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|Ann Veronica Gathers Points Of View||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 2 of 4||
"But I say, Vee," said Constance, "if you come and you are forbidden to come there'll be the deuce of a row."
Ann Veronica was deciding for further confidences. Her situation was perplexing her very much, and the Widgett atmosphere was lax and sympathetic, and provocative of discussion. "It isn't only the dance," she said.
"There's the classes," said Constance, the well-informed.
"There's the whole situation. Apparently I'm not to exist yet. I'm not to study, I'm not to grow. I've got to stay at home and remain in a state of suspended animation."
"DUSTING!" said Miss Miniver, in a sepulchral voice.
"Until you marry, Vee," said Hetty.
"Well, I don't feel like standing it."
"Thousands of women have married merely for freedom," said Miss Miniver. "Thousands! Ugh! And found it a worse slavery."
"I suppose," said Constance, stencilling away at bright pink petals, "it's our lot. But it's very beastly."
"What's our lot?" asked her sister.
"Slavery! Downtroddenness! When I think of it I feel all over boot marks--men's boots. We hide it bravely, but so it is. Damn! I've splashed."
Miss Miniver's manner became impressive. She addressed Ann Veronica with an air of conveying great open secrets to her. "As things are at present," she said, "it is true. We live under man-made institutions, and that is what they amount to. Every girl in the world practically, except a few of us who teach or type-write, and then we're underpaid and sweated--it's dreadful to think how we are sweated!" She had lost her generalization, whatever it was. She hung for a moment, and then went on, conclusively, "Until we have the vote that is how things WILL be."
"I'm all for the vote," said Teddy.
"I suppose a girl MUST be underpaid and sweated," said Ann Veronica. "I suppose there's no way of getting a decent income--independently."
"Women have practically NO economic freedom," said Miss Miniver, "because they have no political freedom. Men have seen to that. The one profession, the one decent profession, I mean, for a woman--except the stage--is teaching, and there we trample on one another. Everywhere else--the law, medicine, the Stock Exchange--prejudice bars us."
"There's art," said Ann Veronica, "and writing."
"Every one hasn't the Gift. Even there a woman never gets a fair chance. Men are against her. Whatever she does is minimized. All the best novels have been written by women, and yet see how men sneer at the lady novelist still! There's only one way to get on for a woman, and that is to please men. That is what they think we are for!"
"We're beasts," said Teddy. "Beasts!"
But Miss Miniver took no notice of his admission.
"Of course," said Miss Miniver--she went on in a regularly undulating voice--"we DO please men. We have that gift. We can see round them and behind them and through them, and most of us use that knowledge, in the silent way we have, for our great ends. Not all of us, but some of us. Too many. I wonder what men would say if we threw the mask aside--if we really told them what WE thought of them, really showed them what WE were." A flush of excitement crept into her cheeks.
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