Marriage is a Career by Gwendolyn Elliot
“May I speak as one who had a brief (four year) career prior to marriage which I found to be a most satisfying experience. However, it is without apology that I say that marriage is the most joyous, important, and creative role open to woman if she embraces its opportunities. The career of marriage needs as preparation a good foundation in the humanities to develop the young woman as a world citizen with the ability to effectively use leisure time and to develop her individuality. And, an important overall aim of women’s education (the peculiar function of the women’s college) should be the development of that priceless commodity that the world calls womanliness – or femininity.
From what I read these days there are many voices rampant in our land declaring marriage is only a part-time career, and they have even influenced young women to feel guilty if for a period they give it full-time attention. Perhaps from an economist’s point of view I should build a case that, as a result of automation and shorter work hours, married women ought to get out of the labor market and stay at home. Instead, I shall simply tell you what I expect a woman to contribute to the career of marriage; and if you think it deserves or can be done part time, more power to you! I think it is too important for me to dissipate my energies in essentially unrelated activities.
There are three areas in which I believe a woman may contribute to her husband’s career. I believe first that she should provide the atmosphere for the home (to set the tone, as I believe women as a whole should serve as ‘perfect pitch’ for society at large). In our home I try to be relaxed and optimistic for the family as well as for one, two, or 300 guests. Secondly, I believe a woman should assume responsibility for the efficient functioning of the household. Thirdly, her greatest contribution may come in the influence on the thought and ideals of the family unit. By the very nature of our economic system women spend more time with children than men can. Housewives by the routine nature of their work have the time and should develop the habit of thought to provide for the most effective transition of moral and spiritual values to the next generation.
Right within our grasp is a valuable, natural, and national resource waiting to be tapped, in the minds of the women of our country. Large industrial firms throughout the nation today have discovered that people who perform routine tasks have time to get ideas and to observe new and better ways of doing things – hence the era of the suggestion box. A person who puts a particular bolt on a machine tool hour after hour does not have to think constantly about his job because it soon becomes automatic. His mind is free to think of whatever he chooses, and many people in such jobs have been able to put their minds to improving methods and products.
Have you ever considered how many routine operations a woman performs in homemaking? What does she think about while she cleans or makes a bed? She does not have to concentrate on loading a washing machine. It requires her time but not her thought. Yet how few women exercise their minds at such times to think of better methods of doing things, or of new products that would be useful, or of ways to resolve today’s complex problems of human relations! Firms like General Mills and General Foods pay good salaries to men and women to conceive novel ideas for streamlining American home life. All the while our women are in the most natural laboratory, but they don’t produce! Who should be better able to plan a more efficient way to do something than a person who performs that operation daily, and who, in addition, gives some thought to the matter?
If we could get the women to put their minds to invention, it would be a simple matter to set up regional clearing houses where industrial companies could study the ideas submitted by housewives and then select those which would have practical commercial application and sales value.
Women could give some thought to human relations, a field which naturally lags behind scientific progress and yet has a host of unsolved problems. Many pressing moral and spiritual problems would be helped to solution if women gave more thought to being women in the finest sense – giving to the world such qualities as loveliness, femininity, graciousness, unselfishness kindness, softness. As one looks about the world today, it is apparent that these qualities are particularly lacking where unhappiness is rife.
One enjoys life more once she decides what she wants out of it – another thought for those hours in the kitchen. Again, consider evolving an effective answer to the lies of Communism or to the complexities of racial interdependence. One could go on and on listing new areas for women to dig their thoughts into while working around the house.