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In all the talk and thought about what's to be, noo that the war's over with and done, I hear a muckle of different opinions aboot what the women wull be doing. They're telling me that women wull ne'er be the same again; that the war has changed them for good--or for bad!-- and that they'll stay the way the war has made them.
Weel, noo, let's be talking that over, and thinking about it a wee bit. It's true that with the war taking the men richt and left, women were called on to do new things; things they'd ne'er thought about before 1914. In Britain it was when the sh.e.l.ls ran short that we first saw women going to work in great numbers. It was only richt that they should. The munitions works were there; the laddies across the Channel had to have guns and sh.e.l.ls. And there were not men enough left in Britain to mak' all that were needed.
I ken fine that all that has brocht aboot a great change. When a la.s.sie's grown used to the feel of her ain siller, that's she's earned by the sweat of her brow, it's not in reason that she should be the same as one that has never been awa' frae hame. She'll be more independent. She'll ken mair of the value of siller, and the work that goes to earning it. And she'll know that she's got it in her to do real work, and be really paid for doing it.
In Britain our women have the vote noo' they got so soon as the war showed that it was impossible and unfair to keep it frae them longer.
It wasna smas.h.i.+ng windows and pouring treacle into letter boxes that won it for them, though. It wasna the militant suffragettes that persuaded Parliament to give women the vote. It was the proof the women gave that in time of war they could play their part, just as men do.
But now, why should we be thinking that, when the war's over, women will be wanting tae go on just as they did while it was on? Would it not be just as sensible to suppose that all the men who crossed the sea to fight for Britain would prefer to stay in uniform the rest of their lives?
Of coorse there'll be cases where women wall be thinking it a fine thing to stay at work and support themselves. A la.s.sie that's earned her siller in the works won't feel like going back to was.h.i.+ng dishes and taking orders about the sweeping and the polis.h.i.+ng frae a cranky mistress. I grant you that.
Oh, aye--I ken there'll be fine ladies wall be pointing their fingers at me the noo and wondering does Mrs. Lauder no have trouble aboot the maids! Weel, maybe she does, and maybe she doesn't. I'll let her tell aboot a' that in a hook of her own if you'll but persuade her to write one. I wish you could! She'd have mair of interest to tell you than I can.
But I've thocht a little aboot all this complaining I hear about servants. Have we not had too many servants? Were we not, before the war, in the habit of having servants do many things for us we micht weel have done for ourselves? The plain man--and I still feel that it is a plain man's world that we maun live in the noo--needs few servants. His wife wull do much of the work aboot the hoose herself, and enjoy doing it, as her grandmither did in the days when housework was real work.
I've heard women talking amang themselves, when they didn't know a man was listening tae them, aboot their servants--at hame, and in America.
They're aye complaining.
"My dear!" one will say. "Servants are impossible these days! It's perfectly absurd! Here's Maggie asking me for fifteen dollars a week!
I've never paid anything like that, and I won't begin now! The idea!"
"I know--isn't it ridiculous? What do they do with their money? They get their board and a place to sleep. Their money is all clear profit --and yet they're never satisfied. During the war, of course, we were at their mercy--they could get work any time they wanted it in a munitions plant----."
And so on. These good ladies think that girls should work for whatever their mistresses are willing to pay. And yet I canna see why a girl should be a servant because some lady needs her. I canna see why a la.s.sie hasna the richt to better herself if she can. And if the ladies cannot pay the wages the servants ask, let them do their own work! But do not let them complain of the ingrat.i.tude and the insolence of girls who only ask for wages such as they have learned they can command in other work.
But to gae back to this whole question of what women wull be doing, noo that the war's over. Some seem tae think that Jennie wall never be willing to marry Andy the noon, and live wi' him in the wee hoose he can get for their hame. She got Andy's job, maybe. And she's been making more money than ever Andy did before he went awa'. Here's what they're telling me wull happen.
Andy'll come hame, all eager to see his Jenny, and full of the idea of marrying her at once. He'll have been thinking, whiles he was out there at the front, and in hospital--aye, he'd do mair thinking than usual aboot it when he was in hospital--of the wee hoose he and Jennie wad be living in, when the war was over. He'd see himself kissing Jennie gude-bye in the morn, as he went off to work, and her waiting for him when he came hame at nicht, and waving to him as soon as she recognized him.
And he'd think, too, sometimes, of Jennie wi' a bairn of theirs in her arms, looking like her, but wi' Andy's nose maybe, or his chin. They'd be happy thoughts--they'd be the sort of thoughts that sustained Andy and millions like him, frae Britain, and America, and Canada, and Australia, and everywhere whence men went forth to fight the Hun.
Weel, here'd be Andy, coming hame. And they're telling me Jennie wad be meeting him, and giving him a big, grimy hand to shake.
"Kiss me, la.s.s," Andy wad say, reaching to tak' her in his arms.
And she'd gie a toss of her pretty head. "Oh, I've no time for foolishness like that the noo!" she'd tell him, for answer.
"No time? What d'ye mean, la.s.s?"
"I'll be late at the works if ye dinna let me go--that's what I mean."
"But--dinna ye love me any more'?"
"Oh, aye--I love ye weel enough, Andy. But I canna be late at the works, for a' that!"
