This is the article that started LAF: A prophetic lament from 1970 which has, sadly, come true. ~ Editor
The left, alas, is now running yet another “Liberation Movement,” this one championing females who believe that the male sex has somehow done the ladies wrong. The members of this Front say they want all the spoils the boys appear to be getting out of life. They’re quite mad, of course. What these “girls” are about to do is ruin the biggest Con Game, and the most ancient, which one section of humanity has ever imposed on another, since Eve invented it. I’m just jealous, myself, having been deprived by circumstances from getting into that Big Con Game…alas, alas, alas. But I’ve stood on the sidelines and seethed with envy, and now I hope – I say with a grin over clenched teeth – that the Liberation “girls” will get exactly what they want. It’s all they deserve.
I am convinced that the Liberationist females, judging from their photographs at least, and on some personal observation, are so unattractive mentally, physically, and in personality, that they are envious because they can’t even qualify for the Big Con Game, and so don’t want other women to wallow in it with sweet and secret smiles. As for myself, I am only wistful, and plenty happy that my two beautiful daughters are in on the Game and enjoying every minute of it, and wouldn’t even dream of Female Liberation. I brought them up to appreciate their blessings — and to shut their mouths around their husbands, for fear the boys would catch on and demand liberation for themselves, which is exactly the calamity these rampant females in the “Liberation Movement” are going to precipitate. God help the contented women who will be their victims!
The Liberation Ladies would have just loved my Mama, who was very advanced and ultra-modern, perhaps even more than most women of today. Mama believed in rearing girls exactly as boys were reared, and no nonsense about the weaker sex and the softer yearnings in a girl’s heart. Mama believed that what a boy could, and should, do, a girl could and should do, also; and if a girl had softer muscles and more tender feelings, well, that was tough. So, I was reared just as my brother was reared — except that Little Brother was somewhat smarter than I was and ran his own Con Game against Mama, and succeeded to an enviable extent.
From early childhood I hauled heavy scuttles of coal in from the coal shed, in England, for my parents’ fires. The housemaid refused to do it. “It’s a man’s job,” she would say, but Papa, having a dominant wife, lay down on the job. Mama, who had a convenient memory, forgot that what a man can do, a woman can, too, and did not haul the coals. She remembered that only when it came to me. So I did the hauling and nearly pulled my arms from the sockets in the rain and the snow and the harsh winds of a British winter. I did notice that the young daughters of our neighbors did not stoke the fireplaces and drag scuttles, nor clean out the fireplaces in the cold grey dawns. The fathers and the boys of the family did this, while the mamas and the daughters stayed snuggled-up in bed. My first resentment began, but being a discreet child and knowing the weight of Mama’s hand, I said nothing. Ah, Mama was a real Liberation Movement in herself! And when we came to America, guess who did most of the stoking of the huge furnace and the carrying out of ashes. Right. I did. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” Mama would say, roughly, when I felt that I would collapse. “What a boy your age can do, you can do, too. Girls are just as strong as boys. You’re not going to pamper yourself as long as I am around here!”
Then, there were the enormous snows, often reaching four feet, almost as high as I was. I had to take the weighty coal shovel and get rid of that snow, all by myself. “No coddling here, just because you are a girl,” said Mama. See how she echoes the Liberation Ladies of today? My ears would ring and my arms scream with exertion, and my heart would pound in my throat. Neighbors would notice, with outrage, but when one of them complained gently to Mama she would say, sturdily, “What a boy can do, a girl can do! No cossetting in our house!”
When I was fifteen and an adult, Mama decided that I was quite old enough to go to work — at the first work I could obtain. I was an Adult and should have a job. So, I was pulled out of school and sent job-hunting, and I found heavy laboring work in a factory, six days a week, twelve hours a day. “Why shouldn’t a woman do the same work a man does?” the Liberation Ladies of today ask. Girls, I wish to God you had had a Mama like mine! You’d be silent these days, instead of noisy and stupid. I stood on my feet for those twelve hours a day, at a machine, bending and stooping and hauling, in danger from wheels and lathes and whatever. I worked like a man all right.
It was around this time that I first noticed that Boys were not all as objectionable as Little Brother, and that some Boys did not resemble Papa in the least. The first feminine instincts began to stir in my fifteen-year-old heart. The boys were in the factory, and sometimes when they saw me panting too heavily they would force me to sit down for a few minutes and take my place, in mercy, at the monstrous machine. And it was about that time that I began to dream of someday marrying a kind and considerate husband, one who would cherish me and know me for a female and not a Liberated Woman, and take care of me and love and pamper me and hold me precious as a queen, and buy a pleasant house for me where I’d have nothing to do but housework and taking care of children — children quite unlike Little Brother — and shop and cook. I would no longer have to be anxious about carfare and worry if my allowance would cover lunch, and I’d have pretty clothes and be protected all my life — with no effort on my part. (Alas, alas, alas.)
