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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Woman Of The World: Her Counsel To Other People's Sons And Daughters - To Maria Owens
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A Woman Of The World: Her Counsel To Other People's Sons And Daughters - To Maria Owens Post by :Christine_S. Category :Nonfictions Author :Ella Wheeler Wilcox Date :May 2012 Read :3383

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A Woman Of The World: Her Counsel To Other People's Sons And Daughters - To Maria Owens

_A New Woman Contemplating Marriage


Surprise, I am free to confess, was my dominant emotion on reading your letter. Marriage and Maria had never associated themselves in my mind, fond as I am of alliteration.

Never in the ten years I have known you have I heard you devote ten minutes to the subject of any man's good qualities. You always have discoursed upon men's faults and vices, and upon their tendency, since the beginning of time, to tyrannize over woman. I was unable to disprove many of your statements, for I know the weight of argument is upon your side, even while I boldly confess my admiration and regard for men, as a class, is greater than that for women.

The fact that the world has allowed men such latitude, and such license, and made them pay such very small penalties, comparatively speaking, for very large offences, causes me to admire their wonderful achievements in noble living all the more: and to place the man of unblemished reputation and unquestioned probity on a pedestal higher than any I could yet ask builded for woman.

It is more difficult to be great before the extended tentacles of the self-indulgence octopus than in the face of oppression and danger. When the laws of the land and the sentiment of the people permit a man to be selfish, licentious, tyrannical, and yet call him great if he accomplishes heroic deeds, it proves what intrinsic worth must lie in the nature of those who attain the heights of unselfishness and benevolence, and martyrdom, asking no reward and often receiving none until posterity bestows it.

Those who can take the broad road of selfishness unmolested, and choose the narrow path of high endeavour instead, seem to me greater than those who overcome mere externals.

Many such men have existed, and the steady, slow, but certain progress of the world from barbarism to civilization, from accepted cannibalism and slavery to ideals of brotherhood, we owe to them. All new discoveries, all greatest achievements are due to men. Woman, I know, has been handicapped and oppressed for centuries by superstitions, and traditions, and unjust laws; but it is unfair to ignore the bright, and see only the dark side of the picture, which the centuries have painted for us, on the background of time.

This letter is only a resume of many conversations between you and me, and it leads up to the explanation of why I am somewhat dazed and stunned by your announcement that marriage is a possible event in your near future.

My self-conceit in regard to my knowledge of human nature every now and then receives a blow. So soon as I have arrived at a positive conviction that I understand any human being thoroughly, and feel that I can safely predict what that person will or will not do, I usually meet some such bewildering experience as this.

I would have laughed at any one who suggested the possibility of your considering a proposition of marriage.

You tell me you are thirty-five years old, and say you have never before met the man to whom your thoughts reverted, no matter how you endeavoured to occupy yourself with other subjects. You also tell me "he is not like other men." These two statements are wonderfully familiar to me, indeed they have been confided to me in precisely the same words by at least a score of women, young and not so young, who met the compelling man. _Maria, I believe you are in love_. Your heart is awakened from its stupor, caused by an overdose of intellect. For too much intellect is often a drug which deadens the consciousness of a woman's heart. But you have been drugged so long that you are still under a hazy spell, to judge from that portion of your letter which took the form of an inquiry.

You ask my opinion in regard to the point of disagreement between you and your semi-fiance. To much that you say I agree. You have carved a name and a place for yourself in the world. Your lectures, and your books, have made your name familiar to many people. Your lover is unknown to the public, a man in the private walks of life. Therefore you think if he loves you as he should to become your husband, he ought to give up his own name and take yours, or at least add yours to his own. You assure me it is merely a matter of habit, that women have obliterated themselves on the altar of marriage, and that it is time a new order was instituted. You think the hour calls for pioneers to establish new boundaries, in a new world where woman will be allowed to keep her individuality after marriage. Meantime your lover does not feel that you really love him, when you ask him to take this somewhat radical step for your sake, or for the sake of all women, as you put it.

And there you both stand, with only this ridiculous barrier between you and happiness.

You are still influenced by the intellectual drug, and it hinders your heart from following out its best impulses. You have not yet learned more than the A B C of love, or you would know that the greatest happiness in loving lies in sacrifice. To take and not give, to gain something and give up nothing, is not loving. Now I think I hear you saying, "But why should not my lover give this proof of devotion as well as I? Why should not he be ready to sacrifice a tradition, and a name, to please me? Why am I more unloving, or selfish, than he, to refuse to give up my name?"

My answer follows.

Any woman who asks a man to give up his name and take hers (unless some great legal matter which involves the property rights of others hangs on so doing) asks him to make himself ridiculous in the eyes of the world. She indicates, also, that her family name and her own achievements are dearer to her than his. No woman loves a man enough to be happy as his wife, if he is not dearer to her than any mere personal success, however great.

The man who asks a woman to take his name obeys a tradition and a custom, to be sure, and the woman who accepts it does not display any especially heroic trait. Therefore, what you demand of your lover is a far greater proof of devotion than what he asks of you. No woman who fully understood the meaning of love could ask this of her future husband. If he occupied the place in her life which a husband should, no matter what were her personal attainments, she would glory in adding his name to her own, and in having its shelter to hide under at times from the glare of publicity.

Should you choose to keep your name Maria Owens with no addition, for your lectures and your books, it is quite probable your husband would not object. And again, if your achievements are worth the thought you give them in this matter, they are great enough to endure even should you add the name of Chester to that of Owens. But certainly, if you love the man you think of marrying, you will be happy in the thought of wearing his name legally and socially in every-day life, and the sight of a card engraved, "Mrs. Rupert Chester," will give your heart a sweeter thrill than it has ever known in connection with the newspaper notices of Maria Owens.

Unless you can arouse your heart to such an understanding of love, you are not yet acquainted with the little god. If your lover consents to the sacrifice you have demanded, he will indicate a weakness of character which augurs ill for the future: and if you insist upon the sacrifice, you will establish a selfish precedent which can only make you a tyrant in your own domain, and at the same time belittle your husband in the public eye.

However proud and happy you may be in the thought of noble achievements of your own, you must realize that there are many brutal and painful phases to a public career for a woman. These phases do not exist to any such degree for a man. I do not believe it is the result of tradition or habit, but of sex and temperament, that this difference exists, and that the shelter of a man's name means more to woman than any shelter to be found in her own, and that the sacrifice of her own name means less to her than the sacrifice of his means to him. Unless you can reach this same conclusion, do not marry--for you do not love.

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