Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/400

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pression, the superior type of the race and the medium. She is to-day, what the American exhibits her in Europe with a legitimate pride, the most finished work of the country's two centuries of civilization.

It seems as if on the American soil, essentially democratic, Nature showed herself, in what concerns woman, more aristocratic than elsewhere, and that the genius of natural selection was working perpetually for the advancement of its elect. Of all these gifts which it has lavished upon her, one of the most characteristic is certainly adaptability. Few women in Europe possess in the same degree as the American woman the faculty of identifying themselves with their medium, of changing country, climate, and surroundings with so wonderful suppleness. More perfectly than others, she accommodates herself to circumstances, while she preserves her individuality in a strange surrounding.

Wherever we meet the American women—and we meet her everywhere, in the ranks of the English peerage and of the highest European aristocracy, as well as in more modest conditions—we are struck with that marvelous adaptability in which wise men see the sign of the superiority of a race or of a species. It is revealed notably by that good humor with which she accepts the numerous petty annoyances that every change of medium implies and which put the best characters on trial. She submits to them without effort, and criticises them without bitterness; she is, further, prepared for them by her education, and does not expect to find everything easy. Then the necessity of manual labor does not seem to her like a degrading condition; at most only one or two generations separate her from the time when her grandmother kneaded the family bread in the primitive settlements. These stories are familiar to her, and the lessons deduced from them are not discouraging or humiliating. She is the (laughter of a race of emigrants who have become a great people through work, energy, and determination. She has in this at her command a whole treasury of traditions from which she draws, not without pride. We might say, in listening to these stories, that we were hearing one of those grandes dames of the past century, emigrants and poor, telling with pride in their memoirs how, to supply their wants, they worked in London or in Germany, utilizing their accomplishments and their correct taste, and making trimmings and embroidering robes with their own aristocratic hands.

The American woman has no more false shame and silly conceit than they had. We can observe her at Paris, Nice, Pau, or in Switzerland, everywhere at ease, the first to laugh at her mistakes in language, or at her ignorance of continental usages. Wherever she may be she seems to be at home; and the country