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Herland

Chapter 6. Comparisons Are Odious
I had always been proud of my country, of course. Everyone is. Compared with the other
lands and other races I knew, the United States of America had always seemed to me,
speaking modestly, as good as the best of them.
But just as a clear-eyed, intelligent, perfectly honest, and well-meaning child will
frequently jar one's self-esteem by innocent questions, so did these women, without the
slightest appearance of malice or satire, continually bring up points of discussion which
we spent our best efforts in evading.
Now that we were fairly proficient in their language, had read a lot about their history,
and had given them the general outlines of ours, they were able to press their questions
closer.
So when Jeff admitted the number of "women wage earners" we had, they instantly
asked for the total population, for the proportion of adult women, and found that there
were but twenty million or so at the outside.
"Then at least a third of your women are--what is it you call them--wage earners? And
they are all POOR. What is POOR, exactly?"
"Ours is the best country in the world as to poverty," Terry told them. "We do not
have the wretched paupers and beggars of the older countries, I assure you. Why,
European visitors tell us, we don't know what poverty is."
"Neither do we," answered Zava. "Won't you tell us?"
Terry put it up to me, saying I was the sociologist, and I explained that the laws of
nature require a struggle for existence, and that in the struggle the fittest survive, and the
unfit perish. In our economic struggle, I continued, there was always plenty of
opportunity for the fittest to reach the top, which they did, in great numbers, particularly
in our country; that where there was severe economic pressure the lowest classes of
course felt it the worst, and that among the poorest of all the women were driven into the
labor market by necessity.
They listened closely, with the usual note-taking.
"About one-third, then, belong to the poorest class," observed Moadine gravely. "And
two-thirds are the ones who are --how was it you so beautifully put it?--`loved, honored,
kept in the home to care for the children.' This inferior one-third have no children, I
suppose?"
 
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