Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Previous Chapter Table of Contents Next Chapter
Always a Chance.
Whatever the obstacles which confronted
women who had in any erred and
desired to reform fifty years ago, it is an indisput-
able fact that to-day the world is not merciless
toward such a woman.
    It gives her a chance to live down her mistakes.
She does not tread a path strewn with roses;  yet
she is not pursued by fiery toungued serpents of con-
demnation at every step, as of old.  Were the
"Scarlett Letter" to appear for the first time to-day,
we would condemn it as an impossible tale.  Time
was when it required heroism for any man or woman
to stand forth as the champion and friend of women
whose record bore any blemish.  To-day scores of
good people are always ready to give her a helping
hand and a cheering word, though absolute social
recognition be not accorded.
    Even that is not impossible if she possesses fam-
ily prestige.
    Among our fashionable people, more than one
woman could be pointed out whose indiscretions had
blemished her reputation for a time, but whose
social influence was sufficient to make the world
forgive, if not forget, her errors.
    It is a curious fact, too, that it is usually men, not
women, in this age who place the greatest obstacles
in the way of a woman's reform.
    The world used to bemoan woman's inhumanity
to woman, but any observer to-day will find that
facts do not verify the accusation against us; nor
do they illustrate man's greater generosity and
breadth of judgement.
    A wife is often ready to call upon some woman
whose reputation has suffered by gossip's tongue,
and the husband objects.
    The wife says:  "We do not know that these
stories are true--she may be the victim of malice,
and at all events she is conducting herself discreetly
now, and the association with good women might
encourage her to continue."
    But the husband shakes his head:  "You would
be more likely to pull yourself down than to pull
her up in the public opinion," he says.  "Better go
slowly in that direction,"
    A man often seems to befriend a woman who has
been gossiped about by appearing with her in pub-
lic; but at the same time he would not allow his
sister or mother to be seen with her.
    It is a love of notoriety, not a spirit of chivalry,
which actuates him.
    Sometimes, however, he marries her, and then he
is indignant if other men's mothers and sisters do
not call upon her .  The fact that he considers her
good enough to be his wife, he feels should render
her good enough for all the world.  If he is strong
in his social position, he usually succeeds in making
the public accept his belief.
    Women do not sit in moated granges or ivied
towers and grow melancholy mad over old sorrows
and sins, as they did in earlier times.  They leave
the scene of their troubles as soon as possible and
go out into some of the numerous avenues open
to them.  They let the grass grow over the
graves of past follies, and claim the privilege
men have always enjoyed of beginning new
lives.  Of course, no woman ever forgets a grave
of this kind as men forget them.  As nature
placed greater physical obstacles and penalties in
the way for her, if she transgressed, so it gave her
mind a more pursuant memory and her soul a more
relentless remorse.
    From these she cannot escape, however she may
be released from the persecutions of the world.
    Woman's greatest punishment for folly comes not
from the speech of society, but from the voice of
her own higher self.
    When time or emotion silences this voice from
within, she will cease to be a woman.
    But so far as the world goes, there is almost as fair
an opportunity given woman as man to-day to live
down early errors.

Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.

Previous Chapter
Return to the Table of Contents
Next Chapter