Page images
PDF
EPUB

taining over seven hundred pages of her very first work. It really looks as if closely-lined foolscap. It was written in the great American novel had come at a fine though rather trembling hand, all last! the letters carefully formed, and the It was hard to send Margaret, or, downstrokes delicately shaded; it was Tried as by Fire back to its creator; and divided into chapters of about twenty when I think of all the other blighted pages in length, and each chapter was hopes and wounded hearts that lie along sewed at the side and bore an ornamental my path, I am very willing to remain title-page, under the lettering of which unknown. These things I do as a funcwere still visible the scrupulously erased tion, not as a person; and surely, surely, rulings. And with the manuscript came a they will not be charged upon my perletter on ruled note-paper :

sonal account when, or if, the author

of Margaret and I ever meet in Heaven. DEAR MR. EDITOR: I am sending herewith an entirely

THE WOMEN'S CLUBS original novel written by myself, Margaret, or, Tried as by Fire, which I hope A much perturbed mind claims the you will find desirable for your esteemed privilege of the anonymity of the Conperiodical, same to be paid for at your tributors' Club to use the time-honored regular rates for such contributions. method of finding out what she thinks by I may add that though some of the char- writing an article about it. It's about the acters and events are real, I have changed Women's Clubs. all their names, and am sure that no feel- Being of a curious turn of mind, and ings could be hurt. I am sorry I have no somewhat abnormally interested in whattypewriter; but I hope that will not pre- ever is spectacular, my imagination was vent you from giving the novel a consider- aroused by seeing in print early last year ation. ...

that “Boston would be taken possession

of by an army of 800,000 women in June, One cannot help thinking of the 1908.” So satisfying was this mental dreams of fame and wealth that must vision, — 800,000 women occupying the have gleamed across the vision of the trolley cars of Boston in beautiful but ambitious little woman as she patiently broiling June, – that I rested there for a copied off word by word, line by line, the time before I needed to be informed that final transcript of her entirely original what was really to happen was a connovel! Perhaps it was in the lonely vocation of the representatives of the kitchen of a Nebraska farm, across the membership of the General Federation wide-stretching acres of which she looked of Women's Clubs. wistfully away toward a land where tal- Then my interest became scientific, ent would not go unrewarded, where life and I went seriously about investigating would be something else than an endless what I am assured is a significant modern cycle of uneventful months. And cer- “movement." First, I studied the Gentainly she looked forward with trembling eral Federation. I found that it is made eagerness to the day when Margaret up “of Women's Clubs, State Federawould be the talk of the season among tions, Territorial Federations, National the literary circles.

Societies and kindred organizations." “What!” she could hear them saying In its charter it is stated to be “for already. “Did you say the author of educational, industrial, philanthropic, that marvelous book was a Nebraska literary, artistic and scientific culture," woman?”

and a medium of communication for “Yes, 'is n't it incredible! No one "the various Women's Clubs throughout had ever heard of her before. This is the world." It is supported by annual

dues assessed according to the membership of clubs.

“Seems, Madam, nay, I know not seems,” was the substance of the answers I have had to my inquiry, “What does the General Federation seem to do most ?” The pursuit of culture had not appeared to be uppermost in their public meetings. Tabulating the nebulous negatives of all my correspondence, I find that there are certain committees that represent definite propaganda, all honorable to their hearts and heads, and at the biennial meetings these committees present a report of their activities, – correspondence, petitions, amateur investigations, and occasional descents on legislative halls; that they are represented at the meetings by a “specialist," and an address is made by him, looking to arouse interest that shall be loosed upon the single club by the returned delegate.

Up to 1902 the Federation had been in process of building;” “to perfect its organization " had absorbed the real energy of its members. Since 1904 further changes have been made, so that it is now regarded as a “complete organism." It has a system of correspondence, with a sort of clearing-house for information, and is the custodian of its own history. It has its monthly journal. It looks to have a General Federation course of study. Yet, to my repeatedly asked question regarding what it seems to accomplish, came the answer, “Seems, Madam, nay, I know not seems; it is.”

