Primary Sources Logo

structural tag close window

John Habberton, "Of Women, Literature, Temperance, Marriage, Etc."



Consider This Question


In the early 1890s, the American Press Association put together a feature series of writings in preparation for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. They commissioned 74 notable Americans to make predictions about American life in the 1990s, in the process producing an interesting commentary on life in the 1890s. The variety of essays reflected the diversity of the contributors, including a senator (John J. Ingalls), an electrical engineer (John J. Carty), a poet (Elizabeth Akers Allen), and a minister (Thomas De Witt Talmage). The segments ran in newspapers across the country from March through May 1893, in time for the World's Fair opening.

When the people of the United States celebrate the 500th Columbian anniversary, in 1993, there will be so many of them that no longer will it be said that:

Uncle Sam is rich enough
To give us all a farm.

Consequently all soil worth tilling will receive the best possible attention - with the result that we will be the best fed nation in the world. All the forests will be gone. Lumber will be so scarce that stone, iron, brick, slag, etc., will be largely used in the constriction of houses. As a result, fires will be almost unheard of, and insurance companies will go out of business.

The government will be much simpler than now and concern itself with fewer and more important affairs. Indeed, the idea of government will have disappeared. The people will tolerate nothing more than an administration, on business principles, of such general interests as are too great or complex to be intrusted to private management.

Law will be made for man -- not man for the law. Theology will give place to Christian practice, and each man's faith will be judged by his life instead of his talk. Medicine will be practiced at police stations and among outcasts, for respectable people will have resolved that illness not caused by accident is disgracefully criminal. The race will, therefore, be healthier and happier than now, as well as more sensible.

Literature will be much cleaner in the departments of poetry, fiction, and drama. For the already moribund humbug of passion masquerading as love will have died of self-contempt.

Temperance legislation will be not only a dead issue, but so long buried that no one will be able to identify its grave. Proper cooking and improved physical habits will have neutralized the desire for stimulants.

All marriages will be happy -- for the law will put to death any man or woman who assumes conjugal position without the proper physical, mental, and financial qualifications. As a natural consequence, the characters for love stories will be selected not from overgrown boys and girls, but from among the men and women longest married.

Women will dress for health instead of for show, trusting their healthy faces to do all the necessary "keeping up appearances."

The servant question will cease to be a burning one, for the rage for display will be outworn. The kitchen stove will give place to ranges heated by water-gas and men and children as well as women will know how to cook. People of means will eat to live -- not to live to eat. All household labor will be esteemed too honorable and important to be intrusted to menials.

Women will have equal rights with man. She will be free to select a husband instead of waiting for a man to ask her hand. Nevertheless, in looking backward into literature and tradition, she will wonder whether she has more rights in this respect than her great-great-grandmother enjoyed.

Perhaps I am wrong in some of these prophecies, but if so I shall not be here to be twitted with it -- now will I?


Consider This Question



1. Do Habberton's words speak of true equality among all men and women?

 close window