Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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American Mothers.
    The subject of dutiful daughters is as old as the
hills, but there are a good many old subjects
which need repeating for the benefit of growing
generations--just as the old, old story of spring is
repeated by the sun to the earth, century after cen-
tury, and just as the waves are forever repeating the
story of ebb and flow to the shore.
    Charming as the American girl is acknowledged
to be the wide world over, she is not infrequently a
most undutiful daughter.  I doubt if under any
other flag which floats to the breeze can such
examples of rudeness to parents be found as under
the starred and striped emblem of American inde-
    An only daughter of wealthy parents was indis-
posed and remained on her couch until midafter-
noon, receiving one or two friends meanwhile.  She
wore a charming silk negligee and presented a
pleasing appearance of youth and sweetness as she
sat propped up by white pillows, about which a
devoted mother fluttered.  But her charms dimin-
ished, indeed quite vanished to my eyes, when she
called out suddenly and sharply: "Mamma, I asked
you half an hour ago to bring my slippers.  I
wish you wouldn't keep me waiting so."  And the
devoted mother apologized humbly for her negli-
gence, and seemed anxious to be forgiven.
    If the slippers had been brought and applied in
the good, old-fashioned manner, it would have been
better for the daughter than the apology.
    I am happy to say that I know of one man who
was wise enough to abruptly discontinue his atten-
tions to a young lady--a most beautiful creature,
too--whom he heard speak sharply and disrespect-
fully to her mother on several occasions.
    The man was rich, attractive, and handsome.
The girl was poor, and anxious to marry well.  She
was young and beautiful, and relatives bestowed
an education and opportunities of travel upon her.
The man was fascinated by her grace and charms,
but he was sensible enough to realize that a girl
who was an irritable and rude daughter would be
an irritable and rude wife.  So the courts are saved
one divorce case, and the lawyers are cheated of
their fees by this man's timely good sense.
    Of course, the fact that a woman is a mother does
not necessarily render her lovable, and we cannot
be blamed for not loving the unlovable.  Duty has
nothing to do with one's affections, though the
affections have a great deal to do with duty.  Love
cannot be coerced.  It is governed by spiritual,
mental, and physical laws, but not by blood
    Not infrequently we see mothers who mentally
and physically antagonize their daughters, but
there is a spiritual law, as well as the law of good
taste, which should compel a daughter to be respect-
ful and polite to her mother, even if she cannot give
her love or admiration.
    I wish fond mammas would try to prevent instead
of so frequently aiding the present tendency of
young boys to dependence and effeminacy.
    There is nothing in the social atmosphere just
now to stimulate young men to much manliness of
character.  Women are aggressively independent,
and are every day pushing themselves into places
and professions heretofore occupied by men.  There
is little call for the chivalric man of old, the provider
and the protector.
    It is not surprising that a race of inert and unam-
bitious youths should spring us, who look to a
wealthy marriage as a means of support.
    But at least mothers need not aid and abet this
tendency to be weak and dependent by early train-
ing or lack of training.
    However beautiful may be a little boy's curls,
they ought to go when the first trousers come.  Let
the little man realize that feminine locks belonged
with skirts, and that now he is attired in masculine
garments he must be manly in every respect.  He
must carry the purse and pay carfare when he goes
out with mamma, and he must ask the conductor to
stop the car, or give such orders to the coachman as
can be intrusted to his young lips, all with the idea
of impressing upon his mind as early as possible
that he is a man, and therefore to be depended
upon, and that he must lead, and not be led, take
the care, not be taken care of.  Demand created
supply, and a little boy leaned upon in this way
from childhood would, I believe, in most cases take
pride in becoming a bulwark of strength for those
dear to him as he grew older.
    One cannot help the feeling that American
motherhood is a good deal of a farce, when such
conditions exist as were revealed by the death of
Aimee South at the Hotel Victor without a suspicion
in the mind of the mother.  What can mothers be
thinking about, I wonder, who live under the same
roof with their daughters year in and year out, and
yet know less of their hearts than they know of the
mental moods of Hagar in the wilderness or Rachel
mourning for her children because they were not!