A persistence in mere being is praiseworthy, and I can see it so, but I also see, when I look upon this admirable organism, a thing having perpetual motion between New York and San Francisco, running and rumbling, and never stopping. It occasions much tending and nursing, and some soothing, but, alas, I know that a machine wears out when it runs and does n't make anything. This is true of even the human machine that runs and does n't make anything — but speeches. Because I like this machine, I try to find out what it makes

Finally, I asked my question, in terms of “make,” of a much-badgered clubwoman, and she snapped me the quick answer, “Make! it tries to make clubs and club-women do their duty.” Now I seem to perceive. The General Federation is the preceptress of this extensive school, correspondence school, and the clubs and club-women are the scholars. What I must do is to ask the scholars about the teacher. I visited many clubs and asked always, “What does the General Federation do for

your

club?" The answers of one president are typical. “It does

very
little. We were a club with

а our own ways before we joined the Federation, and now, although we feel that we ought to belong to federations, our members do not like to be bothered with federation literature. My desk is full of appeals to the club from the various committees, and I have n't brought any before the club, for one is as important as another. And our club-women are impatient at having the time necessary to consider these questions taken from the regular programme."

“But are n't you coöperating with the aims of the General Federation ?” would be my somewhat surprised next question.

“No, only indirectly and as any particular person may be interested. You see we have our community interests and our lectures and you know how little time there is.”

“Then how is the work done that the General Federation seems to be doing?”

“Why, I don't know; you see they have their own committees and really you know there is n't time for everything. Excuse me, please, I see my social committee is waiting. We are planning our annual reception to the Federation officers.”

“Why," I tried to ask of her vanishing presence, “why are you willing to entertain the Federation, and yet refuse to entertain their ideas? Why can you give cakes and ale, and why can't you give information ?

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

.

a

a

One who ponders insufficient data is lia- dacity to conceive, the inspiration to ble to error in conclusions. But when they nurture, and the tenacity to persist, will are all the data one can get, the reflective come great gifts and high honor. The mind will ponder. I could not easily dis- organization will become a social institupel my earlier conclusion of school and tion, and blind, indeed, would she be pupil, — it was something to go on. In who neglected to catch the skirts of it, and reviewing certain pedagogical relations I be a part of whatever future it may have. come upon

the school that is popular and Questions in terms of "to seem” or richly supported, but its curriculum is ''to make” are not germane. The verb not its attraction; that lies in some subtle is wrong. It is a question of movement. quality — a quality that makes men The Federation is a procession, a triwant to be of its alumni with as tittle of umphal progress. It is going on its way its scholastic regimen as possible. So toward that ultimate state that many club-women want to be a part of the women see to be the perfect human conFederation, but they don't want to be dition a state where the leisure, the too much bothered with its direct aims. intelligence, the beneficent rule, is all If I were speaking only of myself as a theirs and man is the industrial machine. club-woman, I should liken the impulse It would be purblind not to go along with to have and to hold a membership in this it: so touching hands together, and in the great organization to the irresistible in- step of the immortal dance of Pan we go stinct that brings a little boy to the circus on singing relevantly, — before it is anywhere near time for the “ We don't know where we're going, parade to start. If anything is going to But we 're on the way.” happen, he wants to be a part of it. How endearing is Cicero in his naïve conclu

MADAME POULARD'S OMELETTE sion of the whole matter: “All of which I saw, and part of which I was.”

Does the Contributor who gave such “The Federation may

become a a delightful account of the inn at Mont mighty factor in the civilization of the Saint-Michel, in the April Atlantic, know century, if wielded as a whole,

an army

the quatrain which Madame Poulard of builders, ready, alert, systematic, and once inspired ? An American who had scientific, not only a potent force in this been sitting in the little cafè opposite

generation, but transmitting to the next the entrance to the Poulard Ainè saw a : a vigor and strength which has never large company of Englishmen in knickbeen given by any race of women to their erbockers coming up the narrow street inheritors.” Now, there is a glimmer of and going into the inn; he promptly light illuminating this mystical relation. crossed over and wrote these lines in the The imagination is stirred by the pro- guest book :mise of this hopeful organism. It is seen to be in the realm of the probable that, Joan of Arc, at point of lance,

although built in uncertainty, this crea- Drove the English out of France: • tion of modern womanhood is likely to Madame Poulard did better yet :

be of determining authority in future She brought them back with her omeconditions. To them who had the au

lette.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[graphic]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »