CONSIDERED IN A SERIES OF
ANNA C. BRACKETT.
"The time has arrived, when like huntsmen, we should surround the cover, and look sharp that justice does not slip away and pass out of sight and get lost; for there can be no doubt that we are in the right direction. Only try and get a sight of her, and if you come within view first, let me know."—PLATO REP. BOOK IV.
NEW YORK: G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, FOURTH AVENUE AND TWENTY-THIRD STREET. 1874.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.
LANGE, LITTLE & CO., PRINTERS, ELECTROTYPERS AND STEREOTYPERS, 108 TO 114 WOOSTER STREET, N. Y.
SCHOOL-GIRLS AND COLLEGE-GIRLS
BECAUSE WE BELIEVE THAT THEIR IDEALS ARE HIGH AND THAT THEY HAVE STRENGTH TO MAKE THEM REAL,
This Book is Dedicated
WOMEN WHO, IN THE INTERVALS SNATCHED FROM DAILY LABOR,
HAVE WRITTEN IT FOR THEIR SAKES.
The Table of Contents sufficiently indicates the purpose and aim of this book. The essays are the thoughts of American women, of wide and varied experience, both professional and otherwise; no one writer being responsible for the work of another. The connecting link is the common interest. Some of the names need no introduction. The author of Essay IV. has had an unusually long and varied experience in the education and care of Western girls, in schools and colleges. The author of the essay on English Girls is a graduate of Antioch, has taught for many years in different sections of this country, and has had unusual opportunities, for several years, of observing English methods and results.
The essays on the first four institutions, whose names they bear, come with the official sanction of the presiding officers of those institutions, who vouch for the correctness of the statements. Of these, VII. is by a member of the present Senior Class of the University, who has instituted very exact personal inquiries among the women-students. The author of VIII. is the librarian of Mt. Holyoke Seminary. The writer of the report from Oberlin is a graduate—a teacher of wide experience, and has been for three or four years the Principal of the Ladies' Department of the college. The resident physician at Vassar is too well known as such, to need any introduction.
There are many other institutions whose statistics would be equally valuable, such, for instance, as the Northwestern University of Illinois, which has not only opened its doors to girl-students, but has placed women on the Board of Trustees, and in the Faculty.
From Antioch, which we desired to have fully represented, we have been disappointed in obtaining statistics, which may, however, hereafter be embodied in a second edition. In place thereof, we give the brief statement of facts found under the name of the institution, supplied by a friend.
With reference to my own part of the volume, if the words on "Physical Education" far outnumber those on the "Culture of the Intellect," and the "Culture of the Will," it can only be said that the American nation are far more liable to overlook the former than the latter two, and that the number of pages covered is by no means to be taken as an index of the relative importance of the divisions in themselves. Of the imperfection of all three, no one can be more conscious than their author. The subject is too large for any such partial treatment.
To friends, medical, clerical, and unprofessional, who have kindly given me the benefit of their criticism on different parts of the introductory essay, my thanks are due. Especially do I recognize my obligation to Dr. W. Gill Wylie, of this city, whose line of study and practice has made his criticism of great value.
I cannot refrain from adding that I am fully aware of the one-sided nature of the training acquired in the profession of teaching. Civilization, implying, as it does, division of labor, necessarily renders all persons more or less one-sided. In the teaching profession, the voluntary holding of the mind for many hours of each day in the position required for the work of educating uneducated minds, the constant effort to state facts clearly, distinctly, and freed from unnecessary details, almost universally induce a straightforwardness of speech, which savors, to others who are not immature, of brusqueness and positiveness, if it may not deserve the harsher names of asperity and arrogance. It is not these in essence, though it appear to be so, and thus teachers often give offense and excite opposition when these results are farthest from their intention. In the case of these essays, this professional tendency may also have been aggravated by the circumstances under which they have been written, the only hours available for the purpose having been the last three evening hours of days whose freshness was claimed by actual teaching, and the morning hours of a short vacation.
I do not offer these explanations as an apology, simply as an explanation. No apology has the power to make good a failure in courtesy. If passages failing in this be discovered, it will be cause for gratitude and not for offense if they are pointed out.
The spirit which has prompted the severe labor has been that which seeks for the Truth, and endeavors to express it, in hopes that more perfect statements may be elicited.
With these words, I submit the result to the intelligent women of America, asking only that the screen of the honest purpose may be interposed between the reader and any glaring faults of manner or expression.
ANNA C. BRACKETT.
117 East 36th street, New York City, January, 1874.
I. Education of American Girls Anna C. Brackett. 11
II. A Mother's Thought Edna D. Cheney. 117
III. The Other Side Caroline H. Dall. 147
IV. Effects of Mental Growth Lucinda H. Stone. 173
V. Girls and Women in England and America. Mary E. Beedy. 211
VI. Mental Action and Physical Health. Mary Putnam Jacobi, M.D. 255
VII. Michigan University Sarah Dix Hamlin. 307
VIII. Mount Holyoke Seminary Mary O. Nutting. 318
IX. Oberlin College Adelia A. F. Johnston. 329
X. Vassar College. Alida C. Avery, M.D. 346
XI. Antioch College " " 362
XII. Letter from a German Woman Mrs. Ogden N. Rood. 363
XIII. Review of "Sex in Education." Editor. 368
XIV. Appendix. 392
"Die Weltgeschichte ist der Fortschritt in das Bewusstseyn der Freiheit."—HEGEL.