"To the de'il wi' the works! Ye'll be marrying be as soon as may be, and then there'll be no more works for ye, la.s.s--"
"That's only a rumor! I'm sticking to my job. Get one for yourself, and then maybe I'll talk o' marrying you--and may be no!"
"Get me a job? I've got one--the one you've been having!"
"Aye--but it's my job the noo, and I'll be keeping it. I like earning my siller, and I'm minded to keep on doing it, Andy."
And off she goes, and Andy after her, to find she's told the truth, and that they'll not turn her off to make way for him.
"We'd like to have you back, Andy," they'll tell him. "But if the women want to stay, stay they can."
Well, I'll be asking you if it's likely Jenny will act so to her boy, that's hame frae the wars? Ye'll never mak' me think so till you've proved it. Here's the picture I see.
I see Jenny getting more and more tired, and waiting more and more eagerly for Andy to come hame. She's a woman, after a', d'ye ken, and a young one. And there are some sorts of work women were not meant or made to do, save when the direst need compels. So, wi' the ending of the war, and its strain, here's puir Jennie, wondering how long she must keep on before her Andy comes to tak' care of her and let her rest.
And--let me whisper something else. We think it shame whiles, to talk o' some things. But here's Nature, the auld mither of all of us. She's a purpose in the world, has that auld mither--and it's that the race shall gae on. And it's in the heart and the soul, the body and the brain, of Jennie that she's planted the desire that her purpose shall be fulfilled.
It's bairns Jenny wants, whether or no she kens that. It's that helps to mak' her so eager for Andy to be coming back to her. And when she sees him, at long last, I see her flinging herself in his arms, and thanking G.o.d wi' her tears that he's back safe and sound--her man, the man she's been praying for and working for.
There'll be problems aboot women, dear knows. There are a' the la.s.sies whose men wull no come back, like Andy--whose lads lie buried in a foreign grave. It's not for me to talk of the sad problem of the superfluous woman--the la.s.sie whose life seems to be over when it's but begun. These are affairs the present cannot consider properly. It will tak' time to show what wall be happening and what maun be done.
But I'm sure that no woman wull give up the opportunity to mak' a hame, to bring bairns into the world, for the sake of continuing the sort of freedom she's had during the war. It wad be like cutting off her nose to do that.
Oh, I ken fine that men wull have to be more reasonable than they've been, sometimes, in the past. Women know more than they did before the war opened the gates of industry to them. They'll not be put upon, the way I'm ashamed to admit they sometimes were in the old days. But I think that wull be a fine thing for a' of us. Women and men wull be comrades more; there'll be fewer helpless la.s.sies who canna find their way aboot without a man to guide them. But men wull like that--I can tell ye so, though they may grumble at the first.
The plain man wull have little use for the clinging vine as a wife.
He'll want the sort of wife some of us have been lucky enough to have even before the war. I mean a woman who'll tak' a real note of his affairs, and be ready to help him wi' advice and counsel; who'll understand his problems, and demand a share in shaping their twa lives. And that's the effect I'm thinking the war is maist likely to have upon women. It wall have trained them to self-reliance and to the meeting of problems in a new way.
And here's anither thing we maun be remembering. In the auld days a la.s.sie, if she but would, could check up the lad that was courtin'
her. She could tell, if she'd tak' the trouble to find oot, what sort he was--how he stud wi' those who knew him. She could be knowing how he did at work, or in business, and what his standing was amang those who knew him in that way. It was different when a man was courtin' a la.s.sie. He could tell little about her save what he could see.
Noo that's been changed. The war's been cruelly hard on women as weel as on men. It's weeded them oot. Only the finest could come through the ordeals untouched--that was true of the women at hame as of the men on the front line. And now, when a lad picks out a la.s.sie he's no longer got the excuses he once had for making a mistake.
He can be finding oot how she did her work while he was awa' at the war. He can be telling what those who worked wi' her thought of her, and whether she was a good, steady worker or not. He can make as many inquiries aboot her as she can aboot him, and sae they'll be on even terms, if they're both sensible bodies, before they start.
And there's this for the la.s.sies who are thinking sae muckle of their independence. They're thinking, perhaps, that they can pick and choose because they've proved they can earn their livings and keep themselves. Aye, that's true enough. But the men can do more picking and choosing than before, too!
But doesna it a' come to the same answer i' the end--that it wall tak'
more than even this war to change human nature? I think that's so.
It's unfas.h.i.+onable, I suppose, to talk of love. They'll be saying I'm an auld sentimentalist if I remind you of an old saying--that it's love that makes the world go round. But it's true. And love wall be love until the last trumpet is sounded, and it wall make men and women, lads and la.s.sies, act i' the same daft way it always has--thank G.o.d!
Love brings man and woman together--makes them attractive, one to the ither. Wull some matter of economics keep them apart? Has it no been proved, ever since the beginning of the world, that when love comes in nothing else matters? To be sure--to be sure.
It's a strange thing, but it's aye the matters that gie the maist concern to the prophets of evil that gie me the greatest comfort when I get into an argument or a discussion aboot the war and its effects upon humanity. They're much concerned about the bairns. They tell me they've got out of hand these last years, and that there's no doing anything wi' them any more. Did those folk see the way the Boy Scouts did, I wonder?
Everywhere those laddies were splendid. In Britain they were messengers; they helped to guard the coasts; they did all sorts of work frae start to finish. They released thousands of men who wad have been held at hame except for them.