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TOPICS OF THE HOUR.

BY VIVIEN. During the first half of the last century, before the taint of selfishness and commercialism had spread throughout' the world, before the practice of honest -work had faJlen into, disfavour and strikes had become part of every-day life, Charles Lamb, that most lovable and kindly of all English critics, penned a scathing indictment on the so-called " Modern Gallantry" of his day. He condemned the lack of chivalry, the absence of consideration, the want of kindly feeling and gracious manners ■which he saw in evidence all around him. He was openly and vigorously contemptuous of a code of behaviour which could, as a regular practice, adopt " one system of attention to females in the drawing room, and another in the shop or at the stall." He had a tender reverence for his old friend, Joseph Paice, as " the Preux Chevalier of Age," the "only pattern of consistent gallantry" he had ever met with.

Imagine this kindliest of men, this specimen of a very perfect English gentlemam, with his reverence for age and sex, and his simple ideals, suddenly se r down amid the whirl and rush and commercialism of 1921! Picture him watching a modern theatre queue, a five o'clock rush on the Auckland cars, a picnic crowd fighting its way on to a ferryboat in the summer holiday season! On 'bus or train, in theatre or picture palace, in street or shop,, the picture is- everywhere the same—self struggling for prominence, self thrusting the weaker to the wall, self sneering at the timid chivalry of others, self demanding its rights and its privileges at the expense of everyone else.

Such scenes are neither pretty nor edifying. They are merely typical of the spirit of the agt<—an age which prays at the shrihe of commercialism and worships the god Expediency. There is no room, no time for courtesy. The man who stands aside to let a woman pass, or who offers his seat in a tramcar, is regarded by many of his fellow-travellers with good-natured or pitying contempt; the people who refrain from pushing and shovine find themselves sooner or later comoelled to push and shove too, in sheer self-defence, or in recognition of the fact that otherwise they will be left behind.

Even such good manners as still survive are often little more than a thin social veneer, which, under the stress of difficulty or sudden anger, is apt to peel off and disclose the coarse grain of the wood underneath. There are many people, both men and women, who put on their good manners as they would an elaborate cloak, to be displayed before the eyes of "the people who matter," but to be screened from the gaze of the old and ugly, the poor and unimportant, who, after all, possibly "know no better." It is all so silly and shallow . and artificial, and all so blatantly selfish. The woman, who forbids her" child to offer his seat to an old lady is actuated by the very same spirit as that which operates in the men who plunge the country into gloom for the sake of a petty dispute. Well may we long for the return of a spirit of courtesy, which, if it goes no further, at least accords each one his proper turn, in perfect fairness.

Apropos of the active interest now taken by women in house-planning and building,, especially by those who are members of the Town Planning Association in Wellington, reference was recently made to the increasing popularity of architecture as a highly-suitable profession for women. It appears that in America women-architects are not only multiplying with extraordinary rapidity, but are also carrying off many of the prizes at exhibitions and in building competitions. Not content with building workmen's cottages and millionaires' bungalows, they have also many schools and churches to their credit, while the most skilful designers among them have been responsible for such elaborate structures as the Women's Palace at the Altanta Exhibition, a large hospital in San Francisco, a magnificent chateau modelled on the late Czar's summer palace, and a sanatorium of outstanding excellence, both from a scientific and an aesthetic point of view. j

In truth, among the many callings now open to intelligent and enterprising women, there is none which seems bo unquestionably to belong to woman's sphere as does the profession of architecture. Any clear-thinking woman of average intelligence, with some practical knowledge of housekeeping, could in half an hour give an accurate and comprehensive list of the clumsy Contrivances, the unnecessary and therefore irritating inconveniences, the clumsy, labour-making f aultiness of construction and arrangement with which' she has to contend every day, or with which.she has had to grapple at some time or another. A liberal supply of narrow steps at the back door, a window put in such a position as to give the least light, an inadequate number of fire-places, a gas jet so placed as to leave the range in darkness, a kitchen-sink or wash-tubs set too low for comfort — all these things may seem of very small consequence to the business-man departing daily to his work in the city, but are trials of the first magnitude to the woman who has to suffer them every day. Hence a woman architect, given the same sound training as a man and well-versed in the technical details of her profession, ought to be able to bring to her work the housekeeping instincts of her sex, together with an amount of practical experience which her male rivals of necessity usually lack.

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZH19210305.2.136.30.3

Bibliographic details

TOPICS OF THE HOUR., New Zealand Herald, Volume LVIII, Issue 17722, 5 March 1921, Supplement

Word Count
929

TOPICS OF THE HOUR. New Zealand Herald, Volume LVIII, Issue 17722, 5 March 1921, Supplement

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