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America stands to-day among the greatest and most progressive of the nations of the earth; and as the law of nations from earliest times has been the decline and fall of one, as another rises to prëeminence, it would seem that this great land of ours is fast soaring towards the highest pinnacle of national attainment.
If a nation is great, it is made so by the men who make and enforce its laws, who fill its positions of trust, who manipulate its finances, and who prove worthy citizens of the land of their birth or adoption.
And who are responsible for the men?
Are not the women, the wives and mothers of the nation, the bearers of this great burden of responsibility?
No nation has ever risen, or can rise above the level of its women, and in no other country is this truth more obviously demonstrated than in our own beloved and favored land.
Reasoning thus, we find that the American woman not only holds a high position of trust, but it is conceded by all who know her, that she fills it worthily, and is capable of meeting the varied demands upon her with rare tact and skill.
There are no women in the world to-day who are more truly the cynosure of all eyes, than are our own. They stand in the glare of public life in the highest circles of their own land, and are closely allied to royalty abroad, participating in, or presiding at, many of the functions of almost every foreign court, and everywhere the homage which is their due is freely accorded them.
There are two attributes of the American woman which are undeniably predominant in her nature, and these are adaptability and individuality.
They are displayed by the members of all ranks and classes, but probably the twenty-five women who form the coterie of “First Ladies of the Land” in our republican court at Washington, have had as great, if not greater, opportunities for exercising these qualities than any who have entered only into court life abroad.
“Noblesse oblige” is true in all stations of life, whether it be the nobility of honorable living or of high social birth, but in royal circles there is a code of etiquette which is enforced from generation to generation, just as royal sons and daughters are born to royal parents, and so its followers abide by its mandates as a matter of course. In a democratic country like America, no such rule obtains, for the children of a President of the United States, after their father’s term expires, may relapse into social inconspicuousness and seldom appear before the public, instead of, as in royalty, inheriting their father’s official greatness.
We have but one instance of the son of a President following in his father’s footsteps, and only one where a grandson did likewise. The wife of a President may have been born in affluence and social prominence, or she may have passed her early years in the humblest environment, as was the case with a number of the women who have presided at the White House, but in every instance the duties of hostess have been faithfully and creditably discharged, while natural ease, grace and tact, combined with this wonderful power of adaptation, have rendered the hospitality of the White House unquestionably refined, and marked by the highest breeding.
Some of the women who have held this exalted position have been called to it while little more than young girls, and others have assumed its responsibilities and obligations late in life, yet all have upheld the dignity of the nation of whose social life they were, for the time being, the highest exponents.