I have observed a great deficiency in so-called educated ladies. They may have graduated with honors, but are shamefully deficient in the practical duties of life. They are destitute of the qualifications necessary for the proper regulation and happiness of the family. They may talk of woman’s elevated sphere and of her rights, while they themselves sink far below the true sphere of woman. God designed that women should become intelligent in the most essential duties of life. . . . It is the right of every daughter of Eve in our land to be thoroughly educated in household duties, having a knowledge of all the branches of practical life in domestic labor. She may preside in her family as queen in her domain, her household being her kingdom. . . . It is woman’s right to be qualified to direct the expanding minds of her children. It is her right to have an understanding of her own and her children’s organisms, that she may know how to treat her children, and save them from the poisons of doctors’ drugs. She may adore her gracious Creator as she contemplates how beautifully and simply nature carries on her work when she is not interfered with. She may be an intelligent nurse and physician of her own dear children . . . . It is woman’s right to know how to regulate her own habits, and those of her children, in diet and dress, in exercise and in domestic duties, and employment in the open air in relation to life and health.
Of all the living organisms that God has created, none rank in the scale of value with him anywhere near to man. And if human beings would become intelligent in regard to their own bodies, and understand their relation to life and health, and regulate their habits of eating, of dressing, of working and resting, their lives would be prolonged in health and happiness. Many mothers do not take half the interest in the constitutional wants of their children that the intelligent farmer shows to the brutes around him. It is woman’s right to look after the interest of her husband, to have a care for his wardrobe, and to seek to make him happy. It is her right to improve her mind and manners, to be social, cheerful, and happy, shedding sunshine in her family, and making it a little heaven. And she may have an interest for more than “me and mine.” She should consider that society has claims upon her.
The false education of young ladies leads them to regard uselessness, frivolity, and helplessness, as desirable attainments. Many parents give their daughters the advantages of literary attainments, support them in amusement, and relieve them from the burdens of domestic care. They give them an abundance of time and nothing to occupy it. Flattery and the artificial, without an object or aim—nothing substantial to satisfy the mind and strengthen principle—leave empty nothingness.
I copy the following appropriate paragraph from “The American Woman’s Home,” by C. E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe:
“Our land is now full of motorpathic institutions, to which women are sent at a great expense to have hired operators stretch and exercise their inactive muscles. They lie for hours to have their feet twigged, their arms flexed, and all the different muscles of the body worked for them, because they are so flaccid and torpid that the powers of life do not go on. Would it not be quite as cheerful, and a less expensive process, if young girls from early life developed the muscles in sweeping, dusting, starching, ironing, and all the multiplied domestic processes which our grandmothers knew of? A woman who did all these, and diversified the intervals with spinning on the great and little wheel, did not need the gymnastics of Dio Lewis, or the Swedish movement cure, which really are a necessity now. Does it not seem poor economy to pay servants for letting our muscles grow feeble, and then to pay operators to exercise them for us? I will venture to say that our grandmothers went over, in a week, every movement that any gymnast has invented, and went over them with some productive purpose, too.”
There are many popularly-educated women who have no love for domestic labor because they have cherished thoughts that their education placed them above household employment. Young women should be educated for their important life-work with the advantages of the highest moral and physical strength, and should receive the purest cultivation.
God placed Adam and Eve in the garden to labor. They were both to unite their efforts in dressing and keeping the garden. If young women waste their time in uselessness, they are meeting with great loss. Their time should be employed in becoming rich in good works, and in this manner they are indeed cultivating the intellect for a purpose. The most essential education for youth is a knowledge of the branches of labor important for practical life.
“The American Woman’s Home” continues: “There has been a great deal of crude, disagreeable talk in these conventions, and too great tendency of the age to make the education of woman anti-domestic. It seems as if the world never could advance, except like ships under a headwind, tacking and going too far, now in this direction, and now in the opposite. Our common-school systems now reject sewing from the education of girls, which very properly used to occupy many hours daily in school a generation ago. The daughters of laborers and artisans are put through algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and the higher mathematics, to the entire neglect of that learning which belongs distinctively to women. A girl often cannot keep pace with her class if she gives any time to domestic matters; and accordingly she is excused from them all during the whole term of her education. As the result, the young women in some of our country towns are, in mental culture, much in advance of the males of the same household; but with this comes a physical delicacy, the result of an exclusive use of the brain and a neglect of the muscular system, with great inefficiency in practical, domestic duties. The race of strong, hardy, cheerful girls, that used to grow up in country places, and made the bright, neat, New England kitchens of olden times—the girls that could wash, iron, bake, . . . embroider, draw, paint, and read innumerable books—this race of women, pride of olden time, is daily lessening; and in their stead come the fragile, easily-fatigued, languid girls of a modern age, drilled in book learning, ignorant of common things. The great danger of all this, and of the evils that come from it, is, that society, by-and-by, will turn as blindly against female intellectual culture as it now advocates it, and having worked disproportionately one way, will work disproportionately in the opposite direction.”
The Health Reformer, June 1, 1873.