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A Rock Ahead
by [?]

Having had occasion several times during this past season, to pass by the larger stores in the vicinity of Twenty-third Street, I have been struck more than ever, by the endless flow of womankind that beats against the doors of those establishments. If they were temples where a beneficent deity was distributing health, learning, and all the good things of existence, the rush could hardly have been greater. It saddened me to realize that each of the eager women I saw was, on the contrary, dispensing something of her strength and brain, as well as the wearily earned stipend of the men of her family (if not her own), for what could be of little profit to her.

It occurred to me that, if the people who are so quick to talk about the elevating and refining influences of women, could take an hour or two and inspect the centres in question, they might not be so firm in their beliefs. For, reluctant as I am to acknowledge it, the one great misfortune in this country, is the unnatural position which has been (from some mistaken idea of chivalry) accorded to women here. The result of placing them on this pedestal, and treating them as things apart, has been to make women in America poorer helpmeets to their husbands than in any other country on the face of the globe, civilized or uncivilized.

Strange as it may appear, this is not confined to the rich, but permeates all classes, becoming more harmful in descending the social scale, and it will bring about a disintegration of our society, sooner than could be believed. The saying on which we have all been brought up, viz., that you can gauge the point of civilization attained in a nation by the position it accords to woman, was quite true as long as woman was considered man’s inferior. To make her his equal was perfectly just; all the trouble begins when you attempt to make her man’s superior, a something apart from his working life, and not the companion of his troubles and cares, as she was intended to be.

When a small shopkeeper in Europe marries, the next day you will see his young wife taking her place at the desk in his shop. While he serves his customers, his smiling spouse keeps the books, makes change, and has an eye on the employees. At noon they dine together; in the evening, after the shop is closed, are pleased or saddened together over the results of the day. The wife’s dot almost always goes into the business, so that there is a community of interest to unite them, and their lives are passed together. In this country, what happens? The husband places his new wife in a small house, or in two or three furnished rooms, generally so far away that all idea of dining with her is impossible. In consequence, he has a “quick lunch” down town, and does not see his wife between eight o’clock in the morning and seven in the evening. His business is a closed book to her, in which she can have no interest, for her weary husband naturally revolts from talking “shop,” even if she is in a position to understand him.

His false sense of shielding her from the rude world makes him keep his troubles to himself, so she rarely knows his financial position and sulks over his “meanness” to her, in regard to pin-money; and being a perfectly idle person, her days are apt to be passed in a way especially devised by Satan for unoccupied hands. She has learned no cooking from her mother; “going to market” has become a thing of the past. So she falls a victim to the allurements of the bargain-counter; returning home after hours of aimless wandering, irritable and aggrieved because she cannot own the beautiful things she has seen. She passes the evening in trying to win her husband’s consent to some purchase he knows he cannot afford, while it breaks his heart to refuse her–some object, which, were she really his companion, she would not have had the time to see or the folly to ask for.