After work, the snow-shoveling and the carrying of ashes was still my job, and to this had been added outside window-washing, gutter-cleaning, grass-cutting and cultivating, and shingle repairing. Papa, prodded by Mama, was quite an overseer. He would stand, smoking his pipe, while I teetered on a long ladder and pounded shingles and nails into the roof, and he directed my efforts. Papa, too, would have loved the modern Liberation Movement for Women. Frankly, I think he and Mama invented it. When I infrequently complained, pleading exhaustion, Mama would toss her head with a triumphant warning smile, and say, “What a man can do, a woman can do! There’s no difference. Sex has nothing to do with it!” Just once, seeing Papa hanging up the laundry, I sarcastically remarked, “And what a woman can do a man can do, too.” This earned me a clout from Mama.
My Aunt Pollie and my Uncle Willie lived not far from us. Aunt Pollie was not a feminist. She was a lovely gracious lady with long blonde hair and big blue eyes and a dainty charming manner. She had a Mama, too, but fortunately, a Victorian Mama who believed that a woman’s place was in her house, and she a queen in her house, and that gentlemen were born for the cherishing, guarding, loving and pampering of ladies. (Ah, me.) To Aunt Pollie, Ladies were Ladies. Gentlemen earned mysterious livings “at business,” and it was none of the Ladies’ affair, except when it came to wills. Girl-children were brought up in the graceful womanly arts of cooking, house-managing, children-rearing, sewing, embroidering — and civilized leisure. It was a woman’s place to be an ornament and a comforting presence in her home, adored alike by husband and children, and never was she to be exposed to the harsh elements of competition and outside work, and it was incredible that she should ever be expected to be a “partner’ to her husband. She was above such nonsense. She was her husband’s queen, presiding beautifully over the table he provided and over the silver-covered dishes, the contents of which she had toothsomely prepared herself. As for holding a job and “helping out,” Aunt Pollie would have raised a gilt eyebrow in incredulous amusement. Such things were “below” a woman’s existence.
Aunt Pollie, clothed exquisitely and smelling delightfully of perfume, would go with her redoubtable Mama to twice-weekly matinees, then come home to prepare fragrant tea and bake luscious scones to be eaten with homemade strawberry jam. Though she had no modern washing-machine and used flat irons and hung out her laundry and had no vacuum cleaner and other “aids,” she managed to look serene and rested at all times, and had many hours of leisure every day. Aunt Pollie, the Queen, a gentle and lovely wife, a “dependent’ wife with no ambitions to do a man’s work in the world, would been despised by feminists and Liberation Ladies. But Aunt Pollie was truly a woman, and not a grotesque neuter full of envy of the male sex — who have always had it much harder than women, with much less physical stamina, and have been conned by women for endless centuries to make life soft for them.
Unlike our brawling household, Aunt Pollie’s house was a place of sweet quiet refuge for a tired girl like myself. Even at the cost of having to go with Uncle Willie to his grim Scots Presbyterian Church on Sunday evenings, I would visit Aunt Pollie for the soothing joy of being in a real home, among soft voices and gentle music, among fragrances and graciousness, and topping it off a real British Tea, produced apparently without effort. And I observed that Uncle Willie was masculinely deferential to Auntie’s femininity, elaborately courteous to her, and overwhelmingly loving, while she cosseted him in her daintily feminine fashion. Aunt Pollie was a discreet Scotswoman, so she did not criticize my parents and the back-breaking labor she knew I was doing all the long hours of the week. But once she said to me, seriously, in her beautifully modulated voice, “Janet, the only way out for you is more education and then…and then breaking away.”
It was to Aunt Pollie that I took my literary efforts — written long after mid-night and before my rising at six a.m. She would read them closely and carefully, then gaze at me with her tender thoughtful eyes and remark, “Janet, you must get an education.” So, I went to night high school five nights a week. And believe me, kiddies, at fifteen — a “child,” to use modern parlance — I had very little time to sleep or eat after that! There were no adolescent “difficulties” or “traumas,” either, no “turmoils,” no “rebellion.” Life had become a stern business of surviving each day and working and living for the future. The rage still lives in me that despite the financial comforts of my family I was expected to do a boy’s and man’s work, and “no nonsense about you being a girl, either.” All I wanted to be was a girl, and then a cherished woman! Alas.
