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She track'd the feet on the sand,
The small bare feet on the sand, To the very verge of the foaming surge,
Where the tide's flow narrow'd the land.
She saw the prints in the wave,
The small prints beneath the wave; And a frantic cry pierc'd the morning sky,
Making the echoes rave.
They bore her from the foam,
Half senseless, away from the foam, And the waves seem'd to say, in their mournful play,
“Oh, when will father come home?"
A house beside the sea,
A small house by the sea,
He had found her down on the shore,
On the wave-worn edge of the shore, As homeward the tide, in its swollen pride,
His boat in the morning bore.
HOW A WOMAN MAY LIVE.
There is a large number of women, who either get more help and pity than fairly fall to their share, or are miserable, poor, and suffering, beyond the ordinary lot of civilised humanity. It includes all unmarried women who have not inherited sufficient means of living, except servants, dressmakers, and nurses, besides a great number of married ones whose husbands do not provide for them. All modes of earning money that offer to women above the class of milliners, are so hard, so wretched, so underpaid, as apparently to justify continual protest and complaint. As a general rule, the female half of the middle class must
eir opportunities much fewer than those of the class beneath them, for it is much more common among them to live on charity, even the charity of strangers; and it is more frequently a question with them whether they shall make any effort at all to rid their relations of the burden of their maintenance.
The grounds for this hesitation are one good and several bad ones.
Prominent among the bad ones, is their naïve belief that they are much more to be pitied in consequence of their better education, and that therefore it must be somebody's business—they don't know whose-to rescue them from the common lot.
Now the contrary is the case. Education can never be in their way, nor ever a disadvantage. If they are less able to bear poverty than women of the class beneath them, it is that they are worse educated than these. This is often the case in the matter of bodily training and habits of courageous self-dependence. But if they decline the pity of the world for their misfortunes, they should not ask it for their faults, or for those of their parents. There is no misfortune in having to leave off bad habits and adopt more healthy ones. The real sufferings of poverty, the inferior diet, the exhausting labour, the monotonous life, the confined mental horizon, are no worse for them than for those born to such evils. Nay, in many respects, the educated have the advantage. If their more favourable position has really taught them anything, they are better off than those without the knowledge. If they have led a more comfortable life, they ought to come to the struggle stronger, healthier, wiser, than those who have had to fight all their days. It may be they will miss the society of cultivated people. Let them ask themselves whether they would rather be without cultivation or with it, now that they must be without society. If they call the cultivation a misfortune, they have not so much of it as to call for pity. Let them be assured that in consequence of their past advantages, so far as they have been well used, they can face the evils of poverty better than those who have suffered from it all their lives.
Another reason for hesitating to work, is one so indefinite as to be difficult to express, and of course difficult to combat. Yet it has immense power over people who once yield to it, though it is one of the silliest that could be urged for the course they take. It may be defined as an innate conviction of the disgrace of confessing poverty.
The extent to which poverty is silently borne and concealed, by women who have been better off, is a standing wonder to the healthier and more fortunate part of mankind. It might be a virtue of the highest kind. It might bring a martyr's crown and eternal happiness, to starve quietly with no serious effort to avert starvation. Women accept years of misery, closed by lingering death, as a Parsee widow accepts consummation; the motive for all this silent endurance being to preserve a prestige, which, so far as it depends on wealth, they have lost already; and which, if it depends on character, they would not lose by earning their living. Yet this unwritten social law is much more zealously obeyed than either heaven or human government. It may be thought that this is involuntary; that the victims lose their energy by the blow of their misfortune, and that the deadening effect of want prevents their regaining it. But this does not account for half the wonderful phenomenon. It is a law, senseless, useless, cruel, as the burning of widows alive, but it gets obeyed. To induce the sufferers to disregard it, it needs to begin earlier, and instil a little reason and Christianity into the mind before it gets taken possession of by the mischievous superstition.
Sometimes this concealment is justified by the belief that to maintain the appearance of greater wealth than they have, is to keep the prestige of a higher position, and that this appearance is a means of securing the reality which they have lost. It is needless to say it will do no such thing. But to those who have the deliberate intention of regaining what they have lost by this sort of deception, no arguments need be used. It will take the misery of a lifetime to drive the falsehood out of them, and they will probably get it.
