Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Boy is not a Ford

Nancy Brown, always taking the motherly, which is to say Chestertonian, view of things, even on her walks, or her ponderings of Potter... you do not believe me? See her blogg for more.

--Dr. Thursday

...the folly of merely driving all women from the family to the factory. It is in the cold economic sense a waste; it is uneconomic in the full sense of being thriftless. For, obviously, such a neglect of family feeling is the neglect of a natural force, which must be replaced by an artificial and, therefore, an expensive force. If the mother must not take an interest in her children, somebody else must be paid to do what she alone could have a particular pleasure in doing. Examples of silliness on a gigantic scale are recorded of some of the mad Roman emperors, and even of some of the old mad English squires...
[GKC ILN May 3, 1919 CW31:467]

I am concerned with pointing out that the passage from private life to public life, while it may be right or wrong, or necessary or unnecessary, or desirable or undesirable, is always of necessity a passage from a greater work to a smaller one, and from a harder work to an easier one. And that is why most of the moderns do wish to pass from the great domestic task to the smallest and easier commercial one. They would rather provide the liveries of a hundred footmen than be bothered with the love-affairs of one. They would rather take the salutes of a hundred soldiers than try to save the soul of one. They would rather serve out income-tax papers or telegraph forms to a hundred men than meals, conversation, and moral support to one. They would rather arrange the educational course in history or geography, or correct the examination papers in algebra or trigonometry, for a hundred children, than struggle with the whole human character of one. For anyone who makes himself responsible for one small baby, as a whole, will soon find that he is wrestling with gigantic angels and demons.
[GKC ILN Aug 12, 1922 CW32:427]

I have never understood myself how this superstition arose: the notion that a woman plays a lowly part in the home and a loftier part outside the home. There may be all sorts of excellent reasons for individuals doing or not doing either; but I cannot understand how the domestic thing can be considered inferior in the nature of the thing done. Most work done in the outer world is pretty mechanical work; some of it is decidedly dirty work. There seems no possible sense in which it is intrinsically superior to domestic work. Nine times out of ten, the only difference is that the one person is drudging for people she does care for and the other drudging for people she does not care for. But, allowing for the element of drudgery in both cases, there is rather more element of distinction, and even dictatorship, in the domestic case. The most fully trusted official must very largely go by rules and regulations established by superiors. The mother of a family makes her own rules and regulations; and they are not merely mechanical rules, but often very fundamental moral rules. Nor are they merely monotonous in their application. Mr. Ford is reported, rightly or wrongly, as saying that the woman should not be in the business of the outer world, because business people have to make decisions. I should say that mothers have to make many more decisions. A great part of a big business goes by routine; and all the technical part of Mr. Ford's business goes, quite literally, on oiled wheels. It is the very boast of such a system that its products are made rapidly because rigidly, upon a regular pattern, and can be trusted ninety-nine times out of a hundred to turn out according to plan. But a little boy does not, by any means, always turn out according to plan. The little boy will present a series of problems in the course of twenty-four hours which would correspond to a Ford car bursting like a bomb or flying out of the window like an aeroplane. The little boy is individual; he cannot be mended with spare parts from another little boy. The mother cannot order another little boy at the same works, and make the experiment work. The domestic woman really is called upon to make decisions, real or moral decisions, and she jolly well does. Some have even complained that her decisions were too decisive.
[GKC, ILN Nov 16, 1929 CW35:201-2]


  1. I have it in my mind to someday write a book called something like "Chesterton for Women" or "Women Who Love Chesterton" or something like that; and these are three of the quotes I would use. Because in this, as in everything else Chesterton thought out, he is right.

  2. If you like alliteration, you could call it "Chesterton and Chicks."


  3. Umm. . . no. But wonderful quotes!

  4. Hello queen of carrots, and welcome! How did you find our blog?

  5. Ideally, you'd have to call it "Women Who Love Chesterton and the Men Who Love Them", to be like those bottomlessly awful self-help books of the 80s.

    Did they ever publish one called "Unloved Men and the Women Who Don't Love Them"? That would be a riot.

  6. I adore Chesterton and wish more women read him.
    The book sounds lovely.


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