A MOTHER'S VIEW OF "WOMAN'S RIGHTS."
MRS. MAXON read the diary and returned it to Dolores the
night previous to her departure. But in the hurry and excitement incident
to the occasion, she found no suitable opportunity for a long motherly
talk with the young lady, as she had hoped. She merely said, as she returned
the book :
"I am glad you permitted me to read this, Dolores. It
has enabled me to better understand your strange repugnance for marriage.
Your mother was an unwilling parent, and your nature is impregnated with
the rebellious feelings which filled her heart and brain. I hope you will
outgrow them, however, and anchor yourself in a happy home, I could wish
for you no greater joy than a married life as congenial and pleasant as
After Dolores's departure, Helena referred to the subject
of the diary.
"Dolores told me that you read it, Mamma, and I am really
curious to know the contents of that mysterious book. She used to refer
to it so often, and one time she would have shown it to me, because she
said it contained truths which I ought to know; but I would not read it
without your permission. Was Dolores's mother a greatly wronged woman,
Mamma? and was her husband so very unkind to her? Dolores seemed to almost
loathe his memory, and I fancied he must have been a very cruel man."
Mrs. Maxon took Helena's hand and drew her down on a low
ottoman at her side. They were quite alone.
"No, my child," she said, gravely; "Mr. King was not a
cruel man, and Mrs. King was not a greatly wronged woman. But their marriage
was not a true and holy one, according to my idea of that sacred relation.
In the early pages of the diary, written just before and just after the
marriage, the young bride speaks constantly of her pride in having made
a brilliant alliance. It seems she bettered her condition in a worldly
sense, by her marriage, and it was this ambition, rather than a great love,
which led to the union. During the first few months, the diary abounds
with references to receptions, dinners, balls, where she had been admired
and courted. Then begins a series of wild, despairing complaints
against Providence and her husband and the world. Bitter, unreasoning
denunciations of the marriage tie, and mournful regrets, as weak as useless,
for her lost freedom. All this was occasioned by the
knowledge that she was to become a mother. Her emotions seemed to
culminate in violent anger toward her husband, and resentful wrath at a
social system which she said was more brutal than the laws which
govern brutes; since they are never compelled to bring undesired offspring
into the world, with every instinct crying out against it. Almost
insane with the intensity of these emotions, it is no wonder her daughter's
mind was impressed with them. Now, my sweet child," continued
Mrs. Maxon, drawing Helena closer to her side, "all this is very strange
to you, I know, but it is a subject of vast importance to all our sex--to
all the world; and I think you are at an age when you ought to understand
"That is what Dolores said, Mamma," interrupted Helena.
"She said I ought to know these things, and she wanted me to read the diary."
"Yes, but I am glad you did not read it," her mother replied.
"It would be like looking for a reflection of your own sweet face in a
broken mirror. The diary presented important facts for your consideration,
to be sure, but it presented them in a diseased and unnatural form. The
subject of marriage and maternity, as treated in the diary, would have
alarmed and shocked you, while in reality they are as sacred and beautiful
as religion. It is of the utmost importance that our girls and women should
think upon these subjects, and think of them as natural and holy events,
before taking upon themselves the duties of wives and mothers. But it would
have been a matter of lasting regret to me if you had gained your first
ideas of these momentous questions from the diary. It is by her own mother
a girl should be taught to understand those things in all their beauty
"In the case of Mrs. King, her first great error lay in
the wrong motive which led to her marriage. It was ambition--not love or
respect; and motherhood she regarded as a misfortune. She was evidently
a woman of strong feeling, and therefore more capable of influencing the
mind of her offspring. The child came into the world with the same intense
hatred of the father, and rebellion against marriage, which had filled
her mother's heart all these months."
"How very strange!" mused Helena, bewildered.
"Yes, strange, beautiful and terrible in the responsibility
it places upon our sex, Helena. We make or mar the character of our offspring,
often, by the thoughts we entertain during the prenatal period of their
existence. You know I am an advocate for the widest education of woman;
for her having all the doors of the professions, and arts, and trades,
flung open to her, if she chooses to fit herself to enter them. Yet I am
surprised and pained, often, as I see so many of the most interested and
zealous workers in this cause, ignoring or misusing the grand and wonderful
right and duty, ordained by heaven for woman--the right of moulding the
mind, temper, and character of her children. You know, dear, do you not,
the world-wide reputation which ancient Greece had in its glory for the
beauty of its people?"
"Oh, yes. I learned all about that at school. The Greeks
were the handsomest people--the most perfect, physically, I suppose--of
any race which ever existed."
"Yes, that is true, Helena. And now let me tell you the
cause of this. In Greece, a woman who was to become a mother was guarded
from every annoyance, or pain, or peril; she was regarded by her husband,
and by all men, as a divine being, chosen by God as a holy messenger from
His very courts. She was surrounded by beautiful paintings, music, literature,
and an atmosphere of love and homage. It is no wonder that the Greeks became
the most beautiful people in the world. But as time passed, all
this changed. Men failed to hold women in such reverence--and then
Greece fell; and its glory, and the beauty of its people,
became only a thing of the past. There is an old mythological tale
that the soul of a man who maltreats a woman at this time goes into an
owl's body when he dies, and remains there through three generations.
But in our own country, I think women maltreat themselves more frequently.
Every wrong impulse, every unkind thought or act that enters into a woman's
heart, during this sacred period, should be guarded against and dispelled,
with caution and with prayer. To listen to fine music, to look upon
lovely objects, to enjoy agreeable surroundings, these things are not always
within reach of a woman. But efforts at self-command, and an unselfish
forethought for the future of the child, and prayer--the humblest can employ
these means to the desired end. Prayer is the key to heaven.
It admits us to the sacrament of angels. In God's vast Government
he has constantly a deputy of angels who guard each human being.
If we appeal to them, they redouble their efforts to help and strengthen
us. If we neglect and ignore them, they finally grow disheartened and turn
to more willing souls. It is my belief that there are no heights of moral
grandeur we can not attain, if we are vigilant in prayer. I want you to
remember that many of our criminals, are the results of a mother's attempt
to destroy her helpless child. The murderous impulse was imparted to the
defenseless little creature, a seed that blossomed into rank crime. Many
an unruly and defiant son, who breaks his mother's heart, by his disobedience
and rebellion, could lay the cause at his mother's door.
"Never was a child more eagerly longed for than your own
sweet self, Helena. My heart overflowed with happiness, all during those
months of expectancy. As a consequence, your own nature is full of joy
and sunshine, and you have been a comfort and a blessing to me always.
Yet I was ignorant of any great responsibility at that time. Not till later
in life did I obtain the knowledge, which is of far more value to our young
women graduates, than all the horrors of vivisection with which so many
of them are familiar.
"And now, good night, my daughter. Remember that these
subjects should never be discussed lightly or irreverently; they are holy,
and sacred, and beautiful; they are part of religion, for they pertain
to the divine mysteries of our existence."