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

Of the W.C.T.U.

And so, my dear Jane, I have fallen from my pedestal, in your estimation.  Yet, having carefully regarded myself in the mirror, and finding no discolorations, and feeling no wounds or contusions, I think my pedestal must have been very near the earth, else I would be conscious of some bruises.

And now, Jane, to be frank, I am very glad to be off my perch.

I do not want to dwell upon a pedestal.

It necessitates a monotonous life, and it is an unsocial position.

I prefer to walk on the earth, among my fellow creatures.

You were greatly shocked, I saw, when I told my little Russian guest that she might light her cigarette in my boudoir.  Your sudden departure told its own story, and your letter was no surprise.  But I am glad you wrote me so frankly, as it gives me the opportunity to be equally frank.

There is nothing more beneficial, in true friendship, than a free exchange of honest criticisms.

You tell me that I lowered my standard by lending countenance to a pernicious and unladylike habit.  You felt I owed it to myself, as a good woman, and to my home, as a respectable house, to show my unswerving principles in this matter, and to indicate my disapproval of a disgusting vice, which is growing in our midst.

Life is too short, my dear Jane, in which to achieve all our ideals, and to arrive at all our goals.

I have learned the futility of attempting to reform the whole world in one day.  And I have also learned that there are more roads than one, to all destinations.

Miss Ordosky is the daughter of a dear old friend of my youth, who married a Russian nobleman with more titles than dollars.

Her parents are dead, and Wanda has come to her mother’s native land, to teach her father’s language.  She has come with all her Russian habits and ideas accented by her mother’s American indifference to public opinion.  The girl is young, lovely, and wholly dependent upon herself for a livelihood.  I invited her to be my guest for two months, before establishing herself in her business, with the hope of helping her to adapt herself somewhat to American ideas and customs.

I could never hope for such a result, had I antagonized her the first day under my roof by an austere attitude toward a habit which I knew she had been reared to think proper.

I do not like to see a woman smoke, and I regret as much as you do the increasing prevalence of the vice in America.

Like almost every schoolgirl, I had my day of thinking a surreptitious, cigarette was wonderfully cunning.

That day passed, like the measles and the whooping-cough, and left me immune.  I have never seen a woman so beautiful and alluring that she was not less charming when she put a cigarette to her lips.  I am confident the habit vitiates the blood, injures the digestion, and renders the breath offensive.  I have known many American men who taught their wives to smoke; and I do not know one who has not lived to regret it, when the cigarette he fancied would be an occasional luxury became a necessity.

A woman who expects ever to bring children into the world, is little better than a criminal to form such a habit:  for, argue as we may for one moral code for both sexes, we cannot change nature’s law, which imposes the greater responsibility upon the mother of the unborn child; the child she carries so many months beneath her heart, giving it hour by hour the impression of her mental and physical conditions.

Fathers ought not to smoke or indulge in other bad habits.

Mothers must not.

I hope in time to discuss these topics with Wanda, and to make an impression upon her mind by my arguments.

But your methods and mine, dear Jane, differ widely.  And, begging your pardon, I believe mine accomplish more good for a larger number of human beings than yours.

And, added to that fact, I get more happiness for myself out of life.

Miss Ordosky would have managed to smoke her cigarette, however rigid had I been in expressing my principles.  And she would have found some excuse to shorten her visit under my roof, and then where would be my opportunity to influence her?

As it is, she puffs her cigarette in my company, listens to my opinions, seems to respect my ideas, and is interested in my views of life.  We are becoming excellent comrades, and this is far more gratifying to me than to know that I had antagonized her into a formal acquaintance by my aggressive morality.  I have an idea that, before my pretty guest reaches the time when she will consider wifehood and motherhood as life professions, I may convince her from a scientific standpoint that she better abandon her cigarettes.  And to convince one’s mind is far better than to drive one to submission.

And now, Jane, has it never occurred to you that you have made some mistakes in life by the very methods you are so sorry I did not pursue with Miss Ordosky?

Years ago, I recall your surrounding a certain young man with an aureole of idealism.  Then you were obliged to dethrone him from his pedestal because he, too, forsooth, smoked a cigar.

That young man married a woman quite as worthy and good as yourself, and he has made the best of husbands and citizens.  I know of no man who does more good in the world in a quiet way than this same unpedestaled old admirer of yours.  Whether he still smokes his cigar or not I could not say.  But as a man, it seems to me, he is quite as worthy and noble a citizen, as you are a woman.

I know that you are doing all you can, to spread the gospel of clean living abroad in the land, and that your influence is all for a higher standard of morality.

But if you live on too high an altitude, in this world, and refuse to associate with any one who will not climb up to your plane, you are destined to a lonely life, and your sphere of influence is limited.  You will do far more good by taking your place with other human beings, and by gradual, sane efforts leading the thoughts of your associates to turn to your wholesome ideas of life.  You are making morality unpopular by your present aggressive methods.  And you are missing many sweet friendships and experiences by your insistence that all your friends must follow the narrow path you have decided is the only road to good behavior.

Come down from your pedestal, my dear Jane-come and dwell on the earth.