.... I am hopelessly in love with about eight American
maidens--all perfectly delightful till the next one comes into
O-Toyo was a darling, but she lacked several things--conversation
for one. You cannot live on giggles. She shall remain unmarried
at Nagasaki, while I roast a battered heart before the shrine of
a big Kentucky blonde, who had for a nurse when she was little a
By consequence she has welded on California beauty, Paris
dresses, Eastern culture, Europe trips, and wild Western
originality, the queer, dreamy superstitions of the quarters, and
the result is soul-shattering. And she is but one of many stars.
Item, a maiden who believes in education and possesses it, with a
few hundred thousand dollars to boot and a taste for slumming.
Item, the leader of a sort of informal salon where girls
congregate, read papers, and daringly discuss metaphysical
problems and candy--a sloe-eyed, black-browed, imperious maiden
Item, a very small maiden, absolutely without reverence, who can
in one swift sentence trample upon and leave gasping half a dozen
Item, a millionairess, burdened with her money, lonely, caustic,
with a tongue keen as a sword, yearning for a sphere, but chained
up to the rock of her vast possessions.
Item, a typewriter maiden earning her own bread in this big city,
because she doesn't think a girl ought to be a burden on her
parents, who quotes Theophile Gautier and moves through the world
manfully, much respected for all her twenty inexperienced
Item, a woman from cloud-land who has no history in the past or
future, but is discreetly of the present, and strives for the
confidences of male humanity on the grounds of "sympathy"
(methinks this is not altogether a new type).
Item, a girl in a "dive," blessed with a Greek head and eyes,
that seem to speak all that is best and sweetest in the world.
But woe is me! She has no ideas in this world or the next beyond
the consumption of beer (a commission on each bottle), and
protests that she sings the songs allotted to her nightly without
more than the vaguest notion of their meaning.
Sweet and comely are the maidens of Devonshire; delicate and of
gracious seeming those who live in the pleasant places of London;
fascinating for all their demureness the damsels of France,
clinging closely to their mothers, with large eyes wondering at
the wicked world; excellent in her own place and to those who
understand her is the Anglo-Indian "spin" in her second season;
but the girls of America are above and beyond them all. They are
clever, they can talk--yea, it is said that they think.
Certainly they have an appearance of so doing which is
They are original, and regard you between the brows with
unabashed eyes as a sister might look at her brother. They are
instructed, too, in the folly and vanity of the male mind, for
they have associated with "the boys" from babyhood, and can
discerningly minister to both vices or pleasantly snub the
possessor. They possess, moreover, a life among themselves,
independent of any masculine associations. They have societies
and clubs and unlimited tea-fights where all the guests are
girls. They are self-possessed, without parting with any
tenderness that is their sex-right; they understand; they can
take care of themselves; they are superbly independent. When you
ask them what makes them so charming, they say:--"It is because
we are better educated than your girls, and--and we are more
sensible in regard to men. We have good times all round, but we
aren't taught to regard every man as a possible husband. Nor is
he expected to marry the first girl he calls on regularly."
Yes, they have good times, their freedom is large, and they do
not abuse it. They can go driving with young men and receive
visits from young men to an extent that would make an English
mother wink with horror, and neither driver nor drivee has a
thought beyond the enjoyment of a good time. As certain, also,
of their own poets have said:--
"Man is fire and woman is tow,
And the devil he comes and begins to blow."
In America the tow is soaked in a solution that makes it
fire-proof, in absolute liberty and large knowledge;
consequently, accidents do not exceed the regular percentage
arranged by the devil for each class and climate under the skies.
But the freedom of the young girl has its draw-backs. She is--I
say it with all reluctance--irreverent, from her forty-dollar
bonnet to the buckles in her eighteen-dollar shoes. She talks
flippantly to her parents and men old enough to be her
grandfather. She has a prescriptive right to the society of the
man who arrives. The parents admit it.
This is sometimes embarrassing, especially when you call on a man
and his wife for the sake of information--the one being a
merchant of varied knowledge, the other a woman of the world. In
five minutes your host has vanished. In another five his wife
has followed him, and you are left alone with a very charming
maiden, doubtless, but certainly not the person you came to see.
She chatters, and you grin, but you leave with the very strong
impression of a wasted morning. This has been my experience once
or twice. I have even said as pointedly as I dared to a man:--"I
came to see you."
"You'd better see me in my office, then. The house belongs to
women folk--to my daughter, that is to say."
He spoke the truth. The American of wealth is owned by his
family. They exploit him for bullion. The women get the
ha'pence, the kicks are all his own. Nothing is too good for an
American's daughter (I speak here of the moneyed classes).....
.... I cannot write connectedly,
because I am in love with all those girls aforesaid, and some
others who do not appear in the invoice. The typewriter is an
in-stitution of which the comic papers make much capital, but she
is vastly convenient. She and a companion rent a room in a
business quarter, and, aided by a typewriting machine, copy MSS.
at the rate of six annas a page. Only a woman can operate a
typewriting machine, because she has served apprenticeship to the
sewing machine. She can earn as much as one hundred dollars a
month, and professes to regard this form of bread-winning as her
natural destiny. But, oh! how she hates it in her heart of
hearts! When I had got over the surprise of doing business with
and trying to give orders to a young woman of coldly, clerkly
aspect intrenched behind gold-rimmed spectacles, I made inquiries
concerning the pleasures of this independence. They liked
it--indeed they did. 'Twas the natural fate of almost all
girls--the recognized custom in America--and I was a barbarian
not to see it in that light....
A moon-faced trooper of German extraction .. came up to inform us ..
America is a free country, but the citizens look down on the
soldier. I had to entertain that trooper...
"And why did you enlist?" said I.
The moon-faced one's face began to work. I thought he would have
a fit, but he told me a story instead--such a nice tale of a
naughty little girl who wrote pretty love letters to two men at
once. She was a simple village wife, but a wicked "family
novelette" countess couldn't have accomplished her ends better.
She drove one man nearly wild with the pretty little treachery,
and the other man abandoned her and came West to forget the
[speaking of the Mormon religion] .... it seems that polygamy
was a blessed institution for the women, and that only the
dread threats of the spiritual power could drive the hulking,
board-faced men into it...
[below is from the "Punjab Edition", 1930]
From her fifteenth year the American maiden
moves among "the boys" as a sister among
brothers. They are her servants to take her out
riding,--which is driving,--to give her flowers
and candy. The last two items are expensive, and
this is good for the young man, as teaching him to
value friendship that costs a little in cash and may
necessitate economy on the cigar side. As to the
maiden, she is taught to respect herself, that her
fate is in her own hands, and that she is the more
stringently bound by the very measure of the
liberty so freely accorded to her. Wherefore, in
her own language, "she has a lovely time" with
about two or three hundred boys who have sis-
ters of their own, and a very accurate perception
that if they were unworthy of their trust a syndi-
cate of other boys would probably pass them into
a world where there is neither marrying nor giv-
ing in marriage. And so time goes till the maiden
knows the other side of the house,--knows that a
man is not a demi-god nor a mysteriously veiled
monster, but an average, egotistical, vain, glut-
tonous, but on the whole, companionable sort of
person, to be soothed, fed, and managed--knowl-
edge that does not come to her sister in England
till after a few years of matrimony. And then
she makes her choice....
American Notes originally appeared in 1891, and
the first part of the text above was taken from that edition
The last part is from the "Punjab Edition" of American Notes,
Standard Book Company, New York, 1930. p.234-5.