(1) Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics (1898)
Many women would continue to prefer the very kinds of work which they are doing now, in the new and higher methods of execution. It has been amusing heretofore to see how this least desirable of labors has been so innocently held to be woman’s natural duty. It is woman, the dainty, the beautiful, the beloved wife and revered mother, who has by common consent been expected to do the chamber-work and scullery work of the world. All that is basest and foulest she in the last instance must handle and remove. Grease, ashes, dust, foul linen, and sooty ironware, – among these her days must pass. As we socialize our functions, this passes from her hands into those of man. The city’s cleaning is his work. And even in our houses the professional cleaner is more and more frequently a man.
The organization of household industries will simplify and centralize its cleaning processes, allowing of many mechanical conveniences and the application of scientific skill and thoroughness. We shall be cleaner than we ever were before. There will be less work to do, and far better means of doing it. The daily needs of a well-plumbed house could be met easily by each individual in his or her own room or by one who liked to do such work; and the labor less frequently required would be furnished by an expert, who would clean one home after another with the swift skill of training and experience. The home would cease to be to us a workshop or a museum, and would become far more the personal expression of its occupants – the place of peace and rest, of love and privacy – than it can be in its present condition of arrested industrial development. And woman will fill her place in those industries with far better results than are now provided by her ceaseless struggles, her conscientious devotion, her pathetic ignorance and inefficiency.
(2) Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Forerunner (November, 1909)
Then the rich, sure food of mother-milk, the absolute adaptation, the whole great living creature an alembic to gather from without, and distil to sweet perfection, what the child needs. Contrast this with the chances escort service of new-born fish or fly, or even those of the bird baby, whose mother must search wide for the food she brings. The mammal has it with her.
Then comes the highest stage of all, where the psychic gain of the race is transmitted to the child as well as the physical. This last and noblest step in the life process we call education. education is differentiated motherhood. It is social motherhood. It is the application to the replenishment and development of the race of the same great force of ever-growing life which made the mother’s milk.
Here are the three governing laws of life: To Be; To Re-Be; To Be Better. The life force demands Existence. And we strain every nerve to keep ourselves alive. The life force demands Reproduction. And our physical machinery is shifted and rearranged repeatedly, with arrayed impulses to suit – to keep the race alive. Then, most imperative of all, the life force demands Improvement. And all creation groaneth and
travaileth in this one vast endeavor. Not merely this thing – permanently; not merely more of this thing – continuously; but better things, ever better and better types, has been the demand of life upon us, and we have fulfilled it.
Under this last and highest law, as the main factor in securing to the race its due improvement, comes that supreme officer of the life process, the Mother. Her functions are complex, subtle, powerful, of measureless value.