“Why–it’s taken for granted that women are gossips by nature, by instinct and by training,” said the Sparrow.
“Women ought to deny that charge every time they hear it, too!” she exclaimed. “It’s just one of the many accusations men have repeated over and over until they have come to believe it.”
The birds are used to hearing warm debates spring up between the Sparrows, shriek and flutter and prance for a while, and die amicably away. Their part is usually to provide a fair field and no favor, but when it comes up they sometimes listen, knowing that no marital infelicities can be brought about among settled Bird couples.
“They’re not a bit worse than men! I tell you more than half the mischievous talk is retailed by some married woman, who heard it from her husband, who got it, of course, at his club.”
“Nonsense! Men talk politics and business; it’s the women who are always saying to each other, ‘Now don’t you ever tell I told you this,’ and ‘Isn’t it terrible about Mrs. Wood Knott Wearen,’ and ‘Have you heard the story they are telling about Miss Geewotta Peeche’–huh! you can’t deny it, women will gossip! Mind must have something mischievous to take up when they are idle.”
“Then the thing to do is to give ‘em something better to think about,” said the arch-peacemaker, the White Pigeon. “Maybe the movies–”
Her little attempt was foredoomed to failure; the Sparrows were facing each other with open beaks and wings.
“I’ll bet you a flaxseed there isn’t a married man between here and the river that isn’t full of exclusive information about his neighbors, unless his wife is deaf and dumb.”
“How do you know that, I wonder! If their minds are so full of the weighty affairs of the city and the nation that they never gossip, how do you find out that they are full of scandalous information received from their wives?”
“Well—-” The Sparrow was somewhat disconcerted. “They may occasionally help to spread a rumor, but –”
“They start them, too–by a turn of expression or a change of countenance; by a sneer or a gesture. And the man-gossip does vastly more harm than the woman; the malice of his tales is accented because it sounds smart.”
The Sparrow seemed at last to have run out of replies, and the Gray Pigeon commented: “It is said that Wisconsin has a law against gossiping. Offenses are punishable with a fine of not more than $250, or imprisonment not to exceed a year in jail.”
“All gossips ought to be jailed,” said the Sparrow, perking up. “The everlasting ‘Now don’t you ever tell I told you this’ ought to place the speaker on a level with a fellow that carries brass knucks or a sling-shot.”
From April – June 1914 The Chattanooga News paid Emma Bell Miles $9.00 a week to write “Fountain Square Conversations.” The “Conversations” cleverly combined her naturalist’s knowledge and her social commentary. They featured birds and other creatures on the square conversing under the shadows of the human statues. Miles (1879-1919) is remembered primarily for “The Spirit of the Mountains” (1905), the first comprehensive study of Southern Appalachian culture.