Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/193

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179
THE HIGHER EDUCATION OF WOMAN.

sible for great ladies to earn money. Even a queen throws her books into the market, and sells them all the same as others. A generation or so ago no lady could have made money, save by the two methods of painting and writing—both done within the sacred seclusion of the four walls of home. Actresses were what we call in the north "chancey." Some were thoroughly respectable, and came to good ends and high positions; but the bulk were best left alone by women who wished to keep alive anything like veneration for virtue. Now, however, we have opened all gateways, and made it possible for ladies of condition, repute, and birth to do what they will in the way of money-making and still retain both character and position. A princess opens a milliner's shop; a lady of rank is a cow-keeper and profits by her dairy-farm; women of title go on the stage; ladies of gentle birth and breeding are storekeepers and horse-breeders. But as yet these are only the showy—we had almost said theatrical—and quasi-romantic vanguard; and what we want is a stable condition of self-support for women whose inherited position is not of that high class which no work can degrade, but who, ladies as they are, stand or fall according to the arbitrary estimation of their work.

In this, we repeat, no one can help women save women. Certain tailors and certain shopkeepers are received in London society as among its favorite and most honored guests. Do we meet with a milliner, a lady shopkeeper? Do we not all know milliners and dressmakers who are well-educated, pleasant-mannered, honorable ladies; yet would the countesses and dames for whom they devise their dainty costumes agree to meet them on equal terms at balls and dinners? Why not? Surely it can not be on the ground of making their own money. The highest ladies in the land do not disdain to turn an honest penny if they can; and where, pray, is the essential difference between the clergyman's daughter who sells mantles or laces in a shop for her living and the young duchess who sells pincushions and button-holes at a bazaar for her vanity, masked as charity? Here, if we will, the principle of individualism would work with advantage. If we could get rid of all caste feeling, and judge of people by themselves and not by their work—if we would allow that a milliner could be a lady, and a shop-girl on a level with her sister the governess, and both on an equality with their brother the clergyman and their aunt the physician's wife—we should have done more for the question of the employment of women than we have done by the establishment of colleges and the creation of educational standards, the attainments of which are inimical to the best interests of society because hurtful to women themselves. We must do what we can in this life, not always what we would; and the general interests of society are to be considered before those, of a special section, by whose advancement will come about the corresponding degeneracy of the majority.

In these two propositions, then, we think the whole thing lies—in