Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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Things a Girl Might Do.
There are questions which seem very simple,
but which are far more difficult to answer
than some profound problem.
    The little boy who asked his mother: "What's
inside of lima beans?" propounded a puzzler.
    So did the child who asked "what made the rain
wet," and "where the flame went to" after the
candle was blown out.
    The following letter is about as difficult to answer,
simple as the question seems to be which the writer
depends upon me to decide for her:

    Dear Madam:  I take the liberty of asking you to give
me a little advice as to what I can do for a living in the fol-
lowing case: I am now between sixteen and seventeen years
old and I go to school still, and I intend to graduate next year.
The school that I attend is a high school, and I am taking the
whole course, which, if I am successful, will give me a very
good education.  I simply love to study, and I get on very
well.  I also have studied music, and love that, too, but on
account of my hard studies at school have been forced to give
it up.
    I am not a rich girl by any means, and my father cannot
get anything to do, and consequently it is very hard for me to
be kept at school.  But however that may be, I intend to
finish.  It almost sets me mad when I think that I cannot get
some vocation where I will have to use my education; that is
I mean, the most complicated parts of it.
    I would like to be a school teacher, only that it would take
such a long time, and most likely my parents will not be able
to keep things going until I would be able to earn any money.
You know, my aim is to help them by earning money.  I also
would like to be a music teacher, only that is too expensive;
in fact, that is what I always have thought of doing, but I see
I cannot, as we cannot afford it.
    As I said before, I love books, and my favorite branches of
study are literature and all the English branches, drawing and
music.  I don't like mathematics.  I also like physiology.  Now,
I would ever be indebted to you if you would tell me what
you think about my case, or is there any way in which I could
earn money by writing stories or anything while at school, so
as to pay for music or studying to be a teacher.         N.C.
    It is well to settle the last point.  Young girls of
sixteen who have never evinced any positive and
marked talent in literature, do not find a ready
market in "stories or anything" of a literary nature
which they attempt for mercantile purposes.  There
is nothing in the phrasing of this letter to indicate
that its writer possesses talent.  It is a simple, girl-
ish letter which any school-girl could compose.
But editors to-day demand something which evinces
marked originality of thought, or else decided liter-
ary merit in construction.  Only these things are of
money value to editors.  And even great genius is
usually obliged to serve an apprenticeship before it
wins recognition from the public, or wooes the
golden dollar from the editor's pocket.
    Regarding education, there is quite too much of
it in the land to-day, and not enough wisdom and
industry.  If there is a pressing need for this young
woman to earn more money, I should advise her to
give up her school and go into the practical walks
of life.  There are too many poor school teachers
and crude music teachers already.  One needs to
have experience with life and humanity before
attempting to teach children.  And one should be
a musical genius as well as a proficient student of
music before attempting to teach it.  Next to the
profession of a parent, that of a teacher is the most
important.  There are too many bunglers at work
upon forming young minds already.  Do not add to
the list.
    There is a school in Boston where ladies teach
what they call "Home Science."  It is the impor-
tant work of the land to-day--the art of home-mak-
ing.  Women who graduate from that school will
never lack for work, if they are willing to do the
    But few are willing to do it.  The majority want
to teach music or write stories.  A good seamstress
can always find employment.  A young girl whose
father fell ill, left school and aided her mother in
doing fine baking.  They made fresh bread, biscuit,
cakes, and cookies, baked beans and supplied their
neighbors with these staple articles of home-made
food and cleared a fine competence at the end of the
    Another refined girl learned how to mend nicely,
and her time was constantly employed among the
families of her acquaintance at 15 cents an hour.
    It is to the practical lines of employment that
people who are not decided geniuses must look for

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

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