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      An Online Edition

edited and annotated, with an introduction by Dr. Luke A. Powers

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Saturday, May 30, 1914

[Aigrettes]



     "What makes women--kind women, gentle women, smiling wives and mothers--do such mean and cruel things?" asked the White Pigeon, sadly, watching a group of ladies in afternoon dress as they crossed the square.

     "Such as what?" asked the Sparrow.

     "Oh, the list is long enough; I see new ones every day. But I suppose it's natural that the first to come to my mind is the wearing of aigrettes and other feathers of birds. It's a heartless thing, this causing birds to be butchered for the sake of adornment. No woman would take a gun and deliberately go forth to shoot a bird for her hat; but it's what she does, in effect, when her demand upon fashion is such that hunters engage in the business so supply the demand.

     "If she were to see a hunter wrenching the wings from a bird's still writhing body, she would scream--she could never bear the sight of the wings again. Yet this is done because she will not say no to a barbarous style, a custom out of harmony with civilization.

     "I like to see millinery windows as gay as a garden, if only there are no dead birds represented there."

     "Do you, indeed!" cried the Gray Pigeon. "How about the starving tenement people whose women and children are the chief operatives in making artificial flowers? Has it never occurred to you that there is more misery represented by the willow plume, tied by weary fingers of children working without light or air, than in the aigrette for which the white heron's nestlings were left to die?"

     "Oh, dear, no," moaned the White Pigeon in horror. "No, I didn't know that."

     "That is what ails the women," the Gray Pigeon nodded wisely. "They don't know."

     "I should think they might learn!" cried the white sister. "Why cannot people who were raised among birds, who know how they protect crops and who love their song, put the case clearly before the ignorant wearers of feathers?"

     "But where to find such people?" objected the Gray Pigeon. "Few in the land of the living are those qualified by intelligence and sympathy to understand the birds."

     "More than you think, perhaps," said the Fireman. "But the girl who wants a hat is commonly not among their number. She has prejudices instead of sympathies, and vanity instead of knowledge. It is not only the birds who suffer by her attitude--if that is any consolation to feathered sufferers. She moves gracefully to church in a rich mist of fine feelings, clad in sweat-shop lingerie and silks woven by underpaid mill girls, and furs stripped from scarcely dead mother seals whose pups must cry ashore until they starve.

     "She was told when a child that this was the way for Nice girls to dress, and as a thoroughly Nice girl she insists on believing this. Try to prove her amazing cruelty to her, and she will not listen. She has been taught that it isn't Nice to talk or read about anything that impinges upon the realities of life, so she won't take up such subjects of conversation. She wants to believe what has always been believed. If she thinks she will have a headache--and everybody knows it is much pleasanter getting a headache by eating chocolates. What was her head made for, if not an attractive hatrack? And her brain is fully qualified to co-ordinate the latest maxixe step.

     "Prejudice and ignorance of this sort are not necessarily born of poverty, but they are a prime factor in bringing it about. The wife who can make dainty desserts is of no help to her husband unless she also knows something about the city supplies of bread and meat and milk, and sees to it that her strawberries have not been exposed to the flies for hours in the grocery before she ordered them. And what shall her "art" embroideries profit the household if she clothes it in disease-laden garments from the tenements? For their own sakes women must put out of their lives the vain and stupid ease to which they have clung so long."

 




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