But as you will remain distinctively a citizen of the United States, so, whatever you find to do, you will remain distinctively a woman. No extension of opportunity or novelty of occupation is going to swerve you from that inexorable condition. The work that you are to do in the world is to be woman’s work. It may be driving an aeroplane or a motor-car, or making munitions, or keeping cows or chickens, or raising cabbages, or folding bandages, or nursing, or teaching, or knitting socks, or organizing enterprises, but if you do it, you make woman’s work of it, for you are more important and less changeable than any occupation, and you will dominate the work, and not the work you.
If the work does not suit you as a woman, you will drop it presently, because it is more important in the long run that you should be a woman and do a woman’s work than that any specified job should continue to be done. In an emergency, to be sure, the specific job may be all-important because the continuance of women’s true work depends on it. But that is a temporary matter, to be cured at the first chance, so that the world may not cease to be worth living in, or run out of people.
I observe, and you will notice, that notwithstanding the great incursion of women, of late years, into one or another department of business, they are not of much account as fortune-builders. Some of them earn or make a good deal of money, but they seldom get rich by their own exertions, and nearly all the rich women have inherited their fortunes from men. Moreover, the women who are most successful as money-makers are not, as a rule, the most successful as women. The women seem to be a consecrated sex, too valuable to be employed in mere money-getting. Vast numbers of them earn a living—sometimes a good one—and have to; but few of them get rich. I tis common for a young man to start out deliberately to accumulate a fortune. I tis very uncommon for a young woman to do so. She is much more likely to accumulate a young man.
Will you please take not of that, my daughter? In spite of your cap and gown, you are still a consecrated vessel, designed rather to confer benefits upon the world, than to exact an excessive recompense for living in it. If you are to have much money you must get it indirectly. Your life is too valuable to be sacrificed to getting rich. I believe you will feel that to be true, no matter what you undertake; feel that you cannot afford to give up being a woman and fulfilling a woman’s destiny, for the sake of winning the common rewards that are open to men. For you know man’s great reward is woman. She is the crown of his endeavors and often the goal of them, but not of yours.
One of the consolations of these extraordinary times, so terrible and so afflicting in many aspects, is that they are bringing us closer to the French, the people in our modern world who seem to know best how to live, and who, we suspect, have come the nearest to solving the problem of the woman’s place in life. Of course they are not a perfect model for us, and of course there are things that they may learn of us as well as we of them; but the Frenchwoman’s place in life, as we hear of it, seems the nearest right that any people has worked out. it is a place of power and honor, a place in which the woman is valued to the full as a woman, and in which she cooperates intimately and effectively with the man. Probably we idealize the Frenchwoman’s position somewhat, but as we see her, she is not only the decoration of life, but ideally the helpmate of the man; helping with her head and with her hands, with her companionship, her love, her thrift, her skill, her labor. We hear of her potency in business affairs; of her share, at least equal, and apt to be superior, in the management of farm and shop and household. We have learned all over again these last three years what wonderful stuff there is in the French, and wish there was more of it in the world. Never was mankind so much disposed to go to school to France, nor ever had this French tradition of woman’s power and place and work a better chance to influence mankind. Perhaps it will help to temper in this land and generation the propensity to make a battle cry of ‘Women for women,’ with a prospect that it will yield in its turn to the slogan, ‘Every woman for herself!’