"Should the Wife Contribute to the Family Support?"

Four Interesting Opinions by Prominent Persons of Widely Different Points of View -- Samuel Gompers, of Labor Union Renown; Susan B. Anthony, the Famous Exponent of Woman Suffrage; Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Journalist and Poet, and Ida M. Tarbell, Author of Many Vigorous Books and Magazine Articles.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Simon Nelson Patten, professor of political economy in the University of Pennsylvania, recently expressed the somewhat startling opinion that the wife should, whenever possible, contribute in some definite financial way to the family income. A storm of controversy was at once aroused. Perhaps Doctor Patten was taken too literally, or maybe he has since exercised what is fallaciously supposed to be the feminine prerogative of changing his mind, or just possibly he will change his mind when he reads this interesting little symposium--we do not know precisely his views at the present writing. The subject seemed to us so vitally interesting from the standpoint of popular economics that we asked four persons whose opinions are unquestionably significant and valuable to write us briefly of their views on the matter. The result is given on this page, and while the contributions are not quite as diverse in trend as we had expected, they are keen, thoughtful and suggestive.

"My Answer is Emphatically 'No!' " by Samuel Gompers.
"What Wife Does Not Contribute to the Family Support?" by Susan B. Anthony.
"Doesn't the Wife Generally Do Her Share?" by Ida M. Tarbell.

"It Depends Upon Circumstances"
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Author, Poet and Journalist

Whether a woman should contribute to the family support or not depends wholly upon circumstances. When a wife comes to a husband with a fortune equal to his own there is no sensible reason why she should not use her money to help maintain the home.

It is a misfortune for the human race when a man takes a woman's financial condition into consideration in marrying her. It lowers the standard. While the mercenary woman is to be avoided by the man seeking happiness, yet until God gives the world some new method of peopling the earth a woman is excusable for considering, before she becomes his wife, a man's ability to support her during her childbearing years.

Unlike many of the thinkers of the day, I do not regard marriage only as an institution for propagating the species. Children are a blessing and a delight when they receive good blood and good training and are surrounded by the right conditions.

But I have in mind several happily married couples to whom no children have been given -- men and women who are a credit to the race and a blessing to the community in which they live, and who live in beautiful companionship. One woman is the only surviving member of a consumptive family, and she rejoices that she has not bestowed any possible inheritance of this tendency upon others. Meantime she has much leisure, and employs her spare hours in a business which brings her a good income, and her contributions to the family expenses are a source of happiness to her. many women who have passed the maternal period, and whose children are scattered in homes or positions of their own, find their greatest pleasure in employment which brings them a competence.

No wife with an able-bodied husband ought to be obliged to go out of her home to aid in the support of the family, but any wife who has the ability and the desire to earn money, and who finds a pleasure in using it cojointly with her husband in the maintenance of the home, should feel it her privilege to do so without taking into consideration what other people think about it.

In this age of extravagance and exorbitant rents it becomes a serious problem for a young man to think of establishing a home. Hundreds of young couples might marry and be happy in working together with their united purses if they did not fear the criticisms of neighbors.

To sum it up, however, in a sentence: No wife should feel obliged to contribute to the family support; any wife should feel it her privilege and pleasure when she desires to do so.

Woman's Home Companion, September 1905, p. 16.