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- A Domestic Problem - 6/12 -

the third makes a quick job of it with her scissors; the fourth spends hours in patiently, untangling, and is chosen. Now, what shows the state of public sentiment is the fact that in none of these legends is it intimated that the young man was fortunate in securing a thrifty or a patient wife. It was the thrifty or patient young woman who was fortunate in being selected by a young man,--by any young man; for the character of the youth is never stated. There is an inference, also, in the second one given, that the "hours" of a young woman can be employed to no better purpose than that of untangling a skein of silk. All this is throwing light on our problem, for so long as so much is expected of woman physically, and so little in the way of mental acquirements; so long as it is taken for granted that she is a subordinate being, that to contribute to the physical comfort and pleasure of man, and gain his approval, are the highest purposes of her existence,--it will not be considered essential that she should acquire culture. These aims are by no means unimportant ones, or unworthy ones; but are they in all cases the highest a woman should possess?



Having glanced at the present state of things, and at some of its causes, let us show reasons why it should be changed.

A sufficient reason is, because it dwarfs the intellect, ruins the health, and shortens the lives, of so many women. Another reason is, that whereas the husband may keep himself informed on matters of general interest in literature, art, science, and progress, while the wife must give her mind to domestic activities, there is danger of the two growing apart, which growing apart is destructive of that perfect sympathy so essential to the happiness of married life. A certain librarian remarked. "If a man wants a book for himself, I pick out a solid work; if for his wife, a somewhat light and trifling one." Third, because human beings have so much in common, are so closely connected, that the good of all requires the good of each, and each of all. And here is where the shortsightedness of the aristocracy of wealth and the aristocracy of sex are strikingly apparent. They fail to see that the very inferiority of what are called the inferior classes re-acts on the superior classes. We all know how it is in the human body. An injury to one small bone in the foot may cause distress which shall be felt "all over," and shall disturb the operations of the lordly brain itself. So in the body social. The wealthy and refined, into whose luxurious dwellings enters no unsightly, no uncleanly object, may say to themselves, "Never mind those poor wretches down at the other end, huddled together in their filthy tenements. They are ignorant, they don't know how to get along; but their condition doesn't concern us, so long as our houses are light, clean, and airy."

Those poor wretches, however, because they are ignorant, because they don't know how "to get along," because they live huddled together in filthy tenements, breathing foul air, starving on bad food, become a ready prey to infectious diseases. The infectious diseases spread. Men of wealth, from the refined and cleanly quarters, encounter in their business walks representatives from the degraded and disgusting quarter, and take from them the seeds of those diseases; or, on some fatal day, a miasma from the corruption of the degraded quarter is wafted in at the windows of the luxurious dwellings, and the idols of those dwellings are stricken down. So in the body politic. The wise and well-to-do enact laws, obedience to which is for the general good. The ignorant and poverty-stricken, because of their unenlightened condition, cannot see that obedience is for the good of all, and break those laws. Hence crimes, the effects of which the wise and well-to-do are made to feel, and for the punishment of which they are made to pay. It is the same with man and woman. Man says, "Let woman manage her domestic concerns, attend to her children, and gain the approbation of her husband. These are her chief duties, and for these little culture is needed." But woman becomes the mother of sons who become men; and the character, condition, and destiny of those sons who become men are, as we have seen, determined largely by the condition, pre-natal and post-natal, of the mothers. So that the ignorance in which woman is kept by man re-acts on man.

A fourth reason for a change is, that we live in a republic. In a republic every man has a voice in public affairs. Every man is first a child; and children, commonly speaking, are what the mother's influence helps to make them. Therefore, if you would have the country wisely, honestly, and decently governed, give the children the right kind of mothers. If the community knew its own interests, it would not merely permit women all possible means of culture, but would force all possible means of culture upon them. It would say, "We can't afford that you exhaust yourselves by labor, that you fritter yourselves away in vanities; for by your deficiencies we all suffer, by your losses we all lose."

