The influence of the female character is now felt and acknowledged in all the relations of life. I speak not now of those distinguished women, who instruct their age through the public press. Nor of those devout strains we take upon our lips when we worship. But of a much larger class—of those whose influence is felt in the relations of neighbor, friend, daughter, wife, mother.
Who waits at the couch of the sick to administer tender charities while life lingers or to perform the last acts of kindness when death comes? Where shall we look for those examples of friendship that most adorn our nature, those abiding friendships, which trust even when betrayed, and survive all changes of fortune?
Where shall we find the brightest illustrations of filial piety? Have you even seen a daughter watching the decline of an aged parent and holding out with heroic fortitude to anticipate his wishes, to administer to his wants, and to sustain his tottering steps to the very borders of the grave?
But in no relation does woman exercise so deep an influence, both immediately and prospectively, as in that of mother. To her is committed the immortal treasure of the infant mind. Upon her devolves the care of the first stages of that course of discipline which is to form of a being, perhaps the most frail and helpless in the world, the fearless ruler of animated creation, and the devout adorer of its great Creator.
Her smiles call into exercise the first affections that spring up in our hearts. She cherishes and expands the earliest germs of our intellects. She breathes over us her deepest devotions. She lifts our little hands and teaches our little tongues to lisp in prayer.
She watches over us like a guardian angel and protects us through all our helpless years, when we know not of her cares and her anxieties on our account. She follows us into the world of men, and lives in us, and blesses us, when she lives not otherwise upon the earth.
What constitutes the center of every home? Whither do our thoughts turn, when our feet are weary with wandering and our hearts sick with disappointments? Where shall the truant and forgetful husband go for sympathy unalloyed and without design, but to the bosom of her who is ever ready and waiting to share in his adversity or his prosperity? And if there be a tribunal where the sins and the follies of a forward child may hope for pardon and forgiveness this side of heaven, that tribunal is the heart of a fond and devoted mother.
Finally, her influence is felt deeply in religion. If Christianity should be compelled to flee from the mansions of the great, the academies of philosophers, the halls of legislators, or the throng of busy men, we should find her last and purest retreat with woman at the fireside; her last altar would be the female heart; her last audience would be the children gathered round the knees of the mother; her last sacrifice, the secret prayer escaping in silence from her lips, and heard, perhaps, only at the throne of God.
The Moore McGuffey Readers, Carter, 64–66.