Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

come close to her own life and the lives of her nearest and dearest. There is no excuse for an education that suffers a clean-hearted girl to crown what she would call the “wild” life of her lover with a halo of romance. She should know just what such a life means before she consents to marry a man who leads or has led it. The fancied loss of refinement in her knowing is nothing to the loss of refinement that may result from her not knowing. I do not say that a woman is never justified in marrying such a man; for she may be: I say that she should know what she is doing ; that the new physical and mental training of women should not suffer them to be in dark ignorance of the vital truths and the vital dangers in their very womanhood.

In speaking of the relation between women and men, I pass from morals to manners. The wonderful femininity of a girls' college may make girls sufficient unto themselves; or it may make them overvalue men as men (a boys' college has corresponding dangers). Too often among the girls of to-day the new and healthy freedom of young women longs to exercise itself, not in the development of women as women, but in the assimilating of women to men. This assimilating belongs to modern life in general and not to college life in particular. In one of Miss Ferrier's novels a gentleman walking with two ladies in broad daylight gives an arm to each. A generation or two ago a gentleman who did not offer his arm to a lady in the evening would hardly have been a gentleman at all; now (I say it with regret) a gentleman who does offer it is either rustic or old-fashioned. The girl of to-day has more independent manners and, happily, has along with them a freer life. She may ride a horse without an accompanying groom; she may bestride a horse; she may row and run and swim and take her part in a hundred athletic exercises without being one whit less a woman: but some things she had better leave to men. Fiercely competitive athletics have their dangers for men; but they develop manly strength : for women their dangers are greater; and the qualities that they tend to develop are not womanly. Outside of athletics, too, girls who imitate men are prone to imitate their inferiorities. I am so old-fashioned as to believe that girls who smoke cigarettes are degenerate; that girls who use the rough language of men are, as some one has put it, “no gentlemen;" and that even college girls who steal signs are thieves. I do not deny that the inborn right of woman to smoke cigarettes and steal signs is equal to that of man; yet, if the sexes are to be equalized, I could wish it were by the refining of men and not by the vulgarizing of women. The modern girl whose early manners are moulded by “ Alice in Wonderland,”

wherein everybody flatly contradicts everybody else, and who, as she grows up, meets constant temptation to masculine inferiority, runs the risk of losing that gentleness which is not merely one of her charms but one source of her strength. .

When a man whom we have learned to respect tells a story such as men often tell among themselves, he is not quite the same man to us that he was before ; when women to whom we look for all that is pure and high fall short of the standard we have believed to be theirs, much of their power is gone forever. Is it just to expect of women more than we expect of men? Possibly not just, but better than just. To hold either men or women responsible for the moral character of all persons with whom they deal — of all actors, for example, whom they see on the stage — would be worse than absurd; yet it is a constant source of wonder to me what theatrical shows good

women will go to, and will cheerfully discuss as the natural amusements of ladies and gentlemen. So, too, with reading. Some women, no doubt, do not care for Browning; and some are ashamed to speak of him for fear they shall be called pedantic: yet few are ashamed to know all the transient novels of the day; and some are chagrined if they cannot keep abreast of the stories in the leading magazines, as some are troubled if they do not know what is going on at the principal theatres. You educated women can exert a vast influence on the reading taste of the next generation - against vulgarity and unscrupulousness in what is called “journalism;" against novels and plays that tend to undermine the sacredness of marriage; against plays in which low women drilled by lower men are the chief attraction: and you can exert this influence, not by public invectives which advertise and encourage what they con

« AnteriorContinuar »