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- Hold Up Your Heads, Girls! - 1/19 -


HOLD UP YOUR HEADS, GIRLS!

HELPS FOR GIRLS, IN SCHOOL AND OUT.

BY ANNIE H RYDER.

"'Handsome is that handsome does,--hold up your heads, girls!' was the language of Primrose in the play when addressing her daughters." WHITTIER

COPYRIGHT, 1886, BY D. LOTHROP & Co.

To My Girls Everywhere.

CONTENTS.

INTRODUCTION I. HOW TO TALK II. HOW TO GET ACQUAINTED WITH NATURE III. HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF WORK IV. WHAT CAN I DO? V. WHAT TO STUDY VI. ENGLISH LITERATURE AND OTHER STUDIES VII. THE COMMONPLACE VIII. MOODS IX. WOMANLINESS X. GIRLS AND THEIR FRIENDS XI. YOUTHS AND MAIDENS

HOLD UP YOUR HEADS, GIRLS!

INTRODUCTION.

When we make an object with our hands, we frequently notice that the most care is needed as we near its completion. A false stroke of the brush will change an angel into a demon, a misguided blow of the mallet will shiver the statue into fragments: so, in the work which attempts to form a noble womanhood, all the efforts of years of training will be marred or rendered ineffectual, if the right influence, proper occupation, and wholesome encouragement are not given to a girl in the period which borders on womanhood. We wait for the rose to open; but if we allow the atmosphere to become impure, or otherwise prevent its development, its life will stagnate, it will refuse to give out odor, and the world will lose that beauty it might have enjoyed.

Susceptible as girls are, vigorous, affectionate, cheerful and aspiring, if they are deprived suddenly of good influence and encouragement, the very conditions of their growth will be removed, and they, like the rose, will shut their lives within their lives.

There is no time in a girl's life so neglected, and yet so dependent upon sympathy, as that when she is first thrown upon her own efforts. Too old to be any longer led, she is not old enough to be left without guidance. This time usually comes when she has finished the ordinary school course and finds herself, all at once, waiting, either for an entrance into what is called society, or for an opportunity to earn her living.

There is a certain lightness of heart, carelessness, _abandon_, maybe, about girls while they are still in school, which is both delightful and natural, however provoking to teachers. Every thing is very bright now; and if the girl learns her lessons, is obedient, and tries to think, she believes that somehow things will all come around right with time. All at once she is confounded. She awakes in the morning, and finds that school does not keep to-day,--no, nor to-morrow! What is to be done? Going and coming, which get to be more going and coming; dish-washing, which daily increases into dish-washing; or _ennui_, which degenerates into melancholy, ensue. Life is not what the school-girl supposed. Six months of it make her older than a whole school-year.

Girls look upon graduation day as a grand portal through which they are to enter into a palace glistening with splendor; but, lo! when they reach that portal, they see only a very low gate-way, while a hedge, thorny and high, shuts out the palace. How to get through? Rather, how are their elders to make them see that, with the patience and energy of the prince in the story, they can cause the hedge to turn to roses, and open wide before them?

A girl needs, first of all, encouragement. She should not be told what things are to oppose her, if she has ambition to excel in a certain direction, but what things are to help her to attain her purpose. She wants praise, but not flattery. A girl knows when she is flattered sooner than a boy. If conceit is engendered from praise, that will do no harm. Time will destroy conceit, if a girl has much to do with sensible people and sensible books.

A girl needs to be trusted. Nothing will be more efficacious than making her feel of certain importance and usefulness to others. It is evident she wants sympathy in her endeavors and disappointments. I do not mean that she should be indulged, or that she should not be made to work out her own salvation; but that she should realize that, if she tries, some one will know and bless her, and if she stumbles, some one will help her up again. Just as truly should she know that, if she is careless of endeavor or negligent of her days, she will meet with disparagement and punishment.

It is most necessary for a girl to have a motive placed before her, that she may bring out whatever undeveloped faculties may be latent within her. This motive may be a comparatively slight one,--no more than the training of a window-garden, the collecting of newspaper slips, or the making of bread; but, if she does her particular work better than others, she will attain a certain degree of superiority, and her time has, for her, been as profitably filled as that which another person devotes to a larger work. By motive, let me repeat, I mean something given a girl to do which shall be especially her work: not always an ambitious one,--a desire to shine in society, letters, or the arts,--but something just for herself, with its own rewards.

How much more numerous the motives which can be given an American girl than one who lives on foreign soil! Look at the German girl, for example. Her country arbitrarily divides its people into high and low. The peasant maiden has so long stayed one side of the barrier, she thinks she always must; so, with her scanty loaf of black bread near her on the ground, she leans against a tree, knits her stocking, and tends the flock. When night comes she goes home to her rude stone cottage, lifts a prayer to the Virgin, if she is an Austrian, and one for the king. Her mind never strays beyond the village gate. The more fortunate girls in towns and cities receive the allotted years of study in the schools, and when these end at fifteen, about the time of confirmation, the girls are put into families away from home to get a year's experience in domestic matters. Then they marry, and obediently follow the commands of their husbands.

It may be thought that a society girl needs no incentives to a right use of time and privileges, but she most certainly does. Her responsibility is great: she will either sway a circle or a household. Her influence will as surely affect her associates as did the influence of those celebrated French women whose _salons_ were the places where battles were fought and decisive moments gained. Society is in great need of women: it always will be. Now this period of young womanhood is precisely the time for cultivating those principles which will later be most helpful to society.

Surely, for those who are to bear more heavily the weight of life, who are to work as they wish not; in fact, in a way against which all but principle struggles,--certainly, for these, there is every need of motive. This class increases daily, and the discouragement and distrust of its members grow with sad rapidity.

Girls, girls everywhere,--my girls,--do not think I mean to flatter you! Do not think I mean to praise you more highly than I ought! I simply want you to know your own capabilities, and to realize that much, very much, depends upon every one of you. How much there is for you to do! You are frank and honest now, or ought to be; you have not learned to imitate the falseness of so-called proprieties. It is fully possible to keep young, genuine, girlish even, and at the same time to be womanly. The world is not sunshiny enough; there are too many November days in the year: bring fairer weather and fresh June mornings.

You are not awkward, even if you have not learned just how to be graceful; you are not useless, though you have not yet acquired all the knowledge of the kitchen, laundry, and sewing-room; nor are you unprofitable because you do not now earn the so many dollars a week you will sometime gain. There is large hope of you, even when you forget yourselves in the use of fashionable slang, because your minds and hearts are open to receive kind warnings, and to learn to despise such terms as mar the beauty of easy, delicate speech.

You want courage and physical strength outside of your lively affections. You want wisdom and long training in the use of books. You need to be occupied, to be active in brain and heart and hand; busied even with more than the duties assigned you; occupied in times of rest as well as in times of labor.

You should see more and feel no less. Indeed, the power of observation is most cultivating and most easily developed.

You ought to be more familiar with Nature,--the sky, and trees, and fields; not always to have a scientific knowledge of it, but a certain familiarity, so that you may ever be surrounded by a glorious company of friends. You need to know the value of literature, and to adorn yourselves with the graces of conversation.

Those qualities which contribute most to womanhood and character you should be most eager to make your own.

May I talk with you about such subjects as may suggest ways of educating your minds, of benefiting your bodies, and of helping, in some little measure, towards that growth of soul which should be the aim of all instruction?

I.


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