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- A Domestic Problem - 12/12 -


Says this truly great man, "If we fasten our eyes upon the effects which education may throw forward into immortal destinies, it is then that we are awed, amazed, overpowered, by the thought that we have been placed in a system where the soul's eternal flight may he made higher or lower by those who plume its tender wings, and direct its early course. Such is the magnitude, the transcendence, of this subject."

CHAPTER XI.

SUPPLEMENTARY.

Some persons have asked, after hearing or reading the foregoing suggestions, "Do not _men_ also work too much and read too little? Is not the influence of _fathers_ on their children to be considered? Should not _fathers_ be educated for their vocation?" To these questions there can be but one answer. Yes! and the yes cannot be too emphatic. But the paper which formed the nucleus of these chapters was written by a woman at the request of women, to be read before a woman's club assembled to consider the question, "How shall the mother obtain culture?" The very fact that such a question had suggested itself to them, shows that women feel the need of more than their present opportunities for culture. If men feel this need, there is nothing to prevent them from assembling to discuss their unsatisfactory condition, to devise ways of improving it, to consider their responsibilities, and to inquire how they shall best qualify themselves to fulfil the duties of their vocation. The writer is under the impression that men's clubs do not meet especially with a view to such discussions.

The following paragraphs comprise the first part of a letter published in "The New York Tribune."

"These letters will speak to the hearts of thousands of women all through the country, and particularly to the women "out West," as they have already to my own. This problem has been revolved in my mind again and again, but no clew has appeared by which to solve it; and I have laid it down hopelessly, feeling that there is no alternative but to submit and carry the burden as long as strength endures, and seeing no outlook for the future but in a brief period of old age, when care and labor must come on younger shoulders.

"I want to speak only of the condition of women with whom I am best acquainted,--the wives of farmers in this part of Illinois. Many instances I have known of women who received in the East an education in some cases superior to that of their husbands, but a life of constant care and drudgery has caused them to lose, instead of gain in mental culture, while the husbands have grown away from them; and it is only in subjects of a lower nature that they have a common interest. A man, in his every-day intercourse with other men, and his business calls into all kinds of places and scenes, must be a fool not to receive new ideas, not to become more intelligent on many subjects. But what can be expected of the wife, almost always at home in the isolated farm-house, in a sparsely settled community, and if poor and struggling with debt, as many are, with no reading except, one or two newspapers? If she had a library of books, it would make but little difference, for she has no time to read them. All through the Western country there is an absolute dearth of women's "help." "A girl" can hardly be obtained for love or money. Girls in towns or cities will not go into the country, and country girls are too independent. If they have a father's house, they will not leave it for any length of time, as actual want is not known here in the country. Within a radius of five miles in every direction from my home, where I have lived eight years, I have never known or heard of a family or person suffering for any thing to eat, drink, or wear; and have never had a call for help in that direction. A house-mother of my acquaintance, whose husband owns a "section" farm, suffers much from illness, and has a large family, yet for months has been without any help in her work but that of her little girls,--the oldest not over twelve,--simply because she could not get a servant. The farmers themselves are under less necessity to labor than in many other parts of the country. Farms are comparatively large, and produce large crops, and it pays them to hire laborers. Many farmers work in the field very little, while the wife and mother does the housework not only for her own family, but for from one to three laborers. During the rush of crop raising and harvesting, from April to August, she must be up at four in the morning, and she cannot have her supper until the farm work is all done; and by the time her children are put to bed, the milk cared for, and dishes washed, it is nine o'clock or after. It is hard for a woman who is hungry for reading to see how much leisure even "hired men" have to read,--their winter and rainy days, their long noonings and evenings, and odd bits of time, while she has comparatively none."

It seems, then, that it is with women as with men: at the West too few workers for the work, at the East too little work for the workers. Now, in the case of the men, there is a regularly organized plan to bring the workers to the work. Laborers are taken from the East where they stand in each other's way, and carried to the West where their services are needed. Why not have some arrangement of this kind for the women? In the present condition of things, destitute women and girls congregate in our cities, and in dull seasons depend on charity for their daily food. In Boston, during the last winter, this charitable feeding was reduced to a system, and, according to published reports, immense numbers were thus supplied with food. It seems a pity that women and girls should starve or live on charity in our cities, while so many families in the West are suffering for their help. Can there not be some concerted plan between these widely separated sections of the country whereby at least a portion of our destitute ones can be conveyed to the West, and there provided with comfortable homes?

By private letters received from "Tribune" readers living in different parts of the country, it appears that many thoughtful people are considering our problem, and devising ways of solving it. One of these letters says, "You sprinkle rose water where you should pour aquafortis. You say husbands '_don't know_' that their wives are overworked. The truth is, they don't care." The writer recommends that the laws be so altered as to make second marriages illegal, assuming that, if a man could have only one wife, he would take good care of that one. This is an unpleasant view of the case, and would not be presented here, only that, from the earnest downrightness of the letter, it seems probable that its writer speaks from knowledge, and represents a class,--a small one, let us hope.

Three private letters, coming one from the South, one from the East, and one from the West, declare that woman's present state of invalidism and thraldom to labor is occasioned by the too frequent recurrence of the duties and exhaustive demands of maternity. The writers of the letters affirm, that, in these matters, women are often made the slaves of sensual husbands, and earnestly entreat that this shall be mentioned among the "causes of the present state of things."

The only sure and lasting remedy for the above-mentioned evils, and others similar to them, is a wise education. When man is wisely educated, and not till then, will he have a proper consideration for woman.


A Domestic Problem - 12/12

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