Another reason why women often hesitate to employ themselves is, the determination of their male relations that they shall do nothing of the sort. Whatever doctrine of justice or kindness to women may be preached, it is impossible to prevent the greater number of men coming to the very legitimate conclusion that they have a right to the obedience of those whom they maintain. Men, like women, are liable to the hallucination concerning the disgrace of poverty, and the advantages to be gained by concealing it. Such men think themselves wronged when those who depend on them do not assist in their deception. They will give no aid to those who injure them in such a way. On condition of obedience, they will provide for the wants of their dependents in proportion to what they have to spare. If they have little or nothing, they will not, therefore, give up their right of dictating to them. The terms they virtually offer are, if you offend me I place you in danger of starvation. None of my knowledge, none of my money, none of my influence, shall be used for your benefit. If you attempt to earn the small uncertain emolument that lies within your reach, you must, for the future, depend on yourself. Even this permission to depend on yourself, is only given because it cannot be withheld. It means, you may do what I cannot hinder you from doing.
This despotism gives the woman but little suffering when she is provided with plenty of means. But it is equally practised when the recompense of submission fails.
To these poor women, who suffer all the hardships of Juggernaut worship, without belief in the idol to whom they are sacrificed, the greatest of blessings would be the knowledge of a bread-winning trade.
The one good reason why penniless women continue to live in idleness is, the little they can earn. Their relations earn from a few hundreds to a few thousands a year, and there seems an incongruity not to be got over in the sisters, daughters, or widows, of these men, beginning to work harder and longer for one tenth of the money. Indeed it is a received doctrine among our large middle class that women cannot earn money. It is not wonderful, therefore, that they should rarely think of trying. But before this reason can justify them in making no effort, there ought to be another thing true which is not ; that those women are always supplied with money without earning. As this manner of coming by it fails them pretty often, the incongruity must be disregarded, and the necessity acknowledged of doing what they can.
In proposing another means of profitable labour, the writer must be understood to be addressing only educated and conscientious women. The course recommended will only be followed by those who are courageous and high-principled enough to face inconvenience, and practise self-denial for conscience sake. They must believe in the duty and necessity of earning something; and to do this, they must see the wrong of never looking forward, the injustice of being always a burden, the temptation, the almost certain degredation of dependence. To them it will be enough to say that the means lie within their reach of rescuing themselves from charity and from want, of providing for age and sickness, of securing wherewith to help a neighbour ; and that to do this they need not begin by clamouring for help, or asking pity for their unfortunate position.
Now since there are so few trades open to women, the gains from each are easily compared. For one woman who can earn £100 a year by teaching, there are twenty who could earn it by retailing shoes, drapery, millinery, jewellery, &c., anything not too hot or too heavy.
young lady is fortunate enough to find employment as a teacher at twenty, and never to be without it till fifty, she may accumulate from £600 to £1,000; but this is almost impossible good fortune. To do this she must have first-rate health and honesty, steady good conduct, good temper, and industry. All these good qualities dedicated to a retail business, would produce five-fold the result in the same length of time. It is not in the least exaggerating to say that the persistency of character, the self-denying economy, and the health and good fortune that are needed to enable a woman engaged in teaching to scrape together £1,000 in twenty years, would enable her to accumulate it in ten, in a retail shop. For it must be remembered, that the small earnings of a teacher can only fructify at about 5 per cent. per annum, while a trader learns, by the very practice of her trade, to put her savings to a greater profit.
In every country town in England, there is a man or two to be found who has earned enough in a retail shop to maintain a family, and one or two more who are in process of doing sa Are these men, as a rule, thought superior in education, character, or ability, to those who seek employment as governesses? That there is no peculiarly masculine quality required, is proved by many a wife who manages her husband's business, and many a widow who continues it after his death.
It will be asked, is no special education required? Are reading, writing, and arithmetic, enough?
There is, no doubt, an education requisite, for either managing a retail business, or for teaching in the best manner; but since the class of women in question are prepared for neither one nor the other, and must begin with such knowledge as they have, why should they choose the overstocked unprofitable employment? True, it requires judgment, constancy, character, and a number of other good qualities, to succeed in trade, but can a governess succeed without these or with less ?
“But to begin such an undertaking a woman must step out of her natural sphere." This is a veiled contradiction of what has just been said. It means either that the work required in a shop is unsuitable for her, or that there is some moral wrong involved in the doing of it. To the first meaning, it is enough to answer that she won't be out of her natural sphere, and that the work is very suitable. To the second, it is only suspected to be wrong because women don't do it. This is, unfortunately, very true. “Women don't do it.” They don't do anything by which they can earn so handsome a competence in so short a time. If,
a therefore, they confine themselves to what women do, they must remain poor. No employment can be mentioned or invented to which the