weekly published in this country-immense sheets of finelyprinted matter, which must require noticeable time for their perusal? Women. Who Hock to public libraries as soon as a flimsy, sensational English novel is republished
in this country, and make such demands for it that a large number of copies cannot supply their wants ? Women. Who buy the editions of fourth-rate, wishywashy stories that are constantly issued from the American press, the very reading of which vitiates the taste and the perceptions concerning a correct literature? Women —at least two-thirds of them, women! Into how many homes throughout our country can we enter and not find such a newspaper or such a book ? But women tell us that they have no time for Huxley, or Darwin, or Tyndall, or Herbert Spencer, or Agassiz, or Max Muller, or Froude, or Washington Irving, or Bancrost, or Gibbon; no care for Ruskin; no appreciation of George Eliot or Anthony Trollope; while they turn with undisguised disgust from theologians, ancient and modern, orthodox or heterodox. Alas! Women think they have no time for anything; but if they would devote the same time to solid, profitable reading—which should enlarge their views of life, and give them grander ideas of Science, of Nature, and of God which they now give to the lightest literature, they might every one of them become at least comparatively wise. An hour a day-and there is scarcely a woman in the world who cannot, on an average, secure at least that much time to herself—or is there is, she had better institute a revolution in her own behalf—would in ten years, turn an ignorant woman into a wise one, provided the capacity for wisdom is there.
If a woman has no taste for this kind of reading, that is quite another mütter. She may let it alone; but let her drop the pen also. She has no business to attempi to teach or enlighten the world.
After this general training is begun—I do not say accomplished, since it is never accomplished till the career of the individual is ended-after this training is begun, there is still an especial apprenticeship to be served in literature. The pen is wilful and capricious, until it is subjected to long and careful training. A woman may know perfectly well what she wants to say, but be utterly incapable of saying it in a correct and pleasing manner. This knowledge of the use of words and phrases, which is almost literally mechanical in its character, is only acquired by long and constant practice in writing, accompanied by the most pains-taking self-criticism, until style and diction are all that they should be, and need be no longer a matter of constant thought.
It takes years to accomplish this. If we inquire into the private histories of our best known writers, we will discover that most of them were accustomed to the early and constant use of the pen. This apprenticeship, which extends over years, must be literally without hope of reward, except that of the approval or admiration of partial friends. There is no trade or profession which requires so long practice before it becomes remunerative as that of literature. A man may be of service to his master, in any manual occupation, almost from the first; but the early, crude efforts of a man or woman in literature, are literally and absolutely valueless. And so they will continue to be for a long—a discouragingly long time. A woman would have time to learn any manual occupation twice, while she is preparing herself for a frequently doubtful and always precarious career in literature. I am speaking absolute truth; and I wish every woman who has founded false hopes on her pen, might hear and heed me.
There would be fewer disappointed women in the world in consequence. After all this is surmounted, comes the next difficulty. Has the woman anything to say? Has she any ftesh, earnest thoughts of her own, that the world will care to hear? Or has she the happy faculty of absorbing, assimilating, condensing and popularizing the abstract and abstruse thoughts of others ? If she can say yes to either of these questions, then God speed her. But if she finds herself falling back upon the books she has read for sentiments and ideas, and can only reproduce them