Emily Murphy, "Love the Fulfilling of the Law,"
Canadian Home Journal May 1931: 7, 30. Courtesy of City
of Edmonton Archives.
Although barely twenty years of age when I became a
mother, I can see in looking back across the years that the
finest joys of life came with my children: so close they are
to one's heart, these younglings, and so dear.
In the outside world, argue as you may, concerning the
proper placing of titular decorations, in the home the habit
of wearing of the heart on one's sleeve is unquestionably
correct as well as deeply wise.
Looking back, I can see also that the so-called
"hardships" of rearing children are largely imaginative. For
this reason, I find it difficult to sympathize with those
persons who are ever wont to dilate upon the "tears" and
"sacrifices" of motherhood. I even find it hard to become
enraptured over "Mother's Day" in that the strain running
through most of the editorials is one of pity and
commiseration for the apparently sad and serious woman who
has reared a family. . . . There are the florists'
advertisements, too. "Don't forget the mode. Pink carnation
if she's alive: white if she is dead."
In art, the mother with a grown-up family is usually
portrayed with folded hands, a resigned-to-the-inevitable
air, and in a gown that is drearily suggestive of a shroud.
If you wish to see this down-daunted type in its full
perfection, pray study that widely-known but objectionable
picture entitled "Whistler's Mother."
It is my opinion, and I hope you will agree with me, that
there is no reason for burning incense to a woman simply
because she has fulfilled the natural functions of her
sex—because she has been no skulker of her maternal
This down-daunted type is rapidly passing out for we are
coming to see that a mother who lets herself subside into a
kind of burnt-sacrifice upon what is called "the family
altar" is not really a good mother or a good citizen.
"In weariness and painfulness?"—Yes! "In watchings
often?"—yes, very often—but the recompense is ever
infinitely greater than the sacrifice. Indeed, I have never
been able to sacrifice myself for my children. The
compensation has been a full hundredfold, and this is really
quite a good rate of interest.
"In watchings often?"—yes, watchings such as the singing
of rocking hymns and little sleep songs—the lulling of one's
babies. Who calls this a sacrifice?
No compensation in the love we get from our children? Let
the mothers answer.
. . . Now about my own children, other folk may have
thought them ordinary infants—purblind and inconsequential
folk—but to me they were quite as wonderful as those plump
little angel-children who, in olden pictures, sit at the
feet of the virgin and strum upon strings. As they grew they
were dutiful children although we have never had rules worth
mentioning. As far as possible children ought to get their
own gait. Why resist the course of a star in its natural
Be this as it may, our house was a republic where all had
the rules of conduct explained, and the necessity therefore.
If they broke the rules, the self-imposed penalty was also
explained. Our case rested there. There is no need to
enforce commandments once the children understand that love
is the fulfilling of the law.
This is quite a good way, too, especially when one
realizes that each child is a brand-new combination and
re-acts to life in its own way. What is it that the Hindus
say? "Oh yes, thirteen children with fourteen dispositions."
And, after all, "badness" is only misdirected goodness.
Pray do not think, however, that in our lessons,
household duties, outdoor sports and all the various
etceteras of family life, that I ever lost ascendancy—that
is to say the children in my Maternal Relations Court
understood that while the judge was lenient and fairly
reasonable, she was never sitting blindfolded. Perhaps he
was right, the fellow who declared that people are really
governed by laws which never find their way into copy-books.
Perhaps it is true also that one's best talents are required
in the home, and that in life our finest parts are always
played to small audiences. Indeed, I feel quite sure of
this. . . . But about the present, and how it has all turned
out for me?
This is not a difficult matter to figure out for now I am
the youngling myself, my daughters having the care and
control of me, and I know enough to get the principle at
Believe me what I say is a fact for at this very moment,
an anxious but withal persistent voice comes from a bedroom
down the hallway, this being its third and last time of
calling: "Now, Mother, you go to bed right away. It's
half-past one, and you know you'll not be ready for work in
the morning. Now, Mother, go right to bed!"
And this being frightfully true, permit me, Sirs and
Madams, to bid you a very good night, and to ask if it is
not well that, after all the years, there is someone who
cares so much.