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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 8 (April 1, 1932.)

Our Women's Section — In Defence of the Plain Woman

page 57

Our Women's Section
In Defence of the Plain Woman
.

Until Recently, A Woman's Face Was Her Fortune, And Man Demanded Only That she should be a decorative possession—something he could display with pride as discovered, won, and belonging to him exclusively. It was quite unnecessary for her to be au fait with the books of the moment, to be at all informative about distant parts of the globe, to discuss matters political, scientific or religious. Her “limited” intellect was to be devoted to matters within its grasp; as a girl, to such mysterious rites as deportment, and chiefly to the perfection of her charms to ensnare the desirable husband; later, the making of jams and the maintaining of a comfortable home. Great things in themselves, you may say, and sufficiently absorbing. This state of affairs was admirable for the woman who had distinct physical charms worthy of development and exploitation, who could find in her face ample material for meditation and construction, whose “brain” was fully occupied in the service of Dame Fashion. As a result, she became the belle of innumerable ballrooms. For two “seasons” she reigned supreme, appeared everywhere, always dazzling, remote, but somewhat silent. It was only a question of time, but inevitably, some susceptible male succumbed to her carefully prepared attractions.

A brilliant wedding, and no more. Like a meteor she swam into society's orbit, danced her brief hour, and vanished, as Cinderella.

Why ? Because about her was nothing solid nor permanent. Poor ephemeral little ghost—where are you now? And what has become of the smile that won so many hearts in the ‘nineties?

But we have forgotten that often pitied and often respected puzzle, the plain woman, of whom there are thousands.

To this determined army, bereft of the dimples, deprived of the liquid eyes, the sweeping lashes, and the exquisite retrousseé noses, for which kingdoms have been won and lost—to these women we owe the fact that at the present time brains are recognised as not only valuable but compulsory feminine attributes. Indeed, at a famous Women's Club recently, a debate was organised on “Brains v. Beauty,” and it seemed that what a woman can produce, what she can discuss, what she can impart, were definitely more to be desired than the mere possession of a lovely face.

Of course, occasionally we see some fortunate woman who can flaunt her page 58 beauty and exercise at the same time her capable brain before a gasping world. And we cannot deny the power of a beautiful eye, nor help admitting that an attractive voice lends weight to the most insignificant contribution to conversation; if you have beauty you will always receive attention.

To these women, whose brains demanded activity which their faces could not provide, to their courage and achievements we owe it that men are forced to acknowledge the capabilities of a woman's brain. Think of the books they have written; the pictures they have painted; the good they have done among the poor—think of the happiness they have brought as nurses, as teachers, as missionaries! What has beauty to show compared with such a record? Merely here and there a Cleopatra, a Helen of Troy, an unhappy Mary Queen of Scots, a vivacious Lady Hamilton, a tragic Marie Antoinette. Freed from the necessity of appearing divine, a woman can now be human. She can use her brain wherever she wishes; can demand attention by undeniable prowess; can exercise her gifts of intuition, of clear sight and quick thought. No longer will the plain woman be neglected and pitied, for she has it in her power to rule the world.

It has been said that “The light that lies In women's eyes, It lies, and lies, and lies.” Perhaps, but not the light of her brain and her soul.

An Autumn Suit.

March and April, cooler days, when we must part reluctantly with the diaphanous draperies of summer. It is still too early to think seriously of our winter clothes, and autumn ensembles are so attractive and neat. You need something smart and tailored for street and office wear; something that will match the chic angle of your “bowler” or “Robin Hood,” with its jaunty feather and air of mediaeval hunting. Also, you have to consider the ever pressing question of a limited purse to cope with the demands of Fashion.

Everywhere can be seen the new light tweeds, soft yet warm, in entrancing woodland greens, leaf-browns and russet golds—suggesting berries and fruit.

Now study the sketch here of an autumn suit, with quaint period sleeves of darker tone, which fit in beneath the attractive little jacket. The skirt is made in four flairs, the two side portions definitely shaped towards the hem, fitting snugly round the hips. Notice that skirts are still long, not too much so, but quite half-way down the calf. Finish your costume with a jabot of crepe de chine and frilled cuffs.

page 59

Gardens

So many women are keen gardeners. They are never so happy as when, armed with trowel and fork, gloved and hatted, they can spend two tranquil hours among the weeds and slugs. “There is such a thrill,” a friend said to me the other day, “about watching things grow!”

Certainly there is an immense satisfaction to be had from your garden—if you are tired, worried, or bored. If you feel that your husband is a heartless brute; that your children are noisy, exhausting little animals; that your friends are absorbed in bridge or the “talkies”—just look at your garden and consider what can be done. But beware lest you become a slave. We all know the gardening “crank,” and rather shun him. Let your garden be a pleasure and not an obsession. Imagine your joy when you can gather an armful of flowers of your own growing, when you can appreciate your own colour schemes. An hour a day in the fresh air, working among growing things, will give you rest and happiness.

At Night

The hermit more-pork calls
With a long, plaintive sob among the boughs
Of star-drenched ngaios, and the echo falls
Upon my heart,
And suddenly I know
That I have died.
A light twinkles across the gloom
And the boom
Of surf upon the shore
Is mingled strangely with a gramophone
Somewhere in the night.
And suddenly I, alone,
Desire nothing more—
Except to live.
With echoes falling ever—on my heart.

—S.G.M.