The money-earning wife is not only useful because of her money-earning qualities, but because the knowledge she has acquired of the world of men and things has helped to rub off her corners and to remove that helplessness which has long been woman's greatest failing in marriage. She has learnt to have a more businesslike view of life in general. Man has to learn commonsense as soon as he leaves school, but a large number of women lead a " sheltered life " existence, and never acquire that broad, useful impartiality which is only obtained by hand to hand combat with the harsh world.
When a woman is earning money, she learns to see the meaning of things more clearly, to take the right perspective of the world and its problems, and so is much more likely, for this added education, to be on a more equal footing with her husband. She is no longer the clinging little wife who is "not strong enough" to bear the discussion of her husband's business and prospects, but she is the comrade who can share his worries bravely, who can possibly make useful suggestions, and can cheer him on when failure seems horribly close.
Another side of this question was shown to me the other day by a young wife who has plenty of talent, and can earn plenty of money if she wishes. She said, and for a moment it struck me with a kind of dumb horror : "I don't think women ought to earn much money, for a husband might easily take advantage and think - if she can earn money to keep us comfortably, I can slack a little." At first it sounded horribly feasible, till I reflected that if a wife has the power to earn money, she also has the power not to earn it. At the first sign of any advantage being taken of her talents she could at once abandon the work.
Then there is the point of view of the unmarried bread-earner. She is not concerned as to whether a husband shall let his wife earn money, but whether a wife - a married woman who has a husband who is capable of earning money - ought to earn money at all. A wife who earns money at some trade or profession already overcrowded, not because she needs it, but because it gives her little luxuries - feather-crowned hats, or winter trips to Egypt and the Riviera - is doing terrible harm to the woman who is unmarried. Every husband who can afford to keep his wife in comfort should protest strongly against such money earning.
If, then, such a wife wants to earn money, she should do it by those kinds of work which the real breadwinner cannot aspire to. A woman whose husband earned not less than £10 a week earned another £3 weekly as a fashion artist. This can hardly be called fair when it is well known there are hundreds of unmarried women struggling at this work. If she had given her time to statuary, or rare enamelling, or jewelling, no one would grudge her the money she earned, for such work is not overcrowded, and really needs the stimulus of encouragement from women of means. The only excuse for " hack work " is that it is the easiest and quickest way of making money, but when a woman does not actually need the money that excuse is gone.
Preparing for the Rainy Day
A money-earning wife is a real help to her children, especially when they are growing up. They have her constant hard-working example before them, and no example is so strong as a mother's. Besides this, if she has other work than domestic which she must do, her daughters are " allowed in the kitchen," and do not grow up to marriage not knowing whether it is right to boil a cauliflower in hot or cold water. And not only do the daughters have the opportunity of learning to cook, but they also have to know something of household affairs, without going to a school of " domestic training."
There is no need to enlarge on that obvious urgent reason for a woman developing her money-earning capabilities - that of her "husband's possible death. Thousands of women with families have had to go through the most bitter experience when they found that the man who earned the money had left them and their children quite unprovided for. Charity is all that is left to them, usually a much grudged charity, which spoils and embitters the whole life of those dependent on it. Every woman, if for this reason only, should have some qualification for earning money, so that, if such evil days come, she may with pride support herself and her children, and not be dependent on the world's hard-given charity.
Small Income - The Secret of True Hospitality
Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough, A flask of wine, a book of verse, and thou Beside me singing in the wilderness, And wilderness is paradise enow.
The desolate desert waste with stunted trees and pitiless stones, above the torrid sky and the merciless sun which beats down upon a man who idly turns the pages of a book ; whilst a woman, leaning confidingly against him, with love-lit eyes notes the varying changes of expression pass over his beloved features.
The wine and bread are not luxuries, but the necessities of life to keep body and soul together. The luxury in the lives of the man and woman is that they have found all in each other. He did not desire her bread, or she his wine ; there were no calculations as to material assets. He only sought his mate, and although wiseacres may shake their heads and say this is " not business," it is the only safe basis for a perfect union. Cupid's Paradise
Turning away from the symbolism of the Persian, we come to the man and woman of our own day. The woman, like Cophetua's Beggar Maid, has no other attraction than her own sweet personality ; and he only possesses the money which he earns by the sweat of his brow, yet Nature demands that he should face the full responsibilities of life. He has seen his ideal; he fears to lose her ! He has made no delicate inquiries about the state of her banking account ; he feels that with her by his side the world would truly be at his feet. Instinctively he knows that the ideal he has sought is the woman who would enter into his ambitions and make them her own, entwining herself into every fibre of his being.