[Home] [Book] [Expand] [Collapse] [Help]

Clear Search Expand Search


    OUR AFRO-AMERICAN REPRESENTATIVES AT
  --  THE WORLD'S
FAIR   Table of Contents     A LOFTY STUDY.

Mossell, N.F.
The Work of Afro-American Women

- THE OPPOSITE POINT OF VIEW.

THE OPPOSITE POINT OF VIEW.


Home is undoubtedly the cornerstone of our beloved Republic. Deep planted in the heart of civilized humanity is the desire for a resting place that may be called by this name, around which may cluster life-long memories. Each member of a family after a place is secured, helps to contribute to the formation of the real and ideal home. Men's and women's desires concerning what shall constitute a home differ largely, sex counting for much, past environment for more. Man desires a place of rest from the cares and vexations of life, where peace and love shall abide, where he shall be greeted by the face of one willing to conform to his wishes and provide for his comfort and convenience--where little ones shall sweeten the struggle for existence and make the future full of bright dreams.

Woman desires to carry into effect the hopes that have grown with her growth, and strengthened with her strength from childhood days until maturity; love has made the path of life blend easily with the task that duty has marked out. Women picture their material home from its outer walls to the last graceful interior

raster
116
decoration thousands of times before it becomes an accomplished fact. In imagination the children of their love have twined their arms around their necks, dropped kisses upon their lips and filled their ears with the most loving name of mother. In this home of her dreams she has reigned queen of hearts, dispensing joy and peace to the dear ones who have placed their hearts in her keeping. Marriage constitutes the basis for the home; preceding this comes courtship; preceding it, should have been, and we believe has been, a degree of love. It is largely the fashion of the world to laugh at first love, to give it in derision the appellation of calf or puppy love, but to a mother the knowledge that the warmest affection of her child's heart is passing into the keeping of another (it may be for weal or it may be for woe) can never be a subject for mirth. Love is a reality; its influence may make life most worth living, or blast for time and eternity. Let us look at it as a mother must, as an entrance upon the Holy of Holies. The prevalent opinion concerning courtship is, that it is an era of deception.

We differ from the accepted opinion. Remembering the environment that surrounds every courtship we must admit that it lends itself readily to deception, but that the parties interested desire to deceive we greatly doubt. The girl and her lover are each placed under the pleasantest circumstances; relieved

raster
117
of all care, going where they like, seeing the one they admire most, dressed in apparel that becomes them well, pleasing and desiring to be pleased, what wonder if both act more kindly to each other at such a time and under such auspices than they do towards the world that surrounds them, opposing perhaps their every desire. When I was a girl teaching a school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, one unlettered but close masculine observer used to say of the men who stood in the above position, "Yes, they're lying, of course; but lying goes with courting." Another more refined feminine observer used to say earnestly, but with a sigh, "Honey, courting is mighty pretty business; but courting is no more like marrying than chalk is like cheese." Possibly all my experienced readers will admit that courting is mighty pretty business , especially the making-up process that is so often gone through, and also think there was a grain of truth in the other sage observations. And yet, to a certain extent, both were wrong; it is simply that circumstances alter cases.

Let us believe that the young people do not intend to deceive, but that being happy, it is easy to try to make others happy. Simply having turned to the looking-glass of another's face a smiling countenance, they have been met with a smile. At the close of a successful courtship, comes marriage, the basis of which may be real love, or ambition in its various guises. Many

raster
118
wonder that so many people separate, my wonder is that so many remain together. Born in different places, reared differently, with different religious and political opinions, differing in temperament, in educational views, at every point, what wonder strife ensues. But we will consider in this paper the life of those who elect to remain together whether life is a flowery path or overgrown with briers and thorns. Now, first, here I must explain that I am about to look at the opposite side of a much discussed question. The pendulum will swing in this paper in the opposite direction to the one generally taken.

