Among the many privileges which the present
Dangers of New Ideas.
era accords woman is that of "developing the
best within her," to use her own favorite phraseology.
It was the generally accepted idea in
that a woman must keep to her limited domain of
wife or spinster, dependent upon husband or rela-
tives for home and occupation, no matter what
wealth of talent in other directions cried for utter-
ance in her soul.
The girl who utilized her talents outside
domestic sphere was regarded as "strong-minded"
and masculine, if not worse; and the married
woman who dared write, sing, act or recite de-
That was one extreme. We now seem
reached the other.
There is an idea prevalent to-day that
it is the
duty of every woman to seek to "express" an in-
definable something within her which shall estab-
lish her individuality.
To make "the most of herself" is every
ideal. It is an excellent one; but in pursuing it
she needs to be very certain that her conception of
"most" would not be estimated as "least" in the
eyes of wisdom.
In America this desire for individuality
is so prev-
alent that domestic obligations are frequently put
aside as easily as household furniture is stored,
while the wife and mother sets forth in search of
"her best self."
In olden times when a woman forfeited
its duties for a career, other wives and mothers
turned their backs upon her.
But the sex is broadening in sympathy
gence, and its charity is covering a multitude of sins.
A woman who has divorced two or three
and shifted her maternal obligations upon other
shoulders and purses, in order that she may be free
and untrammeled in her pursuit of her idea, meets
with a great deal of consideration at the hands of
her sister women to-day.
"She had to pass through just those
they say, "in order to evolve."
"What does a husband or a child or two
in the great scheme of self-development?" says
another. "A woman must do what is for her own
highest good, no matter what sacrifices are made in
A somewhat conservative lady spoke with
of a friend who had devastated two homes.
"Don't think of her in that way," said
"She is a woman of talent, and I feel she has a
message to give the world yet. She is struggling
toward the light through all this experience."
This liberality of judgment is more
than the casting of stones.
But its philosophy is a dangerous one
freely to ambitious and not always well-balanced
It is charitable and kinds to believe
fall was but a step toward a higher state of devel-
opment; but it becomes a pernicious and dangerous
doctrine when a woman begins to think her own
development demands a similar sacrifice of near
duties and responsibilities.
There is an elastic tendency to this
ophy which enables the woman of lawless impulses
to hide her adventurous propensities under its
The liberal thought of the day regarding
is full of hope for the erring and remorseful soul;
but it is, too, when carried to an extreme, full of
danger for the weak and unstable, and it is an ex-
cuse for the selfish.
I do not believe "the best" within a
ever developed, save through doing with all her
might the nearest duties first.
Of course, there may be a diversity
regarding those duties, but one's own conscience
and common sense should be the guide.
It is not a duty to sacrifice life and
strength to the
service of a brutal, selfish and vicious husband, who
has broken every vow he took at the alter, yet in-
sists that his wife shall live up to the letter of hers.
In such a case it is a woman's nearest
duty to get
as far away from the man as possible and not lay
her future upon the same pyre which has consumed
But the woman who allows her ambition
vanity to lead her to sacrifice a good husband's hap-
piness, merely because she feels she can shine on the
heights of art with a more effulgent light alone (or
with another man) violates a principle which dis-
turbs the harmony of society. When she relin-
quishes her children for any aim or ambition, how-
ever exalted, no matter what her attainments may
be, she has but repeated Esau's bargain of old.
"Look what she has achieved!"
I have heard
women say of one who had acquired fame and gold.
"She had to fling away all trammels and ties in order
to become just what she is."
But on a good man's life and on the
lives of inno-
cent children rested a shadow which in some lights
seemed to be a stain.
Was her fame and her gold worth the
made others pay?
There was a man who succeeded in an
petty ambition from our standpoint, but no smaller
than the founding of an empire or the winning of
immortal fame must seem in God's eyes.
This man wanted the road to nearest
three miles distant, to run through his property, be-
cause it would bring him an amount of money which
seemed like a fortune in his small eyes. The man's
property was all hills and valleys.
The Selectman planned to have the road
around these hills, over level meadows.
But the man was strong willed, persistent,
ing. He succeeded and gloried in his success.
That was years ago. To-day thousands
become knee sprung and lame and spavined, scores
of vehicles break down, wheelman meet with acci-
dents and the nerves of summer residents and tour-
ists become unstrung because of these hills and val-
leys which must be traversed to reach the town, the
trolley of the train.
Was his success worth to the man the
humanity has paid for it?
Before we lay out any road to the heights
glory or of power, it would be well for us to ask our-
selves whose peace, comfort or happiness must be
sacrificed by it.
It is our privilege to give up personal
personal happiness, if we choose to do so, in order to
accomplish a certain purpose.
It is not our privilege or our right
others upon the alter of our success.
There is no success in any line of art
repay a woman for the knowledge that her child
suffers at the mention of her name.
Let us be lenient in our judgment of
but let us not put them upon a pinnacle as beings to
be worshipped and emulated.
It is well for an ambitious woman to
the subtle fragrance of positive duties well per-
formed is more far reaching and lasting than the
pungent odor of the ephemeral rose of fame.
There is no "message" so great for a
give to the world as that of a self-controlled and
well lived life.
Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.