Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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Love of Dress.
Woman's love of dress is always a subject of
sarcasm and jest to the world at large.
    Clergymen and  priests decry it; and references to
Eve and the wicked fig leaf have become platitudes.
    Yes, woman continues to adorn herself.
    And wherefore?
    From whence came the instinct?  Woman herself
does not know; but without question, she has not
personal adornment, just as the flower developed
colored petals, that she might hand down her pecul-
iarities to future generations.
    Woman, originally, was unclothed.  The flower,
originally, was without petals.  But as time went
on, cunning flowers observed that the insects who
visited them in search of honey, were most attracted
by brilliant masses of color, which the stamens of
some plants displayed.
    At the same time they observed that the plants
so visited were fertilized by the insects, and their
species perpetuated.
    Then into the mystical hearts of the flowers
crept the ambitious desire to be brilliant and gay in
color, to attract the bee and the beetle, and to sur-
vive in their children.  The more they thought
about it, the more effort they made to achieve their
aim, and so their stamens broadened and flattened
into petals, and strange new colors began to tint
those yellow petals; blue because it pleased the bee,
purple to attract the beetle, and red to suit the fancy
of a meat loving blue bottle fly.
    This is the accepted doctrine of men who have
devoted their lives to the study of plants.
    It is a scientific fact.  The ways of women have
ever been like the ways of flowers, and the natures
of men and insects have never been widely different.
    Man seeks woman for her sweetness; but it did
not require a long period of time for some observ-
ing members of the fair sex to discover that beauty,
rather than sweet qualities, attracted men.  Where
beauty was lacking, its effect was produced by
    So dress and fashions were invented, even as the
petals of the flowers were developed.
    It was not from vanity that the flowers desired
the visits of the bees.   It was from no unworthy
motive that woman sought the attention of man--it
was from an impulse which underlies the universe
and actuates every atom composing solar sys-
    The desire for perpetuation is inherent in every-
thing which lives.  It is the hub on which the wheel
of the world turns.
    The flower to-day blooms in variegated beauty
because its early primitive ancestors desired
offspring.  The woman to-day adorns her person
with the devices of fashion because her wild ances-
tors felt an ambition similar to that of the plant.
And neither is conscious of the cause of its becom-
ing attire.
    In these days of independent women, it is almost
amusing to be asked seriously, "Should a woman be
trusted with money, and are all women natural
    Such a query belongs to the days of our grand-
mothers.  And yet, while the world moves, there
remains always a portion of humanity who seem
unconscious of it.
    There are men to-day, ignorant of the fact that
woman has a right to use the profits of her own
labor; and stranger yet, there are women who are
equally ignorant of it.
    In the next quarter of a century, if such speci-
mens of humanity are found, they will be classed
with the fossil remains of a lost race.
    There is no doubt that many, perhaps the greater
number of women, are inclined to use money
    But this is not due to the sex; it is owing to the
financial position in which the sex has been
    Men begin in early boyhood to buy and sell, to
make bargains, and to learn the value of money.
    Women in the past were accustomed to having
their purchases made from childhood to wifehood by
their parents, and afterward the husband held the
family purse.
    It is not a matter of wonder, if a woman who has
lived half her lifetime without handling money,
attempts to become a financier, that she makes
errors of judgment.
    It is not surprising if her desires outran her bank-
    The same peculiarity is often observed in the sons
of rich men who, being unused to responsibility in
money matters, finally come into the possession of
    Every daughter of parents in comfortable circum-
stances ought, at the age of twelve or fourteen, to
be given an allowance for her small needs.  She
should be advised regarding its use, and her tenden-
cies should be carefully observed by her elders.  If
she shows an inclination toward improvidence, it
should be checked; if toward parsimony, it should
be corrected.
    All her shopping should be done under her per-
sonal supervision until she understands the costs of
materials and the price of labor.  As soon as these
matters are thoroughly impressed upon her mind,
she should be given her allowance for dress, and
the responsibility of planning and purchasing left
with her.
    The girl who receives this sort of training does
not develop into a wasteful housekeeper.  When
she marries, she is well fitted to take the reins of
household management into her own hands, and
give comfort and satisfaction to her family upon a
reasonable, often surprisingly small, income.
    It is seldom a young man stops to consider the
question of a girl's knowledge of practical matters
when he chooses a wife.  It is not until after the
honeymoon that the subject interests him.
    If by a misuse of money she disappoints his
expectations of perfection, he either scolds or sub-
mits, as his nature may incline him to do.  What he
should do, is to place a stipulated sum in her hands
each week to run the household machinery, and to
advise and assist her in her purchases and accounts,
until she receives the financial training she lacked
    Of course, it would be a tax upon him, but then, if
he had entered into a life partnership in business
with a man, and his partner disappointed him, he
would think it worth while to use every effort to
make him what he desired.
    Why not be as ready to make the wife a "help-
Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.
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