The Mother's Charge

By Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman

She raised her head. With hot and glittering eye,
‘I know,’ she said, ‘that I am going to die.
Come here, my daughter, while my mind is clear.
Let me make plain to you your duty here;
My duty once — I never failed to try—
But for some reason I am going to die.’
She raised her head, and, while her eyes rolled wild,
Poured these instructions on the gasping child:

‘Begin at once — don’t iron sitting down—
Wash your potatoes when the fat is brown—
Monday, unless it rains — it always pays
To get fall sewing done on the right days—
A carpet-sweeper and a little broom—
Save dishes — wash the summer dining-room
With soda — keep the children out of doors—
The starch is out — beeswax on all the floors—
If girls are treated like your friends they stay—
They stay, and treat you like their friends — the way
To make home happy is to keep a jar —
And save the prettiest pieces for the star
In the middle — blue’s too dark — all silk is best—
And don’t forget the corners — when they’re dressed
Put them on ice — and always wash the chest
Three times a day, the windows every week—
We need more flour — the bedroom ceilings leak—
It’s better than onion — keep the boys at home—
Gardening is good — a load, three loads of loam—
They bloom in spring — and smile, smile always, dear—
Be brave, keep on — I hope I’ve made it clear.’

She died, as all her mothers died before.
Her daughter died in turn, and made one more.