What Is A Woman To Do?
( Originally Published 1916 )
AN anonymous letter has come to my desk. As a rule such missives slide right over into the waste-basket. But this one is different. It is not a cowardly effort to stab, nor malicious, nor in any wise the ordinary anonymous nuisance. It is so human, so real, and so gives expression to a very vital and common problem that I will make some quotation from it.
After a few observations upon my writings which modesty prevents me from here setting forth, the writer says:
"Briefly, my problem is a very old one, merely that of a woman who has long suffered from intense loneliness and heart-hunger. My greatest need seems to be the love and companionship of a congenial man.
"I am well born, coming from an old family of refinement, culture, and one-time wealth. I am also well educated, a graduate of one of our foremost women's colleges. I am no longer young, neither am I old; my friends flatter me by saying that I look ten years younger than I am. Always have I had the reputation of unusual charm, that of personality, perhaps, rather than of beauty.
"How, please, is a woman alone, without family—for all have died—and with no social back ground to meet desirable men, in a great city? Such a one would like to make friends and comrades from among whom she could find a suitable mate. With every possible advantage of education and culture, living in a delightfully artistic home, adapted in every way to offer hospitality to friends, I perforce live practically the life of a hermit.
"Is it any wonder that we restless, unsatisfied women, whom nature has intended for wives and mothers, should seek some avenue for expression, some absorbing interest which will enable us to stifle our longings?
"Politics, or any sort of a career of publicity, does not appeal to me. I want a home and children.
"Is it that there are no men of my kind in the city? And if there aie such, why is it so impossible to meet them?
"A well-known physician recently observed that `city men are not marrying men.' It is a great pity.
"Boy and man friends I have had all my life, but never has the right one come. Perhaps, as has been said of me, I am too exclusive, too much inclined to seek the ideal. Certainly the tricks of such as `Annie' in Shaw's `Man and Superman' I have never felt I could stoop to.
"What can a refined woman do, who believes in marriage and the family, and who has scorned the occupation of husband-hunting? It seems to be too often the other type of woman who wins the man.
"Pardon me if I do not sign my name. How can I to such a letter as this?"
I cannot answer this appeal, for the simple reason that I do not know the answer. I give the letter to you, gentle reader, that you may realize, as this epistle so strongly impressed it upon me, that there are situations in life which our present civilization, morals, and conventions do not touch. Monogamy, religion, society's customs are good enough and suit the many, but they are far from covering all of the deep needs and peculiar issues of the human heart.
And how pitiful our little smug philosophy before this primeval cry of human instinct!
Lady Unknown, I can only, through the darkness, send you a sincere thought, a handclasp of sympathy, and offer up a prayer to the kindly fates that they may send you, some adventurous day, your Prince and Knight, who shall know and value your woman's worth. I will not be like the father in Tennyson,
"With a little hoard of maxims Preaching down a daughter's heart."