While I worked and studied, my dream of being the Cherished Woman — like Aunt Pollie — grew stronger in me. But all the hard work I had had to do since I was a child, and the living I had had to earn since I was fifteen, and all the exhortations I had had to listen to at “home,” gave me too much independence of manner, too much self-assurance, too much of an appearance of confidence. This definitely put off men who wanted a Queen for their houses, a soft and yielding gentle sweet creature like Aunt Pollie, a charming hostess pliant soothing and full of musical laughter and kind wit. For such a woman, men were ready to work their poor hearts out, considering themselves blessed. But a girl like myself, who knew hard labor, and knew how to earn a buck, and had a sharp and independent voice and manner, was not attractive to them. They did not want a “partner,” and a fellow wage earner. They did not believe that “a woman can do anything a man can do.” They were right, of course.
So, I did not attract the manly men I secretly adored, the masculine, strong men, the cherishers of women, the protectors of women, the admirers of women, the men who believed it was their duty to provide for wives and children, the men who built nice houses for their women, who guarded them against the evil brutalities of living. I attracted the weak sisters among the men, who subconsciously recognized that here was a girl who would earn a living for them, take care of them, protect the, and be the man of the house, while they indulged their “sickly” physiques and their “ailments” and their delicate psyches. They clung to me, the creeps, begging for instant marriage — while the men I yearned for married helpless little creatures who knew nothing of “business” except it provided them, via men, with the luxuries and comforts of life, and the protection. But, of course, they had not had my own dolorous life, and had not had the parents I had.
At eighteen, I fell desperately in love with a true man, a man of strength and masculine vitality and courage. He was attracted to me, too. But then one night he said to me, “Janet, you aren’t the gentle little woman my mother was. My father worshiped her, and no wonder. You are too strong, yourself, and too independent for me. There’d be conflict in the house. You wouldn’t be satisfied just to be taken care of; you’d want to do something on your own, and be a ‘partner’ to me. It’s just no use.” I was struck dumb at this horrifying statement. I wasn’t very articulate then. He gently picked up my hands and shook his head at the old callouses, and as gently put them down. I wanted to cry out to him, ” But I want to be like your mother! I want you to take care of me and deliver me from my hateful daily job! I want you to cherish me! I want only to be your wife and have your children and keep your house! I don’t want a career or anything else. I just want you.” But I couldn’t say it. I had no words. My rearing silenced me. And so I never saw him again. But I saw the creeps, all right! They hung on me like leeches. Charity prevents me from elaborating on the matter. After all, a girl has to marry someone, doesn’t she, when her yearning for love and protection overcomes her. And, believe me, unless she is a dyke or a Liberated Commie, that yearning is natural and heart-breaking.
I am too old now to have dreams, or to hope for them. It was only very recently, however, that I had to abandon the old desperate yearning to be a wife only, loved and cherished and protected, guarded by the serene walls of her house and her devoted husband, her days full of calm and sunlight and leisure, with no infernal damned career to follow, with no one dependent on her earnings for sustenance. And I look on the ladies who have never been forced to work as I have been forced, the ladies who are adored by their husbands and provided for by their husbands, who garden placidly and drive out for lunches, and shop and know nary a moment of financial anxiety and never the pressure of making a living for “sick dependents.” I envy such women. I envy them as I never envied another human creature. They tell me, with simpers, how they”envy” me, and “how much you have accomplished, famous and all, while I am just a “housewife,” and I hate their complacent guts. Not one of them would exchange her life for mine, “fame” or not. They were brought up to be tenderly dependent — and they reap the rewards now of that upbringing. They lie in their teeth — and I don’t blame them, really — when they tell me wistfully that they wish they’d had a career, too.
I told my daughters: “Marry men who will not permit you to work after marriage. Marry strong men who will take care of you and cherish you, and not tell you their business, and will refuse your ‘help.'” I had told them from the very beginning that unless a woman is powerfully (and by birth) motivated to the arts and the sciences and the professions, and is deeply gifted and cannot be denied, she should refrain from going out into the market places with mediocre abilities. Once she has earned a paycheck, I told my daughters, she is practically doomed — unless she can persuade a man that that paycheck is only a stop-gap before marriage, and she is only too happily willing to throw it over. She must then keep to her resolution: Never again to earn money outside her house. Never again to be a “partner, shoulder to shoulder with her man.” Never again to be independent. In short, she should play the Big Con Game with her husband as shrewd and intelligent women have done for centuries.
I have accomplished the one success of my life: I have brought up daughters who have manly and cherishing husbands, who have never wanted to earn money outside their pleasant homes, who have concentrated on the sole and natural business of women: To be good wives and prudent mothers, soothers of the masculine brow, good cooks, pleasant companions, and truly feminine. I wish I’d had a mother just like me.
