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Woman's Work in Music

EDITED BY FANNY MORRIS SMITH.

“Will the new movement of selling pianos in department stores result in the employment of women instead of men to display the instruments and make the sales? Why can they not do so? They can play as well, will likely be obliged to work for less, and it simply means another field in which women will compete with men. They will need some special training, but they can start on even, or nearly even, chances with the average piano salesman. Here is a new idea for bright, energetic young women who can play well.”

In assuming the editorial chair of the department of “Woman’s Work in Music,” the question presents itself, “Is there any one subject so all important to our readers that it claims precedence over every other?”

Such a subject exists, but it is not a question of methods of teaching, or of business opportunity for women. The vital question of to-day underlies not only music teaching, but stenography; not only stenography, but salesmanship; not only salesmanship, but nursing, medicine, law, government. For into the world of business women are pressing,—let us be exact,—are being pressed; but blindly, not knowing their own value, and at a loss which is even greater to society than to themselves.

It has been supposed that the question of sex in work falls under the same laws that govern supremacy of race in the struggle for occupation. For example, as one would discuss the relative fitness in the laundry business of men, women, and Chinese; or, in cookery, of women, Frenchmen, and negroes.

Contemplation of these phrases makes it evident that such aptitudes arise from peculiarities of education and temperament. There is no sex in arithmetic or in cookery; but temperament does work there mightily, and there is temperament in sex. Since work is always done under the influence of temperament, sex tells in result and in the way the result is arrived at.

Is there any method of work in harmony with the female temperament which will help woman toward equality of usefulness and of remuneration with men doing the same work? We believe there is such a method. It is known as “cooperation.”

We must oppose cooperation to competition. This, the goal whither civilization has long been tending, affords the solution of the question. “Cooperation” sounds so business-like that it may be a man’s discovery. But every woman has known about it from the time Eve set up housekeeping. Cooperation is the extension of the laws of family life to the larger family of neighborhood, State, nation. Let us go a step farther; it is the outgoing of home into the region of them before solitary.

Business itself, in so far as it has been effective, has always been cooperative; and what is business but the ramification of housekeeping interests? In the beginning there were but two professions—war and housekeeping. Woman preempted a cave, and dwelt there. Man hunted and fought, and retired to this cave to enjoy the benefits of primitive housekeeping. One sex was industrious, and created one by one the beginnings of all the arts. The other stole the products of the industry of other men’s wives, supplied fresh meat, and when it had advanced enough to build a fire, lay and warmed itself before it, and through the fumes of dinner mused on theology, and made a few bows and arrows whereby to capture more game and do more thieving. As game got scarcer and roots more desirable, our warrior, doubtless from pure gallantry, put his hand to the more interesting of the tasks of his woman-kind. She spun and wove; he learned her trade. She planted corn; he preferred to tend sheep. She dyed his porcupine quills and her own basket-work. He adorned his own face with her paints and invented dancing. She cleaned and tanned the skins he brought her; by and by he became a tanner. Thus, civilization is the process by which men leave their own instinctive occupation—war, and enter woman’s—housekeeping. Men do not take to cooperation easily. They are kept together by outside pressure, not attraction. At the bottom of every man’s heart is the conviction that he and his are the only rightful owners of the universe.

As man set his face toward civilization he carried with him the original dominating instinct of male temperament. He wanted to fight. Therefore, as life grew more complexed, he infused his own principle of action into the world’s work—the principle of warfare—that is, competition. On close inspection of business-life the wonder grows daily greater that so large a portion of its energy is exhausted in friction, so small a portion applied to the actual administration of the res auguta domi which is its occasion. Men will squabble by the hour just to try their strength, and call it business. And every throb of the energy thus wantonly abstracted is a dead loss of that much power to produce happiness and the pleasures of happiness. The curious fact about the matter is that the world can not afford to have its fighting-blood die out. It needs cooperation, and gentleness, and sympathy; but it needs them as the result of normal conditions of action, not of emasculation of manhood. The unsexing of men by civilization is a danger just as threatening, just as disastrous, and much nearer than the unsexing of women. Effeminacy has always been the curse of commercial civilizations. To redeem men from squabbling and to raise them to manly fighting trim is a very present problem of the age.

Nor are women more able than men to transact business properly, when isolated to themselves. They organize and systematize till soul and body fail. Think of the bondage of spirit that reigns in committees of women administered by women! Enter a man; life suddenly enlarges; the tension is relieved; freedom peeps in. Women force everything to a center. Men tend away from it. When the two work together the forces balance and become stable, because normal conditions of activity result.

Ruskin once undertook to solve the relations of the sexes in working life for a circle of young girls. He summed them thus:

“It is the office of man to create; of woman to praise.”

