Who and what are they? Not the painted dolls and votaries of fashion, whose sole earthly happiness seems to consist in being elaborately dressed, and daintily perfumed, and who so disfigure themselves, and disarrange and [blank] up their apparel that it is difficult to tell whether they are real or imaginary beings: counterfeits of womanhood; false to nature, false to God who made them perfect. Everything which tends to make them false, hypocritical and untrue, perverts their own real nature; God made woman beautiful, if not in the face and figure, yet the very nature of her mission on the earth, helps to make her “a thing of beauty.” God intended her for a real comforter, a real help-meet, what could be more charming, more satisfying than tis, were it carried out to the very letter as he designed it should be?
How few there are who understand (even in part) the importance of the position they occupy, and for which they were specially created, and strive to preserve their own identity, their own individuality by being real; it is a very simple, common-place word yet it comprises so much.
What man who possesses pure, manly instincts, but in his heart were he left free to choose, untrammeled by worldly traditions and distinction, would prefer a real woman to an artificial one; one who would be content to fill a home-sphere, proud and happy in the consciousness of being really worthy her husband’s love and esteem.
|Merle De Vore Johnson, 1909|
Every day we hear it repeated, “a stylish woman,” “a magnificent woman,” “a superior woman,” “a literary woman,” or “a strong-minded woman.” A hundred and one adjectives are applied to the sex, but whoever stops to think of the Real Woman—the real living help? She who quietly, without ostentation or parade, fulfills the small, home-duties, cheerfully, patiently, heroically and hopefully, unknown save to those who constitute her own immediate circle, and often unappreciated even there: She has not wealth perhaps, or even a superior education, but if she has strong common sense, and an active mind, she is just as capable of filling her mission here, and of standing in her own real place hereafter, as though she was a favorite of fortune or the idol of the people.
One of the popular writers of the present days says “Man is what woman makes him;” and I would kindly beg to add, “women are what men have made them.” A quiet, unpretending domestic woman is a nobody nowadays, in the sight of the world. A woman feels compelled to distinguish herself in some way or other, in order to elicit even the smallest share of attention from these would be “Lords of Creation.” In the estimation of her own husband, (if she happens to be favored with one,) she is simply a necessity in his establishment, to manage his house, to cook his dinner, to attend to his wardrobe, always on hand if she is wanted and always out of sight when not needed. He doesn’t mind kissing her occasionally, when it suits him; but he never thinks she has any thoughts of her own, any ideas which might be developed; she must not have even an opinion, or if she has she mustn’t express it, it is entirely out of place; she is a subject, not a joint-partner in the domestic firm.
If men are really superior to women, let them show themselves so; prove themselves “pre-eminent,” “akin to God.” This is what a real woman craves; something worthy of reverence, or worship even, second only to her Creator. But failing to find this, she betakes herself to other things, finding no superiority in her “Lord and master” nor even acknowledgement of wifely duties, she seeks for happiness through another channel easier of attainment. If a woman is real enough to let her husband know she is devotedly attached to him, in nine cases out of then, he only makes use of it to her disadvantage; consequently it has become general among women to advise each other to disguise their real feelings, afraid to acknowledge them out of policy.
Where can be the real happiness, the one-ness? Is not this teaching women to be false to their own hearts?
Man, with all his boasted knowledge, and practical skill in reading character, is still in comparative ignorance of how women feel, or what they are. He regards them as toys, to be picked up and cast aside at will; very well for pastime playthings, or for housekeepers; but to consider them real, genuine, rational beings, is a novel idea; they are vain, frivolous, fickle deceitful, incapable of performing any important part in life creditably.
I must acknowledge the real genuine article is hard to find, in this enlightened nineteenth century; but shall we succumb to this foul aspersion upon our sex? Shall we or content with a false life, a counterfeit? Shall we be real women? We Latter-day Saints, who profess to aspire to something purer, higher, nobler and better than the world? We are seeking to understand ourselves, our own organization, our own individual life; making a real use of our time, having a real purpose in all that we do, n all that we say, living a real life; laying up real treasures in the kingdom of heaven; not copying the fashions of the world, or their manners, but improving for ourselves, guided and directed by the best talent, judgment and skill we possess. It is very easy to copy, there is nothing real in that, not even a freshness about it, it is only imitation; like the silly school-girl, who, too idle to exercise her own dormant faculties, copies from her class-mate’s slate, forgetting it will be of no benefit to her in future; it serves her purpose for the time being, it is sham, she passes it off for real information.
Let us be more cautious—let us know for ourselves—that will make us real. We shall then be better equaled to accomplish that we are striving to attain to, not following a shadow, or a phantom, but that which is real; a real Gospel, which will elevate, refine and purify, bringing us back into the real presence, of Him whose aim and design, in our creation, was to make us real women.
Emmeline B. Wells, Dec 13th 1873