But mark how stupid the community is. It desires that all its members shall possess wisdom and integrity; it declares that, in regard to character, a great deal depends on early training; it declares that this early training is the duty of mothers; and yet it does not take the next step, and say, _Therefore_ mothers should be qualified for their duty, and have every facility for performing it satisfactorily. It asserts with great solemnity, "Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined," then gives all its twigs into the hands of mothers, saying, "Here, bend these: it makes a terrible difference how they are bent, but then it is not important that you have given any attention to the process." Or, to vary the statement, the community virtually addresses woman in this way: "A fearful responsibility rests upon you. It is the responsibility of training these young, immortal souls. This is your mission, your high and holy calling. You will, however, get little time to attend to it; and, as for any special preparation or knowledge of the subject, none is required. There's a great deal of delicate and complex machinery to superintend, and a mistake will tell fearfully in the result; but, never mind, we'll trust luck." "Do we not," as Horace Mann once asked, "do we not need some single word where we can condense into one monosyllable the meaning of ten thousand fools?" Some deny the power of early training. "Look!" they say, "there is a family of children brought up just alike, and see how differently they all turn out." But a family of children should not be brought up just alike. Different temperaments require different treatment. And this is exactly the point where knowledge is necessary, and a wisdom almost superhuman. That character is the result of "inherited traits," as well as of education, does not affect the case, since children "inherit" from mothers and the sons of mothers.



But suppose we leave this part of our subject, and endeavor now to find a way out of this present state of things. Let us keep the situation clearly before us. As things are, woman cannot obtain culture because of being overburdened with work and care, and also because of her enfeebled condition physically. To what is this present state of things owing? Largely to the unworthy views of both men and women concerning the essentials of life, and concerning the requirements of woman's vocation. And these unworthy views of men and women, to what are they owing? In a very great measure to early impressions. Who, chiefly, are responsible for these? Mothers. They are also, as has been shown, responsible for the larger part of the prevailing invalidism of woman. Let us be sure to bear in mind that these evils, these hinderances to culture, can be traced directly back to the influence and the ignorance of mothers; for here is where the whole thing hinges. Here is a basis to build upon. Child-training is at the beginning. Child-training is woman's work. Everybody says so. The wise say so. The foolish say so. The "oak and vine" man says so. The "private way, dangerous passing" man says so. Very good. If this is woman's work, _educate her for her work_. If "educate" isn't the right word, instruct her, inform her, teach her, prepare her; name the process as you choose, so that it enables her to comprehend the nature of her business, and qualifies her to perform its duties. She requires not only general culture, but special preparation, a technical preparation if you will. Let this come in as the supplementary part of what is called her education. Many will pronounce this absurd; but why is it absurd? Say we have in our young woman's class at the "Institute," thirty or forty or fifty young women. Now, we know that almost every one of these, either as a mother or in some other capacity, will have the care of children. The "Institute" assumes to give these young women such knowledge as shall be useful to them in after life. If "Institutes" are not for this purpose, what are they for? One might naturally suppose, then, that the kind of knowledge which its pupils need for their special vocation would rank first in importance. And what kind will they need? Step into the house round the corner, or down the street, and ask that young mother, looking with unutterable tenderness upon the little group around her, what knowledge she would most value. She will say, "I long more than words can express to know how to keep these children well. I want to make them good children, to so train them that they will be comforts to themselves and useful to others. But I am ignorant on every point. I don't know how to keep them well, and I don't know how to control them, how to guide them."

"It is said," you reply, "that every child brings love with it. Is not love all-powerful and all-sufficient?"

"Love does come with every child; but, alas! knowledge does not come with the love. My love is so strong, and yet so blind, that it even does harm. I would almost give up a little of my love if knowledge could be got in exchange."

Here, perhaps, you inquire, somewhat sarcastically, if no instruction on these subjects was given at the "Institute." She opens wide her astonished eyes. "Oh, no! No, indeed,--surely not."

"What, then, were you taught there?"

"Well, many things,--Roman history for one. We learned all about the Punic Wars, their causes, results, and the names of the famous generals on both sides."

Now, if a Bostonian were going to Europe, it would do him no harm to be told the names of all the streets in Chicago, the names of the inhabitants of each street, with the stories of their lives, their quarrels, reconciliations, and how each one rose or fell to his position. Acquiring these facts would be good mental exercise, and from a part of them he would learn something of human nature. But what that man wants to know more than any thing is, on what day the steamer sails for Europe: is she seaworthy? what are her accommodations? is she well provisioned, well manned, well commanded? are her

A Domestic Problem - 6/12

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