by Mrs. T. P. Holman

(GOSPEL ADVOCATE, 15 March 1894, 6–7)

I sometimes think that in the family life there is no other thing—I had almost said, no other dozen things—that causes so much friction as that of administering the domestic finances.

Though a woman may have the ability to earn a handsome income by the work of her own hands, yet during this period of bearing and rearing her children, it is almost impossible for her to do this without neglecting her duties as a mother. Consequently it is usually the husband and father that must“make a living” for the family, and through whose hands must first pass the money that provides his own with food and clothing. And the magician who will invent some method of transmuting this income into its equivalent of food and clothing and house-furnishings without friction will have earned the gratitude of women for all ages to come.

I think good women have suffered more injustice from the hands of otherwise good husbands and fathers in this one matter than in almost anything else. In a great many families money is doled out in little bits and with angry growls, that makes a woman with any self-respect almost wish she were dead rather than have to endure what she must endure in order to obtain money for necessary expenses. I do not know why it is so, but that it is so too many broken-spirited women can testify, that many man cannot part with a dime without an angry protest. One good woman whose husband was a minister, and worth thousands of dollars, told me that she dreaded to ask her husband even for money to buy a spool of thread or a paper of needles, such a storm did it raise every time she mentioned money to him. It is pitiful to think how some women have to study, and plan, and manage, in order to extract from an unwilling husband the money for necessary and unavoidable family expenses. No general planning a great campaign bestows more thoughtful consideration to the subject than does many a poor woman in considering how she may approach her husband and secure from him money to clothe her children. I know more than one woman who, considering that she has an equal right to the family income with her husband, as she has, will habitually go through his pockets, like a thief, after he is asleep, and take out such small change as she thinks he will not miss, in order that she may have money for her small expenses, without having to ask him for it.

The husband and wife are one. This is the divine order. And this should be true in every relation of their lives, their business interest not excepted. But, objects one, there may be a difference of opinion as to how much money is necessary for family expenses, and how is this difference to be adjusted? If the man has a sensible wife—and many men have who think they have not—he should go over with her, item by item, the list of necessary expenses. They should decide how much money can be spared for these, and how much, if any, can be spared for other comforts or luxuries not in the line of actual necessities, and this money should be as conscientiously turned over for the purpose without growl or protest, as any other action in life is performed. If a man is so unfortunate as to have married a baby, or an imbecile, who cannot be made to understand in a sensible way just what a mans income is, and how much of it can be spared for expenses, which must be kept within certain limits, why, then, he is greatly to be pitied to be sure. But if he allows such an one to spend his money at all, he should at least allow her to do so in peace, and not raise a storm every time he gives her a dime to buy a paper of pins or a yard of calico.

I believe there are few women who could not understand fully her husbands business relations if he would take the trouble to explain, and who would not gladly consider with him the matter of necessary expenses, item by item, and agree to keep within the bounds of a certain amount laid aside for the purpose of meeting these expenses, if he would but treat her as a rational being, and consult with her in regard to these matters. But few men treat their wives as rational beings. They imagine if they had money when they wanted it, they would spend it in reckless extravagance, and soon bankrupt their husbands. That some women are recklessly extravagant is as true as that some men are recklessly extravagant. But I believe that, on the whole women who know what their income is, and are responsible for it, are more careful of expenses, and more saving than men. I have known men, who all their lives had treated their wives as irresponsible beings in money matters, to die and leave their wives to manage their own finances, who were fully as careful not to spend money unnecessarily as ever their husbands could have been. And this is the rule with widows and unmarried women who mange their own income, and not the exception. I cannot understand why this lack of faith in their wives that seems to possess most men. What right has a man to marry a woman in whom he has not confidence enough to explain to her their financial condition, or to whom he cannot give money for necessary expenses without angry charges of unnecessary extravagance? There is nothing that has given such “backbone”to the womans rights movement as the injustice women have been compelled to endure from their husbands along this very line. A mans wife should be his companion, and not his slave or plaything. And I believe that in the new life that is opening to both men and women, men will seek their wives with a view to their fitness for companions in every possible sense of the word; that a new standard of wifeship is being raised that will result in good to all the world. When the time shall come that men will treat their wives as rational beings, will consult with their wives as to all their business interests, and the family expenses, just as sensibly as they consult with their business partners as to their interests, and the expenses necessary to carry on their business, and with no more angry protest in the one case than the other, then will the family relation assume newer and better conditions, and both man and wife be happier than before.

Now let no one assume, as has been done before, when I undertook to show up some of the failings and weaknesses of the sterner sex, that Sister Holmans lines have fallen in hard places, and that in my own family or neighborhood only are to be found the troubles of which I complain. I have lived in many neighborhoods, and in many different families, and associated intimately with many others, and I can assure the Advocate readers most earnestly that these evils are not confined to the immediate neighborhood in which I reside. In the papers I read—and their name is legion—I often come across a wail of grief from some suffering soul whose life has been one long martyrdom for this very cause. I think men cannot understand how women with any self-respect can be made to suffer because of their husbands unwillingness to part with money, even for necessary expenses, without angry protest. Let him put himself in his wifes place for a while. Let him imagine her doling out money to him bit by bit, angrily complaining every time he should need a little to buy himself a new hat or pair of shoes, a cravat, or pair of gloves, or any other articles of wearing apparel, or to secure for himself some personal comfort. How would he like it? I can assure my readers most solemnly that he would like it not at all. Neither do women like to be treated that way.

Sometimes men freely furnish money for necessary household expenses, but allow their wives not one cent for individual pocket money, though well able to do so. For instance, she may desire to subscribe for papers or magazines in which she is specially interested, buy a new book occasionally, give a little for charity, church, or other philanthropic work, or may need pocket money for other matters, but can do nothing for lack of means. This is cruel and unjust, especially when we consider that these men never hesitate to spend money themselves in just the same way, or any other way they please. When men learn to carry the Golden Rule into the treatment of their wives, then will the world have taken a long step toward the millennium.

All men do not treat their wives so unjustly. There are many grand men who would no more treat their wives in the way complained of than they would commit any other disreputable act. But, for the happiness of womankind, their number is all too few. “May their tribe increase.”

(e-text: JoAnne Toews)

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