The conservatives can take the median line with the pendulum at a standstill if they so desire. For several years, every paper or magazine that has fallen into our hands gave some such teaching as this: "The wife must always meet her husband with a smile." She must continue in the present and future married life to do a host of things for his comfort and convenience; the sure fate awaiting her failure to follow this advice being the loss of the husband's affection and the mortification of seeing it transferred to the keeping of a rival. She must stay at home, keep the house clean, prepare food properly and care for her children, or he will frequent the saloon, go out at night and spend his time unwisely at the least. These articles may be written by men or by women, but the

raster
119
moral is invariably pointed for the benefit of women; one rarely appearing by either sex for the benefit of men. This fact must certainly lead both men and women to suppose that women need this teaching most; now I differ from this view of the subject. In a life of some length and of close observation, having been since womanhood a part of professional life, both in teaching, preaching and otherwise, where one receives the confidences of others, I have come to the conclusion that women need these teachings least.

I have seen the inside workings of many homes; I know there are many slatterns, many gossips and poor cooks; many who are untrue to marital vows; but on the whole, according to their means, their opportunities for remaining at home, the irritating circumstances that surround them (and of our women especially), I tempted by two races, they do well. After due deliberation and advisedly I repeat that they (remembering the past dreadful environment of slavery) do well. Man as often as woman gives the keynote to the home) life for the day; whether it shall be one of peace or strife. The wife may fill the house with sweet singing, have the children dressed and ready to give a joyful greeting to the father; the breakfast might be fit to tempt an epicure, and yet the whole be greeted surlily by one who considers wife and home but his rightful convenience. I may not be orthodox, but I venture to

raster
120
assert that keeping a clean house will not keep a man at home; to be sure it will not drive him out, but neither will it keep him in to a very large extent. And you, dear tender-hearted little darlings, that are being taught daily that it will, might as well know the truth now and not be crying your eyes out later.

Dear Willie can go out at night, yes, a little while even every night, and not be going to the bad nor failing to do his duty. Now let me tell you an open secret and look about you where you live and see if I am not right. The men that usually stay in at night are domestic in their nature, care little for the welfare or approval of the world at large, are not ambitious, are satisfied with being loved, care nothing for being honored. The men who used when single to kiss the babies, pet the cat, and fail to kick the dog where they visited are the men who remain at home most when married. A man who aspires to social pre-eminence, who is ambitious or who acquires the reputation of being a man of judgement and knowledge, useful as a public man, will be often out at night even against his own desires, on legitimate business. By becoming a member of many organizations it may become necessary for him to spend most of his evenings out, sacrificing his own will to the will of the many. Again, men after working at daily drudgery come home to their families, eat the evening meal, hear the day's doings,

raster
121
read the paper and then desire to meet with some masculine friends to discuss the topics of the day. The club, the church, the street corner of a chum's business place may be the meeting place. Bad men go out for evil purposes; to be sure, many men, social by nature, are tempted by the allurements of the saloon and the chance of meeting their boon companions. But these men would do the same if they had no home, or whether it was clean or not. Wives should be kind, keep house beautifully, dress beautifully if they can; but after all this is accomplished their husbands will be away from home possibly quite as much for the above-given reasons. Women must not be blamed because they are not equal to the self-sacrifice of always meeting husbands with a smile, not the wife blamed that she does not dress after marriage as she dressed before; child-birth and nursing, the care of the sick through sleepless, nightly vigils, the exactions and irritations incident to a life whose duties are made up of trifles and interruptions, and whose work of head and heart never ceases, make it an impossibility to put behind them at all times all cares and smile with burdened heart and weary feet and brain.

