A Tribune editorial writer weighs in on a Washington lobbyist’s “far-fetched argument” against the manufacture of oleomargarine.


  A Minneapolis Journal photo from about 1900 shows a milkmaid lugging the tools of her trade: a bucket and a three-legged stool.
The president of a woman’s league – one Mrs. Charlotte Smith – has formally presented to the agriculture committee of the house an argument in favor of taxing oleomargarine out of existence that would be absolutely convincing, if true. She says that the manufacture and sale of the artificial butter tends to prevent matrimony, inasmuch as by displacing the genuine article it deprives the dairy-maid of her occupation. The girls of the farm are thus driven to the cities, where they become old maids instead of thrifty housewives, which they probably would have become had they remained in the country.
Mrs. Smith’s idea of the dairy-maid is perhaps derived from the natty picture presented in the comic operas. The chances are that she has never been on a farm and seen how the girls really work and look. If she had, perhaps she would not be so dead sure that the stylish lady clerks and attractive typewriter girls of the cities are less fitted to secure husbands.
The drift of boys and girls is undoubtedly from the farm to the city, but we doubt if the manufacture and sale of oleo has had much to do with it. On the modern dairy farm the work is now largely done by machinery. The milking machine and the hand separator have done more to displace the dairy-maid than the oleo factory. The employment that the factory offers to many girls is as a rule quite as attractive as farm work, and the factory girl is quite as apt to be thrown into the company of the opposite sex and to acquire an opportunity to pick up a desirable husband as her country sister.
No, no, Mrs. Smith, you cannot be allowed to lug into the debate any such far-fetched argument as this. The genuine and the artificial butter must stand each upon its own merits, and it is not fair to complicate the dispute with so delicate a sociological question as matrimony. So long as this old earth of ours continues to revolve upon its axis and there is marriage and giving in marriage, we will match the lady clerk, the typewriter, or the trim office or factory girl against her country sister, any time, in the race for a matrimonial prize.

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