Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Advantures of a Pound of Cotton

       Since steam, that great afrite, has put the hand to shame, these wonders  have probably been eclipsed, and the adventures of a single pound of cotton, borne on its wings, and for sale in the London market, are like a tale of  the Arabian Nights journeying from the Indies to London docks, thence to  Lancashire to be spun, thence to Paisley to be woven, to Ayrshire to be tamboured, to Dumbarton to be hand-sewed, back to Paisley, on to Glasgow for a finish, and once more in London, having traveled five thousand miles by sea and one thousand by land, supporting by the labor spent on it one hundred and fifty people, and increasing its own value some two thousand per cent.
       The spinning-wheel, certainly as much as anything, has been a badge of woman's servitude. For while all her time was needed to make the clothing for her family, there was none for her to spend in illuminating her mind. And so it is not unpleasant to-day to see this old badge made the sport of circumstance, and what was once a slavery now affording pastime in the drawing-room. Broken and disused, and in dishonor, and shorn of its locks, as it is, it was once a mighty tyrant; and we should think the lovely ladies, free to pursue pleasure, art, learning, to mount the ladder to the stars with men, and who have adorned their drawing-rooms with the mimicry and mockery of its old estate, might in some twilight be haunted by a strange dream of it, pulling down the temple of their freedom and happiness about them. And as they play with it now, in all their liberty and possibilities and comparative enlightenment, they may do well to be mindful of the bondage in which it held their "forebys, " and in which its rude forerunner, the distaff, still holds certain of their sisters. "The art of spinning," says an elegant writer, "in one of its simplest and most primitive forms, is yet pursued in Italy, where the country-women of Caia still turn the spindle unrestrained by that ancient rural law which forbade its use without doors. The distaff has outlived the consular fasces, and survived the conquests of the Goth and the Hun But rustic hands alone now sway the sceptre of Tanaquil, and all but the peasant disdain a practice which once beguiled the leisure of high-born dames."