The dangers of driving with married men (1899)

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s opinion of self-respecting girls

A charming lady and well-known actress was recently brought into brief unpleasant notice through being mentioned as a corespondent in a divorce suit.

The lady proved herself to be innocent of the charges made against her by valet and maid servant, and her women friends have rallied to her defense as valiantly as men stand by one another under similar circumstances. This shows decided progress in woman toward broader standards of friendship, and should shut the mouths of her detractors who love to harp upon the obsolete theme of woman’s enmity to woman.

Meantime, this maligned young woman in the course of her testimony confessed to having driven some distance, with a married man on a matter of business, and having accepted some inexpensive presents from the man, which facts had been distorted and perverted by servants and enemies.

Nevertheless, had this young woman in the beginning of her career drawn the line sharply between single and married men, she might have escaped this disagreeable experience.

There is only one wise, discreet and safe course for a young woman to pursue when she enters upon a self-supporting career. That course is to absolutely refuse the slightest attention from any married man, unless he acts as an emissary from his wife. Even then, if the young woman is an actress, she should realize that she is a target for the world’s curious glances, and refuse to drive alone with a married man, even upon a matter of business and even with the wife’s approval.

The moment a girl relaxes her ideals in regard to these matters she endangers her reputation. It is useless for her to talk about the cruelty of the world, which will not allow a woman to enjoy a platonic friendship. The world, no doubt is cruel and suspicious often, but platonic friendships are rare game, and the young woman who goes seeking them through marital forests is frequently accused of poaching.

The man who is happily married and is a good husband does not go about seeking the society of professional young women.

The married man who wants to dine and drive with a single woman, no matter what his excuse may be, is the one she needs to be on her guard against. He is always selfish in his motives. Were he not, he would not subject her to the misconstruction which such actions invariably give rise to.

Defend the stage as we will, we all know that it is surrounded by temptations to a certain freedom and license of thought and action not found in other vocations.

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Because of this fact, any self-respecting girl who chooses the career of an actress ought to avoid by every possible means in her power any suggestion of indifference to the rules of discreet conduct. The very first rule, which even common-sense should dictate, is to keep married men away from the ranks of her admirers.

“When you pass through a melon patch, do not stoop to tie your shoe; and in walking through an apple orchard, do not lift your hat.”

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