Woman’s Duties

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker
April 6, 1861

Woman’s Duties
My subject you may call a trite one, and such I fancy it will be unto the end of time, if the newspapers of our land continue, as persistently as ever, to herald forth the duties, obligations, and dependency of woman. I must say I have become perfectly disgusted with this constant prating. One might as well imagine that woman was utterly ignorant of her peculiar duties and adaptations, and that the rest of the race, in commiseration thereof, had set them selves up as her instructors. Now, with all due deference to the wondrous knowledge possessed by the “lords of creation,” it certainly seems to me that females are usually quite as intelligent as the other sex, and I imagine they know about as well how to “act well their part in life.”
We are told again and again, that home happiness depends mostly upon the wife, mother, sister, and daughter. Don’t we know this? Don’t we know that after a day has been spent in the discharge of the many wearisome household duties, and the husband and father, sons and brothers, return from their labor, or, as in frequently the case, from lounging in some public place talking politics, – listening to or retailing scandle, – don’t we know that, under such circumstances, some tact is necessary to meet dissatisfaction and discord with content and pleasantness? to have things so righted round, and straightened out, that home shall present a cheerful aspect?
Besides this, there is a wonderful cry among some about the dependence of woman upon man. It sounds in our ears from the Atlantic to the Pacific, – by priest and people. Why, they say, of course, they are particularly dependant [sic] upon us, – of course, they Bible says do. I have known men that could quoite only one passage of scripture correctly, and that you will find in Collossians, iiic, 18v. Moreover, common sense teaches it. If this is common sense, I am glad I was endowed with it.
Now, we know that we are, in some sense, dependant creatures, – that one person must rely, somewhat, upon another; but the wife is no more dependant on her husband, than he upon his wife. Supposing his earning do provide the provisions and clothing, what’s it all going to amount to if his wife does not know how to use these things to the best advantage? How is a man to gain wealth, if his wife or daughters spend faster than he can earn. Many a man has acquired wealth who never would but for the economy and thrift of his industrious wife, and many are struggling now to provide the mere necessities of life, who might have been prospering, had they, in the management of their business, heeded the advice of the wife. But, dear me, no, – they are not going to have a woman interfering in their affairs; and thus they often come to be dependant upon the exertions of their “better half,” for the support of themselves and families.
They talk to us, too, of our great influence upon society, – how essential it is that we should be models of purity and goodness, so that all who come within this magical influence shall be metamorphosed there-by. Now, how potent soever this may be in some cases, when I see the sons of some of the best mothers following so closely in the footsteps of upworthy fathers, I am convinced it is necessary somebody should be good besides the mother.
When clouds of darkness and sorrow surround the pathway, who endures best the blast of adversity, – is it man? Nay. In the severe trials of life, the stern man is often the soonest shaken, and finds himself dependent upon the weak woman for aid and sympathy, – the closest observers of human nature have testified to the truth of this.
Some talk much of the great necessity of woman being Christians. Is it because the soal of man is less precious, – because he is holier by nature, or because his responsibility to the Creator is less? – that he considers it so much more oblicatory upon females to yieled their wills to the Saviour? Such is not the case. They know that the influence of the Gosple is to make one meek, patient, long-suffering, under all circumstances, and such a spirit as this they like to deal with. One that will not conflit with their pet whims and might wills. In most instances, when you really probe to the bottom of the thing, you will find it is all selfishness which prompts this cry about the great adaptation of religion ot the hear and life of woman. That there are noble exceptions I grant, but among the masses they are few.
You men who are so supremely particular about your food, your clothes, and, in fact, everything, – who want your wives and children always to be apple-pie order, and think they can keep so, no matter what engaged in, how do you suppose you would manage to gratify your exquisite taste, without the aid of some one or more of those depenant beings called women? Don’t you believe there would be some muddy coffee, – some burnt cakes, – some ragged garments, and some tumbled linen? It really distresses me to think of it. But, after all, what’s the use of talking or writign? To be sure it frees my mind a little, but that is not much consolation, when the conviction is constantly forcing itself upon me that,
“A man convinced against his will,
Is of the same opinion still.”
Gainesville, N.Y., 1861. Maude Elliott

Read more “Their Life; Their Words

Published in: on May 1, 2014 at 4:06 pm  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Still very relevant today, sadly…!

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