Small means, constant sacrifice for children prevent the replenishment of a fast dwindling wardrobe. Husbands and fathers usually buy what they need at least most mothers and wives will not even do that while

raster
122
children need anything. The great inducement for a woman to fulfil these commands is that she may retain her husband's love and not forfeit her place to a rival. Suppose some one should tell a man, "Now you must smile at your wife always, in her presence never appear grumpy, dress her in the latest style, and so on, or else she will transfer her affections to the keeping of another." What would be his reply? We all know. And yet women need love to live and be happy, are supposed to be most susceptible to love and flattery, and men therefore ought to fear this fate most, and the daily record teaches the fact if the magazine writers fail to do so. A good husband will do his duty even if the wife fails, as so many wives are doing to-day with bad husbands. The man who wants to lead a reckless life, will complain of his wife's bad housekeeping, extravagance, the children's noise or, if not blessed with offspring, still complains that this fact makes home less interesting; but let me tell you, friend, it is all an excuse in nine cases out of ten. A husband's ill-doing is never taken as an excuse for a wife's turning bad, and why should a man be excused for doing wrong, if he has a bad wife? If he be the stronger-minded one, especially. If a husband is a true one in any sense of the word, his transference of the kiss at the door from the wife to the first born that
raster
123
runs before her to greet him will not cause even a sigh of regret.

Doing the best she can in all things will be appreciated by a true husband. The one remaining thought unmentioned is temper , the disposition to scold and nag. Now no man desires a scolding, nagging wife, and no child desires such a mother; but saints are rare and I don't believe that history past or present proves that saintly women have in the past or do now gain men's love oftenest or hold it longest . The two women, one white, another colored, that I sorrowed with over recreant husbands, were true, loving wives; one had just saved her small earnings toward buying the husband a birthday present and had unsuspectingly kissed good-bye the partner of his flight. The other clasped more lovingly the hand of the baby boy that most resembled him and only spoke of the facts as occasion required it in business concerning the property he had left behind; both men had found no fault with these wives, treated them kindly up to the last hour when they deserted them forever. Neither sugar nor pickles would be a good diet, but most of us could eat a greater quantity of pepper hash than of sugar after all. I believe that a woman who has a mind and will of her own will become monotonous to a less extent than one so continuously sweet and self-effacing; and I believe history proves it.

raster
124

It may be humanity or masculinity's total depravity, but I believe more men tire of sweet women than even of scolds, and yet I do not desire to encourage the growth of this obnoxious creature. The desirable partner for a successful, peaceful married life is a woman of well-balanced temperament, who is known among her associates as one not given to what is often called fits of temper, and yet withal possessing a mind of her own. Perhaps my thought is best expressed in this extract from "Whimsicalities of Women" by Mrs. Frank Leslie in the Sunday Press :

"Women's nerves are lightly set; the jar that sets them all in a thrill passes unfelt over the heavier organization of a man; the breeze that to him is only a pleasant stimulus is to her a devastating storm. For here is a truth which I present to the consideration of my sister women, and I assure them that it is the fruit of much observation and study of mankind. A woman's little tempers will in the course of years make an impression upon a man's estimate of her that no after time can undo; while, if she once truly love him, years of bickering or even ill-treatment on his part are wiped away and forgotten by the caresses of his returning love, or by the faltering farewell of his dying breath.

"A woman's resentment of the little offences offered her by the man she loves is like the sand upon the beach, so lightly ruffled, so easily heaved into chasms and mountains, but so sure to be placated by the turn

raster
125
of the tide, so easily restored to the full integrity of its original condition. But the man's consciousness of injuries is like the rock lying so stolidly upon that shifting beach. The winds blow the sand across him, but it soon blows off again. The waves dash over, and seem to leave no mark, but the years go by, and twice every day the sand and the waves together grind away a little and a little of the substance of the rock, and after many years, if the sand says, `I am tired of this useless warfare, let us be as we were at first,' the rock must sadly answer, `Nay, that cannot be, for the years have worn away what no years can restore. We can only make the best of what is left.'"

It is not possessing a temper, but continuous out-bursts of ill-temper that undermine true happiness. The home should be founded on right principles, on morality, Christian living, a due regard to heredity and environment that promise good for the future. With these taken into consideration, backed by love, or even true regard, with each having an abiding sense of duty and a desire to carry out its principles, no marriage so contracted can ever prove a failure.

raster
126

    OUR AFRO-AMERICAN REPRESENTATIVES AT
  --  THE WORLD'S
FAIR   Table of Contents     A LOFTY STUDY.