    I should think it would be a mother's first pleas-
ure and interest in life to get on intimate terms with
her daughter, to obtain her confidence, to lead her
to talk of herself, and to lay bare her heart to one
whose natural duty it should be to show sympathy
and to give counsel.  Where these close relations
exist with mothers and daughters, I do not believe
it is possible for a girl to become entangled in an
unfortunate love affair without the mother's knowl-
edge.  Love may go where it is sent, and the best
mothered girl in the world might conceive an
unwise passion, but the maternal instincts, if prop-
erly alert, would be aware of it, and the maternal
sympathy and solicitude would avert its culminating
in a tragedy.
    I confess that a good, strong sentiment of disgust
mingles with my pity when I read of some distressed
mother of an erring daughter, who declares that she
was not aware that her daughter even had an
    Why do parents so quickly forget their own
youth?  It is incredible that the sweetest and most
romantic part of life should fade from memory so
wholly as it seems to do with the majority of mar-
ried people.  It is because the passion of youth is a
sort of intoxication, which, like the drunkenness of
wine, blurs the memory.
    I have observed that it is not infrequent for men
who have sowed a full crop of wild oats, to show
both amazement and indignation when a daughter
even indicates a propensity to admire the opposite
sex.  Yet the laws of nature are constantly proving
that daughters more frequently than sons resemble
their fathers.  One would think that a man who had
passed though the whirlwinds of passionate youth
might consider it a sacred duty to carefully guide
and tenderly protect his children through a similar
period, not by keeping them under lock and key,
but by giving them well-chosen associates and talk-
ing with them freely and wisely regarding these
    Really the American fathers and mothers are droll
beings.  One would find them very amusing were
it not that the farce they play so often ends in a
    I met a beautiful and highly cultured young
woman not many years ago, who impressed me as a
girl with a secret or a history.  She lived alone with
her mother, who confessed to me that "Marie had
always been a strange girl and hard to under-
stand.  She fancied she had passed through some
love affair while at school which had prematurely
saddened her, though she had never mentioned it."
    One day I invited the young lady to dine with me.
I was quite alone when she came.  Before she had
been fifteen minutes in my warm rooms, I discovered
that she was too intoxicated to sit up.  Several
hours passed ere she recovered her senses suffi-
ciently to tell me her history.  A kind hearted but
unwise old lady where she boarded while at school
taught her to take a hot whisky "toddy" when very
tired with her studies.  She had acquired the taste
for intoxicants, and the habit had become a fixed one.
    "I think mamma suspects that I take stimulants
at times," she said, but she has never spoken of
it to me, and I have never had the courage to tell
her about it, or to ask her to help me to overcome
the habit."
    The girl made me promise solemnly not to tell
her mother of the occurrence in my rooms, as it
would unnecessarily mortify her.  I gave the prom-
ise only after the girl gave me her oath not to touch
stimulants again.  I lost sight of her for nearly a
year.  Then she drifted across my path again, a
ruined, desperate creature, crushed with the most
awful tragedy that can come into a young woman's
life--a tragedy directly due to her habit of using
stimulants.  Of course, I was sorry for the mother.
And yet, is pity due a mother who could live under
the same roof for two or three years with a daugh-
ter who was a victim of drink without suspecting it,
or, if she suspected, who felt the matter was too
delicate a one to mention?
    Another young girl whom I knew, fell ill of a ter-
rible complication of liver maladies.
    "How could you let your daughter get into such
a state?" asked the physician of the mother.
    "Really, doctor," the mother replied with great
dignity, "I brought up my daughter to be too
modest to talk to any one--even to me-- of stom-
achs, livers, and digestive organs."
    So the daughter died, but the modesty of the
family was sustained.
Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.
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