It would be a curious and pathetic statement if we could have placed before us the sums which women have added to the wealth of the world, to which they have no title, and for which they receive no credit. Thousands of men, if they spoke the truth, would be obliged to acknowledge that the foundations of their fortunes were laid by their wives; not indirectly alone, by furnishing them with an incentive, with something to work for, but directly, in the way of counsel, encouragement, and active help.
If these women could come into their own– into what they have actually added to the productive capital of society–they would not be the paupers they are to-day, nor mere beneficiaries upon the bounty of men. The entire talents and energies of an average housekeeper are given to the care of her family, the comfort of her husband, and still, to all intents and purposes, she is a beggar. There are thousands of men, yea millions, like the old down East farmer, of whom it is related that he was an excellent husband and father, but he never could see what a woman wanted with five dollars. These men are good to their “women folks,” in country parlance, until their pockets are touched, then every dollar that is extracted for a needful pair of shoes or a new gown comes like drawing teeth. In the rural districts, at least, the belief still prevails that women cannot be trusted with money. The wife goes to the store “to trade,” at the last pinch of need; the husband stands by to check all extravagance, and when the purchases are made, reluctantly draws forth his pocket-book and pays the bill.
Multitudes of men lean on their wives every hour in the day, and often consult them on affairs of business, knowing their practical ability to be greater than their own, who have never had the generosity to draw out fifty dollars and say, “Here, take this, go and buy what is needful for yourself and the girls.” I have seen genial men transformed into sour, crabbed, disagreeable old curmudgeons at the simple question, “Father, won’t you please give us some money to day?”
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The male intellect finds it exceedingly difficult to comprehend why a woman wants or requires money. I have known women to deprive themselves of the necessaries of life rather than submit to the humiliation of asking for what is rightfully their own–what they have earned by the sweat of the brow and the toil of the hands. In agricultural districts the wife and daughters are active partners in the business of the farm. Besides attending to their own special province of housework, they help milk the cows; they assist at butter and cheese-making; they gather and preserve fruit, and prepare it for market, and in harvest time they often go into the field. They labor more hours, and have infinitely more responsibility, than any hired hand on the farm; and yet, when at the end of the season the farm-hand goes away with his pocket well lined, they have not a penny to show for their summer’s work.