Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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The Abuse of Children.
    I beg to call your attention to a case under my notice, that
is seemingly a just subject for philanthropy.  A girl of twenty
is determined to leave home because of its unhappiness.  She
has been raised in refinement, plays, sings, cooks everything
for the household, and is thoroughly capable in her position
of her father's housekeeper.  She has been educated in her
home town of 10,000, in New York state.
    Her parent is of the stern Puritanic class that believes
restraint and ignorance of the world will best fit the child for
life.  The girl has a healthy appetite for pleasures and friends
and knowledge of every-day things, such as comes to every
American girl, but she is denied the exercise of it; cannot
drive, wheel, call or receive callers, must account for every
hour of her time, and is permitted to read nothing but reli-
gious literature and to attend no public meetings but church
    The girl has asked for more liberty, and has received more
restraint, until she has at length rebelled against all this, and
apparently cannot be persuaded to stay at home, where she
is entirely unhappy.  She has little money and no friends in
the city, but is going there, hoping to find sympathy and hap-
piness.  Her unsophisticated manner and pretty face would
soon make her life a sad one.
    If some one could open a home or position to her where
kindly oversight could be given, it might mean the salvation
of the girl at a critical time.             A FRIEND.

    The Gerry Society looks after children who are
misused by cruel parents, but we need a society
for the protection of grown-up children who are
under the control of "fool parents," like those de-
scribed in this letter.
    I believe more young women and men have gone
to perdition through the horrors of Puritanical
homes, than through the allurements of vice.
    The devil must laugh his sides sore to see how
straight-laced virtue whips her children into his
    What a surprise it will be to some narrow-souled
people, when they find out after it is too late, that
God considers it as great a sin to refuse the moral
pleasures he has given us to enjoy as to abuse them.
These parents would hold up their hands in horror
at the idea of starving their daughter physically.
    Yet they are starving her heart and mind, and
this is quite as great a crime.
    The middle-aged have no more right to demand
sedate and middle-aged behavior from the young,
than they have to compel their children to wear gray
wigs and the mark of maturity over their fresh
    It is a sin, an outrage and an insult to God and
woman, to compel a young girl to live the life de-
scribed in this letter.
    She is quite right in deciding to break free from
her environment, and to make a life for herself.
There is no tie of blood or duty which renders it
imperative for her to submit to such inhuman treat-
ment, for it is quite as inhuman to crucify the heart
as the body.
    Yes, let her go out and make a place for herself
in the world.  But let her be careful where she
goes and how she uses her freedom.
    Liberty does not consist in license.  Because
goodness has been represented to her in an ugly and
repellant form, she must not imagine vice is beauti-
ful.  Goodness, modesty, virtue, discreet behavior,
enter the character and life of every woman who
would be a credit to her sex.  But she can possess
all these qualities and still enjoy the amusements
and pleasures suitable to youth.  She can attend
good plays, ride a wheel, receive calls from respect-
able men, read excellent and instructive literature,
and gain rather than lose in all the traits which
compose desirable womanhood.
    Because her parents, who have made life a barren
waste to her, have stern ideas regarding total abstin-
ence, she must not swing the pendulum of her judg-
ment in the opposite direction, and pin her faith on
the agreeable man who urges her to take wine at
dinner or to smoke a cigarette afterward.
    Because her parents stupidly object to dancing,
she must not think the can-can or the "split"
necessary accomplishments.
    This is the usual result of such early education--
it sends the children into excesses which never
would have been dreamed of under normal condi-
    Starvation leads to cannibalism in more ways
than one.
    Keep your head clear, your conscience fair, you
heart pure, young woman, and go out into the
world and make a life for yourself.  It is your

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

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