Read To Miss Gladys Weston of A Woman of the World, free online book, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, on

Who Faces the Necessity to Earn a Living

It is indeed a problem, my dear Gladys, to face stern-visaged Necessity after walking with laughing-lipped Pleasure for twenty-two years.

What an unforeseen event that your father should sink his fortune in a rash venture and die of remorse and discouragement scarcely six months after you were travelling through Europe with me, and laughing at my vain attempts to make you economize.

You have acted the noble and womanly part, in using the last dollar of your father’s property to pay his debts, and I could imagine you doing no other way.

But now comes the need of earning a livelihood for yourself, and your delicate mother.

I know you have gone over the list of your accomplishments and taken stock of all your inherited and acquired qualities.  You play the piano well, but in these days of Paderewskies and pianolas, no one wants to employ a young girl music-teacher.  You do not sing, and if you did, that would not afford you a means of support.  The best of natural voices need a fortune spent before half a fortune can be earned.

You dance like a fairy, and swim like a mermaid, and ride like an Indian princess, but these accomplishments are not lucrative, save in a Midway Plaisance or a Wild West show.  You are well educated and your memory is remarkable.  You have a facility in mathematics, and your knowledge of grammar and rhetoric will, as you say, enable you to pass the examination for a teacher in the public schools after a little brushing up and study.  Then, with the political influence of your father’s old friends, you will no doubt be able to obtain a position.

I recollect you as surpassingly skilful with the needle.  I know you once saw a charming morning gown in Paris which I persuaded you not to buy at the absurd price asked for it, after the merchant understood we were Americans.  And I remember how you passed to another department, purchased materials, went home to our hotel, and cut and made a surprising imitation of the gown at one-tenth the cost.

Why have you not considered turning this talent to account?  Though the world goes to war and ruin, yet women will dress, and the need of good seamstresses ever exists.

Go to some enterprising half-grown Western or interior Eastern town, announce yourself in possession of all the Paris styles (as you are), and launch out.  Increase your prices gradually, and go abroad on your savings at the end of a year, then come back with new ideas, a larger stock, and higher prices.

You will be on the road to fortune, and can retire with a competence before you are middle-aged.  A little skill with the scissors and needle, lots of courage and audacity, and original methods will make a woman succeed in this line of endeavour.

But why do I not approve of the profession upon which you have almost decided-that of teaching-you ask.

I will tell you why.

Next to motherhood, the profession of teacher in public or private schools is the most important one on earth.

It is, in a certain sense, more responsible than that of motherhood, since the work of poor and bad mothers must be undone by the teacher, and where the mother has three or four children for a period of years to influence, the teacher has hundreds continually.  There are very few perfect teachers.  There are too few excellent ones.  There are too many poor ones.  I do not believe you possess the requisites for the calling.

A teacher should first of all love children as a class.  Their dependence, their ignorance, their helplessness, and their unformed characters should appeal to a woman’s mind, and make her forget their many and varied faults and irritating qualities.  You like lovable, well-bred, and interesting children, but you are utterly indifferent to all others.  You adore beauty, and an ugly child offends your taste.  A stupid child irritates you.

You have a wonderful power of acquiring and remembering information, but you do not possess the knack of readily imparting it.  You expect others to grasp ideas in the same way you do.  This will make you unsympathetic and impatient as a teacher.  You have no conception of the influence a teacher exerts upon children in public schools.  You were educated in private schools and at home, I know.  I attended the country public school, and to this day I can recall the benefits and misfortunes which resulted to me from association with different teachers.  Children are keenly alive to the moods of teachers and are often adepts in mind-reading.

A teacher should be able to enter into the hearts and souls of the children under her charge, and she should find as great pleasure in watching their minds develop as the musical genius in watching a composition grow under his touch.

An infinite number of things not included in the school routine should be taught by teachers.  Courtesy, kindness to dependents and weaker creatures, a horror of cruelty in all forms, a love of nature, politeness to associates, low speaking and light walking, cleanliness and refinement of manner,-all these may be imparted by a teacher who loves to teach, without extra time or fatigue.  I fear a proud disdain, and a scarcely hidden disgust, would be plainly visible in your demeanour toward the majority of the untrained little savages given to your charge in a public school.  You have not the love of humanity at large in your heart, nor the patience and perseverance to make you take an optimistic view in the colossal work of developing the minds of children.  Therefore it seems to me almost a sin for you to undertake the profession merely because you need to earn a living.  There are other things to be considered besides your necessities.  Fond as I am of you, I have the betterment of humanity at my heart, too, and cannot feel it is right for you to place yourself in a position where you will not be doing the best for those dependent upon you that could be done.

I have given up hope of seeing mothers made to realize their responsibilities.  But I still have hope of the teachers.  On them and their full understanding of all it is in their power to do, lies the hope of the world.

Therefore, my dear girl, I urge you to take up dressmaking or millinery instead of school-teaching.

If you ruin a piece of goods in the making, you can replace it and profit by your error.  But if you mar a child’s nature in your attempt to teach him, you have done an irreparable injury not only to him but to humanity.

If you saw a design started by a lace-maker, you would not think of taking the work and attempting to complete it until you had learned the art of lace-making.

Just so you ought not to think of developing the wonderful intricacies of a child’s mind until you have learned how.

It is all right to deliberately choose a vocation which gives us contact only with inanimate things, but we have no right to take the handling of human souls unless we are specially fitted for the task.