It was just a week ago she came. Only seven days ago I saw her writhe and take breath, heard her first plaintive cry to her first morning in the world.
And when I walked away from the hospital in early gray daylight with a fresh rain smell in the air, treading the blown-down and scattered catalpa blossoms under my heels, I had above all else a new sense of a sacredness of life. A grand, original something the full equal of death or first love or marriage as an experience, this I knew I had touched. The whole white army of girl childhood was a trembling soft wonder I now understood better.
All that day and the next, however, I was compelled to draw on my resources of patience and humor. The remark of a startlingly large number of my friends was:
"Too bad it's a girl."
I learned it for the first time to be positively true that fathers and mothers generally know what they prefer as a first child and they prefer boys to girls. Could they have their choice from the God of Things as They Are, they would say:
"Give us a boy."
And so, while a few understood my joy, some actually took it as a half-grief, a kind of sorrow, and commiserated me:
"Too bad it's a girl."
Thus at the very start of life, prejudices and dispreferences follow the footsteps of one sex as against another.
"It is better to be a boy than a girl, better to be a man than a woman." This was the undertone and the oversong of those who proffered me gratulations.
And I have wondered how far they are right.
Tonight however, as I hold in my arms for a few moments, this new-come beginner in the game of life, I think I would as lief be this baby girl as any man alive.
For this baby girl, as sure as luck and health stay by her, shall see wonder on wonder that will be denied to our eyes. If she lives out fifty years, she will be a mingler in and a witness upon changes, developments and advances that baffle all prophecy and forecast by us to-day. In her years, many new shapings will be worked on the hard mechanisms of wealth production, the curious codes of law and justice, and the heartstrings of human mercy and brotherhood.
She shall see women go forward and cast ballots and speak and write and with passionate earnestness take part in political movements. She shall sit in a gallery in the House of Representatives in Washington and listen to the words of a woman member of that body.
She shall know the final destiny of the war game. Perhaps, even, she or her lover may watch with their own eyes fleets of air battlers so deadly destructive with explosives hurled at helpless cities below that the war game is abandoned forever and the nations of the earth disarm their troops and dismantle their navies.
She—this little soft-breathing thing in my arms—will be alive when typhoid, tuberculosis and babies born blind have become forgotten, improbable things. W e are moving that way to-day. We edge toward it every year. We imagine and picture it. But she, my baby girl, will walk the streets of cities from which all dangers of the now commonest and deadliest diseases have been driven out.
In this week , when her name is registered among the births, woman, the common woman—the wife of the workingman—is the slave of a slave, cooking, sewing, washing, cleaning, nursing in sickness, and rendering a hundred personal services daily for a man who is himself not in power to dictate a constant job and living wage for himself.
My baby girl shall see the slave achieve freedom for himself and his class, and "the slave of a slave" broken away from the harsh interests that hold him in the dark to-day.
So rapid and sweeping are some of the advancements to-day, that I think it possible that the wise sweet mother who bore her, and I, her father, may look on these things forecasted. But whether we see them or not, sure it is that the world is moving forward with strides so fast and vast that all the Tribe of Intelligence agree that these and more beyond our reckoning will be.
All of this is more than guess, conjecture or surmise. The achieved rights of life for men, women and children are reaching farther and farther every day. So, I know that when my baby girl on some night of moonlight and roses, says "Yes," to a man who asks her the Momentous Question, it will not be for money that she replies. It will not be for bread-and-butter and a home that her answer will be given. It will be a case of heart answering unto heart.
Time was when it may have been right to pity the baby girl. That time has gone by.
I am glad it was a girl.
This article was originally published on February 10, 1912.