I fear that men are beginning to suspect that we women conned them through the centuries. I fear they are asking themselves — to women’s terrible hurt — why they should support an able-bodied woman who can earn a good living too, and why should they be responsible for providing a home for women. Why can’t women be architects and bricklayers and plumbers and stone-masons and lawyers and doctors and business women too, and pile up a fat bank account to be inherited by husbands? Why should a man give his ex-wife alimony and child-support checks, when she is just as capable, if not more so, of rolling up her sleeves and getting on the 8:00 bus of a morning for an arduous day in the factory or the office? After all, men whisper among themselves — I have heard — that women in Russia are treated exactly as men, and are farm-laborers plowing and seeding and harvesting, and they manhandle big machines in factories, empty garbage and shovel snow, learn to be bricklayers and steel-workers as well as doctors and lawyers, serve in the armies, drive trucks, wear felt pants, dig sewers and lay pipes, clean chimneys and work in the forests, and do the heaviest of manual labor.
The men listen to modern “Liberal” doctors who say — the cads — that women are much stronger and healthier than men, have more stamina, can do much more prolonged work, can bear children with ease and nonchalance, are healthy as horses, and therefore should do the heaviest of work and “take their places in the world, man to man.” Too, women are “sexually free,” and so there is no need to marry them for amorous reasons. Most women, the men say, are eager and willing and aggressive, and ready for sport at all times, and are more zestful than men. So, who needs a wife, a bed-mate, a woman to bear children? Let ’em work! That’s what men are already saying. They, too, have been listening to the Liberation Ladies, and the majority of them chuckle and slyly approve. The Liberation Ladies will lead to generations of women willing to support a tired husband, and provide for his old age. He can be snug-abed in the morning while she pounds off in her thick boots to her job, or carries a briefcase to her office. And when she comes home at night — she can cook his dinner, too, and whash and iron his shirts. She can do the housework, while he watches TV and complains of the pain in his back — which she will eventually rub away at bedtime. Women wanted careers, didn’t they? They can do a man’s work, can’t they? Well, let ’em do it, and be glad they were able to get a husband besides, even if they have to take care of him!
Men, in short, are licking their lips and, for the first time in history, are readying themselves to be exploiters in their turn — to be the soft gentle creature in the house, the soother of exhaustion, the serene person who has nothing to worry about in his pleasant life. Mom’s out there, plugging and “fulfilling” herself, and why should Pop worry? He’s had it coming to him since Eve.
Pick up any woman’s magazine, particularly a certain one which was once run by men who promoted good artcles and fiction , and which are read by as many men as women. Read there the articles by shrewd sly gentlemen who proclaim a woman “has as much ‘right’ to do any of the world’s work as men, as much ‘right’ to a job or a career, as much ‘right’ to be head of the household.” Those boys know what they’re up to: The real enslavement of women. Tragically, such near-men and the Liberation Ladies can never crush the longing of a woman’s heart to be cherished, to be protected, to be guarded, to be honored and deferred to, to be loved dearly and devotedly, to be a true helper, to be a complement, in her femininity, to the masculine nature; her longings to be the patroness of beauty and tranquility, to be the dear mother of respectful children, to be, as the Holy Bible says, “a good woman, whose price is far above rubies,” the adorner of life, the civilizer, Godly, with beauty of spirit long after her youthful beauty has gone.
It is a woman’s nature to make a sanctuary of love and delight in her home. That is the true “career” for women. Alas, alas, that so many multitudes of women are now forced — or choose — to abandon that career, and to become imitation men in society. The true men won’t marry them. The creeps will throng about them. They will reap the bitterness I have had to reap — though I never wanted a career, never wanted to be “stalwart.” I just wanted to be a woman.
You really can’t change human nature, and the instincts of that nature, for good or evil. I know a prosperous young man in New York, in his early thirties, who has a “pad” in a penthouse, and is up-to-date on everything, including Ladies’ Liberation. He highly approves of it. It is time, he told me, that women “stopped being parasites” and worked to the day they dropped dead or retired, as men do, and not expect a man “to support them.” He is very enthusiastic, too, about women’s “sexual liberation,” and always manages to get a girl who, the dupe and dope, heartily agrees with him. “After all,” says the young man, “women get as much fun out of it as men do, so why should a man feel obligated to marry them, or give them more than a drink and a dinner in exchange? I’m all for this new freedom for the girls.”