How very far has woman descended in the business world from that high estate! Men and women alike now hustle, drive, hector, domineer, trample, and the palm and guerdon of life is lost to both. Few are the business women that have in any degree preserved the qualities of manner and thought proper to womanhood. Business has rubbed off the bloom, and with the bloom of womanhood chivalry stands or falls.

Observe that the evolution of cooperation has been the work of woman, albeit somewhat forced on her. She learned to govern in spite of weakness, because if she did not, she was liable to be eaten when her lord was short of game. This made her an educator. She had love in her; therefore, when he came home wounded she learned to heal his wounds. As the period of childhood grew longer, and she would have the father of her children in her wigwam, she essayed the arts of peace. Generation by generation, womanhood grew more tender, more gentle, more established in principle. By and by the fact on which civilization is established emerged. Civilized woman is in stable equilibrium in her life; man is in unstable equilibrium. She attracts and holds; he approaches, yields, and becomes subject to attraction. Thus home is established, and all good things become possible. This is why every force in society is arrayed against the unsexing of womanhood. Should woman cease to be womanly, society is at an end. In unwomanly woman lies the essence of anarchy. When meekness—which is par excellence the virtue recommended to woman—disappears, the possession of the earth is lost not to womanhood only, but to humanity. Let us make no mistake. There is one greatest, noblest profession of all—the business of home-making. Here begins all happiness; all truth; all purity; all hope. Higher than that humanity can never go; for society, religion itself, center about the home,—not a home universal, which is socialism, but homes individual, which is Christianity. Each man’s house his castle; each woman’s home her temple. The whole normal business of civilization is the ministering to the protection, the wants, and the charms of these homes.

That is why women whose occupation falls outside the normal functions of married life are needed in the world’s work. It is the homely (not humbly) woman; the woman whose praise still counts; the normal type of womanhood that is needed to bring the business world to its highest power. From every occupation which she has abandoned to men her presence has been a distinct loss; and which is that that was not once her own? In returning to trade, profession, or art, she but reoccupies her own dominion. Let but the manner of her return be in the spirit in which she first essayed the task—not the spirit of warfare, but the gracious instinct of housekeeping!

That woman may so bear herself that men still desire her praise, let her think on those virtues that have been peculiarly her own. And first on temperance, balance. Womanhood is softness, self-possession; manhood is impetuosity and aggression. Who can say that equilibrium is not needed in the world to-day? So, too, is measure; measure that provokes gentle progression; measure that gages in advance the expenditure of means and materials. It was not by accident that Clara Barton had stores and relief in Cuba when the whole army of the United States failed to get them there. Insight that divines the limits of distemper and unrest and disorder, and removes the cause, is woman’s gift. And sympathy that goes out of itself to heal body and mind. It needs but short experience of the struggle of professional and business life to demonstrate that the one thing most lacking is sympathetic insight, and that it is lacking because women are lacking. With intuition comes helpfulness—woman’s instinct, too. Moreover, where there is womanhood there is reserve, and reserve is the fundamental necessity to chastity; and where there is womanhood there is neatness and sanitation, and therefore bodily and mental health. With womanhood enters beauty and delicacy and grace. To part with these would be the destruction of civilization.

Furthermore, in womanhood dwells the faculty of intercourse with the higher powers. In her bosom she may hope to bear souls into which God breathes the breath of life. She is the first priestess of humanity. Therefore, in womanhood dwells the property of counsel. She tries the spirits of men. They are an open book before her; a precious power that, in the conduct of affairs. Lastly, womanhood is the foundation of comfort and hope. “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you,” wrote the prophet. And nowhere is comfort more needed than in the world of work. There is where men break and go under, and orphans cry, and the poor fail. There is where womanhood is wanted in the utmost stress of need. Not idle women, but women doing their work—often the same work that men do, but doing it in accordance with the terms of their own nature; women gentle, patient, helpful, meek, modest, wise, and of indomitable perseverance, leavening the lump of human selfishness with the traditions and ways of home. Patience, comfort, industry, loyalty, tenderness, protection—these motherhood teaches; these are the foundation of cooperation, and in cooperation, as we said at first, lies the salvation of the wage-earning and professional woman.

 

 

 

—We have received the program-book of the Chaminade Club, of Jacksonville, Ill., Mrs. Virginia B. Vasey, Secretary. The club has a membership of thirty. The programs included essays on “Music in England,” four different evenings being devoted to the subject; “Music in America,” five programs; “Music in France,” five programs. All the topics were illustrated by well-selected vocal and instrumental compositions. The various programs were arranged in chronologic order. 

It is suggested that clubs will benefit greatly by sending to other organizations for program-books, since no one has a monopoly of good ideas. Next season’s work should show an improvement on last year.

 

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