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Toil and Play


IN RECENT YEARS single women have given attention to the achievement of a well-rounded existence based upon an abounding physical and mental health. The task has required initiative, shrewd management, and determination, for the pattern into which the life of single women tends to become crystallized in urban centers today not only does not promote good and healthful living but makes it difficult to attain. The single woman of mature years, engaged in business or to professions, usually lives in a furnished room or a small apartment; she works in an office; she rides to work on a street car or bus; and she eats in a restaurant or cafeteria. For her diversion she reads, she attends theaters, lectures and concerts; and she gives some of her time to service on committees and to membership duties in business and professional associations. She leads a highly satisfying intellectual life which she likes and which she would not be willing to surrender, but it lacks some of the elements which make for well-rounded living and for the maintenance of mental and physical poise. For it is an indoor life which calls for large expenditures of nervous energy; its emphasis on "discussion" and group thinking is time-consuming and productive of further nervous tension since it brings into close association per-sons whose lives are patterned along similar lines and whose temperaments closely resemble each other. Even leisure time is filled with activities which are primarily mental in nature and which do not make for any real release of nervous tension. The result in some cases is poor physical health, a low physical vitality and high nervous unease. Even more frequently single women of intellectual repute complain of a persistent fatigue for which physicians can find no cause and which remains even after periods of intensive rest. There is a tendency on the part of some physicians to attribute this fatigue simply and entirely to the fact that the women are not married and to assume that nothing can be done about it. Others prescribe operations, rest cures, vitamins, travel and other remedies; and when the treatment has been followed the patients are as tired as they were before. During the nineteen twenties some single women paid large sums of hard-earned money to psycho-analysts in order to be told that they were not married and why and that they ought to get married and soon. The results were hardly worth the money the analysis cost. For the process seemed to turn the women in upon themselves to a scrutiny of their every thought and sentiment and to such an extent that they became an affliction to themselves and others. Action, when they eventually decided to take action, was of a nature so bizarre and unconventional as to provoke a reaction which caused the single woman to return again and again to the analyst in an effort to adjust herself to what she had been told was a normal pattern of living for her. There can be no doubt that the services of medical men and of specialists are of as great a yalue to the single woman as they are to others but they cannot compensate for the lack of a normal balance in living and they should not be expected to do so. Each woman has the obligation and the privilege of working out a pattern of living which best meets her needs of work, of play, of love, and of worship, and of a proper balance between these essential elements of a good life. No one else can make these important personal decisions for her; she must work out her own salvation within the limits of her freedom. Individuals in a democratic society prize this freedom to make life's major decisions untrammeled as one of the goods of life worth fighting for.

A few elements in the life and work situation of the single woman today require special consideration because of their importance.

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