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Boyle, Ruth M. (ed.) / The Wisconsin magazine
Vol. XIII, Number 6 (March 1916)

Gale, Zona
What the day's work means to me,   pp. Nineteen-Twenty


Page Nineteen


THE WISCONSIN MAGAZINE
WHAT THE DAY'S WORK MEANS TO ME
                         By Zona Gale, '95.
         (By permission of the author and The Bookman.)
           SHOULD like to say that
           the day's work means to
           me only the "joy of the
           job."  I wish that this
           were true for all of us. It
will be true, some centuries away, or
else the race will have failed. But I
do not see the joy of the job can be the
whole story, yet, for any one of us.
  I have a friend who says:
  "Once I asked somebody that I
thought ought to know, what they meant
when they said 'work.' Never, not if
I live till my dying day, will I forget
how mixed up they got me. 'Work,'
says they, 'is duty.' 'But,' I says, after
a while, 'I don't believe in duty. I be-
lieve in joy.' They looked shocked to
death. I could see it. But I stuck to
it-and I stick to it.
  "Only I know something else: That
away on ahead of both duty and joy,
there sits something or other that is
what work is really inside. But that's
beyond the A. class. And beyond the
High School. And right on up into the
universities. I 'most said, into the uni-
versalities."
  In all of which I agree with my
friend.
   Evidently, she and I can make the
joyful admission that we are free of the
old Hebraic idea of work. But this
only means that we have perhaps man-
aged so to be born, physically or men-
tally, that the curse of toil is not indi-
vidually upon us, as it is upon most of
our fellows-a sad admission, after all,
when we meant to be so joyful.
  Given this supreme special privilege,
and what does the day's work mean to
her and to me? Not the handling of a
tool to get comforts. Not work de-
graded by failure to recognize it. Not
even the brandishing of a weapon to
fight for some belief. Not, surely, the
unconscious joy of the job, when most
of the people of the world never know
what it is to have work which is joy,
and never, then, know work in the real
sense. And not, of course, by any
means just a game. What then?
  To me the first requisite of the day's
work is that it be co-operative. And
the co-operators are (1) The rest of
the workers and drudges of the world;
and (2) all those who are not workers
or drudges. And the object of the day's
work, whether or not one is conscious
of that object, must be one which will
affect, however remotely, that whole
silent company of the people.
  This sense, not of me, working, but
of the people, working, I believe to be
the lamp to light all work.
  I am always wanting so much to tell
it to women, the hundreds of thousands
of women, who have the skill to per-
form a craft or a profession, but whom
our system has tied to domestic work
which they do not like, or to shop or
factory work under conditions which
they endure. They have the attitude of
heroic, individual resignation. Things,
they say, are as they are, and cannot
be changed. It is necessary to accept,
to renounce all thought of anything
else, to go through the routine, as one's
Nineteen


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