CHAP. IV - FEMALE HANDICRAFTS  pp. 65-89


By Dinah Mulock Craik

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While planning this chapter I chanced to read, in a late number of the North British Quarterly, a paper headed “Employment of Women,” which expressed many of my ideas in forms so much clearer and better than any into which I can cast them, that I long hesitated whether it were worth while attempting to set them down here at all; but afterwards, seeing that these Thoughts aim less at originality than usefulness—nay, that since they are but the repetition in one woman's written words of what must already have occurred to the minds of hundreds of other women,—if they were startlingly original, they would probably cease to be useful,—I determined to say my say. It matters little when, or how, or by how many, truth is spoken, if only it be truth.

Taking up the question of female handicrafts, in contradistinction to female professions, the first thing that strikes one is the largeness of the subject, and how very little one practically knows about it. Of necessity, it has not much to say for itself; it lives by its fingers rather than its brains; it cannot put its life into print. Sometimes a poet does this for it, and thrills millions with a Song of the Shirt; or a novelist presents us with some imaginary portrait—some Lettice Arnold, Susan Hopley, or Ruth, idealised more or less, it may be, yet sufficiently true to nature to give us a passing interest in our shop-girls, sempstresses, and maid-servants, abstractedly, as a class.

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