He belongs to the Key Club. You know the kind I mean. When I was in New York recently he invited me to meet his “newest girl” at the Club. The “girl” happened to be a member of an advertising agency, a smart, pretty cookie with swinging hair and bright cheeks and eyes, and good manners and an engaging way with her. Only her eyes were vulnerable, and soft and tender as she gazed at my young masculine friend. The lovelight shone in those eyes, deep and passionate and devoted. I thought those two hit it off wonderfully well, and I thought, too what a wonderful marriage they would make and what handsome and intelligent children they would have. After all, the girl came of a good family, had a master’s degree in publications and advertising, and money of her own. And I could palianly see that marriage was fixed in her own ardent wishes and hopes.
When she went to the “powder room” I said to my sophisticated, progressive, and with-it young pal: “Are you going to marry Sally soon?” He looked absolutely shocked! Suddenly the primitive man was there and not a “modern” man in a dinner jacket and black tie, in a Key Club with bunnies running around and the smell of winey cooking in the air. He was aghast. He said “Excuse me, but you can’t be serious, can you? Sally’s all right. But, after all, she is a modern girl — she likes a romp as well as I do. No inhibition.” He paused. Then he said, “Playmates for play-time. But only maidens for marriage!” And he laughed.
When I still stared at him cynically, he got a little mad. “Let’s face it,” he said. “The liberated girls have made their own public bed, and they can lie in it, and we men love it. but if they think we are going to marry them, they’re due for an awakening. No man wants a woman who’s been out on the town with every Tom, Dick, and Harry. When we marry, we don’t want a ‘modern’ woman.” He laughed again. “Oh, we encourage the women to be ‘liberated’! It’s cheap for us, and we get all the free sex we want before we settle down with a decent girl.”
Sally came back, glowing at the boyfriend, her heart in her eyes. No one ever told Sally that she was being used, that her womanhood had been cheapened and degraded by her sister-women in the name of “liberation.” Sure, Sally had her “identity,” as they wickedly call it, and her “freedom,” and she was being fulfilled all right, all right! She had her good job and her independence and her nice little apartment…and she was twenty-seven years old and she would soon be middle-aged, and all she could marry then (and even now) would be some “Liberal” creep eager to live on her salary and permit her to support him. The young man now opposite her, with his urbane manner and excellent income and ambitions, would never marry Sally. He would marry some sweet, untouched creature who would not “stand shoulder to shoulder with him in the battle for life,” but who would make him a pleasant little wife of whose decency he would be proud, and who had never heard the phrase, “women’s liberation.” Well, I suppose, it serves Sally right and all her deluded and pathetic sisters who sprint off to work every morning and take care of themselves and are as “free as men.” But deep in their deprived hearts they know how tragic they are.
Girls, the men are catching on — through your sister-women who have been “liberated — that they have been victims for ages of the Big Con Game, and the first thing you know they will be demanding Civil Rights and Equality for themselves, too! It’s up to you, in behalf of future generations, to lull them back and to again become superior. Who wants Equality with men? No woman in her right mind.
Remember this: The strongest sign of the decay of a naiton is the feminization of men and the masculinization of women. It is notable that in Communist nations women are exhorted, and compelled, to do what has traditionally been men’s work. American women, some of them, feel triumphant that they have broken down the “barricades” between the work of the sexes. I hope they will still feel triumphant when some commissar forces a shovel or an axe into their soft hands and compels them to pound and cut forests and dig ditches. I hope they will be “happy” when a husband deserts them and they must support their children and themselves alone. (After all, if a woman must be “free” she shouldn’t object to men being free too, should she?”) I hope they will feel “fulfilled” when they are given no more courtesies due to their sex, and no kindnesses, but are kicked aside on the subways and buses by men, and jostled out of the way by men on busy sidewalks and in elevators. I hope that no man will extend mercy to them because of obvious pregnancies, but will rudely tell them that that is no excuse to shirt a day’s heavy labor, and they should be like Russian women. I hope they will be proud when some court demands that they support “delicate” husbands for a lifetime, and pay alimony. I hope, when they look in their mirrors, that they will be pleased to see exhausted and embittered faces, and that they will be consoled by their paychecks.
The decay and the ruin of a nation has always lain in the hands of its women. So does its life and strength, its reverence for beauty, its mercy and kindness. And, above all, its men.
Taylor Caldwell was born in England and emigrated with her parents when she was a child in 1907. She was an outspoken conservative and wrote for many publications until her death in 1985. The preceding article was reprinted from the 1970 issue of American Opinion. While we at L.A.F. do not feel that a woman is to be merely an “ornament,” we do agree that the “Liberation Ladies” have handed women to men on a silver platter and made them worse than ornaments — they have made them slaves to man’s whims and slaves to the market.