A Question of Common Sense
— What will be done unto such of us as dare question the common sense of the Board of Lady Managers of the Columbian Exposition in asking their state sub-committees to do certain things ?
As is well known, committees have been appointed by the state officials in each city, town, and no doubt village, whose duty it is to send to headquarters, with all possible accuracy and dispatch, a great mass of specified detail, the same to be “ inserted in a catalogue of the organizations conducted by women for the promotion of charitable, philanthropic, intellectual, sanitary, hygienic, industrial, or social and reform movements.” This gigantic encyclopædia, the circular takes needless pains to state, will be “ the most complete record of woman’s work ever given to the public. . . . No band of women is too large or too small to find a place in this historic record.” In proof of this, circulars are sent to every club or association of women that the local committee can hear of, from Daughters of the Revolution down to anti-slang circles of schoolgirls ; these circulars containing twelve questions, with blanks for their answers. These answers, or reports, are to be engraved upon the archives of the nineteenth century, at an expenditure of labor and money which, as a whole, is a tremendous outlay, — “a big boo for such a little colt.”
Ours is a city of some importance. Of making many books there has never been anything like an end here, and the bookmaking is still going on. I doubt if our largest library would hold the books that have been written in the last forty years by women alone ; nevertheless, our committee is requested to make out a full list of all the books, etc., that have been written by women, and a list of the women who have ever written books. Copies of these books are to he sent, so far as possible, to the exhibition. Why not photographs of the writers ? Already I see that long train of freight cars dragging its load — much of it rubbish — to Chicago, a trailer attached for the classified statistics of our women’s clubs and organizations generally. What a grand bonfire Chicago ought to have, to be sure !
Now of what earthly good is such a piece of work when it is done ? What is the sense of it all ? Why not catalogue the women who wear bangs, the women who discard corsets, the women who have read Robert Elsmere, the women who have pronounced views on the chaperon question, and their views ? I for one should really like to know how many women there are in this land, past thirty, who have never had an offer of marriage, and their explanation of the fact. That would be a great deal more interesting and profitable to coming generations, the diggers in future mountains of statistics, than the record that Debby Smith is the president of our E. P. Roe Club, and that the aim of our Monogram Society is the marking of wearing apparel in the needlework of its members. What a stratum this old earth is likely to have æons from now, — a consolidated crust of the archives of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries !
Perhaps our lady managers, who are so zealous for the preservation of every book that has been written by a woman, do not know that two copies of every copyrighted book are entered at the Congressional Library in Washington. Surely one full set of the mass ought to be enough for the country. Great is the difference between books and literature ; something this proposed exhibition of everything the women of the country have done in the way of book-making will illustrate. Are these lady managers, like reproving mothers, going to point to the result of it all and say, “ Now see what you have done ” ?