"Who educates a woman, educates a race."
EDUCATION OF AMERICAN
There seems to be at present no subject more capable of exciting and holding attention among thoughtful people in America, than the question of the Education of Girls. We may answer it as we will, we may refuse to answer it, but it will not be postponed, and it will be heard; and until it is answered on more rational grounds than that of previous custom, or of preconceived opinion, it may be expected to present itself at every turn, to crop out of every stratum of civilized thought. Nor is woman to blame if the question of her education occupies so much attention. The demands made are not hers—the continual agitation is not primarily of her creating. It is simply the tendency of the age, of which it is only the index. It would be as much out of place to blame the weights of a clock for the moving of the hands, while, acted upon by an unseen, but constant force, they descend slowly but steadily towards the earth.
That this is true, is attested by the widely-spread discussion and the contemporaneous attempts at reform in widely-separated countries. While the women in America are striving for a more complete development of their powers, the English women are, in their own way, and quite independently, forcing their right at least to be examined if not to be taught, and the Russian women are asserting that the one object toward which they will bend all their efforts of reform is "the securing of a solid education from the foundation up." When the water in the Scotch lakes rises and falls, as the quay in Lisbon sinks, we know that the cause of both must lie far below, and be independent of either locality.
The agitation of itself is wearisome, but its existence proves that it must be quieted, and it can be so quieted only by a rational solution, for every irrational decision, being from its nature self-contradictory, has for its chief mission to destroy itself. As long as it continues, we may be sure that the true solution has not been attained, and for our hope we may remember that we
"have seen all winter long the thorn First show itself intractable and fierce, And after, bear the rose upon its top."
We, however, are chiefly concerned with the education of our own girls, of girls in America. Born and bred in a continent separated by miles of ocean from the traditions of Europe, they may not unnaturally be expected to be of a peculiar type. They live under peculiar conditions of descent, of climate, of government, and are hence very different from their European sisters. No testimony is more concurrent than that of observant foreigners on this point. More nervous, more sensitive, more rapidly developed in thinking power, they scarcely need to be stimulated so much as restrained; while, born of mixed races, and reared in this grand meeting-ground of all nations, they gain at home, in some degree, that breadth which can be attained in other countries only by travel. Our girls are more frank in their manners, but we nowhere find girls so capable of teaching intrusion and impertinence their proper places, and they combine the French nerve and force with the Teutonic simplicity and truthfulness. Less accustomed to leading-strings, they walk more firmly on their own feet, and, breathing in the universal spirit of free inquiry, they are less in danger of becoming unreasonable and capricious.
Such is the material, physical and mental, which we have to fashion into womanhood by means of education. But is it not manifest in the outset, that no system based on European life can be adequate to the solution of such a problem? Our American girls, if treated as it is perfectly correct to treat French or German girls, are thwarted and perverted into something which has all the faults of the German and French girl, without her excellencies. Our girls will not blindly obey what seem to them arbitrary rules, and we can rule them only by winning their conviction. In other words, they will rule themselves, and it therefore behooves us to see that they are so educated that they shall do this wisely. They are not continually under the eye of a guardian. They are left to themselves to a degree which would be deemed in other countries impracticable and dangerous. We cannot follow them everywhere, and therefore, more than in any other country must we educate them, so that they will follow and rule themselves. But no platform of premise and conclusion, however logical and exact, is broad enough to place under an uneducated mind. Nothing deserving the name of conviction can have a place in such. Prejudices, notions, prescriptive rules, may exist there, but these are not sufficient as guides of conduct.
Education, of course, signifies, as a glance at the etymology of the word shows us, a development—an unfolding of innate capacities. In its process it is the gradual transition from a state of entire dependence, as at birth, to a state of independence, as in adult life. Being a general term, it includes all the faculties of the human being, those of his mortal, and of his immortal part. It is a training, as well of the continually changing body, which he only borrows for temporary use from material nature, and whose final separation is its destruction, as of the changeless essence in which consists his identity, and which, from its very nature, is necessarily immortal. The education of a girl is properly said to be finished when the pupil has attained a completely fashioned will, which will know how to control and direct her among the exigencies of life, mental power to judge and care for herself in every way, and a perfectly developed body. However true it may be, that life itself, by means of daily exigencies, will shape the Will into habits, will develop to some extent the intelligence, and that the forces of nature will fashion the body into maturity; we apply the term Education only to the voluntary training of one human being who is undeveloped, by another who is developed, and it is in this sense alone that the process can concern us. For convenience, then, the subject will be considered under three main heads, corresponding to the triple statement made above.
Especially is it desirable to place all that one may have to say of the education of girls in America on some proved, rational basis, for in no country is the work of education carried on in so purely empirical a way. We are deeply impressed with its necessity; we are eager in our efforts, but we are always in the condition of one "whom too great eagerness bewilders." We are ready to drift in any direction on the subject. We adopt every new idea that presents itself. We recognize our errors in one direction, and in our efforts to prevent those we fall into quite as dangerous ones on the other side. More than in any other country, then, it were well for us to follow in the paths already laid out by the thinkers of Germany. I shall, therefore, make no apology for using as guide the main divisions of the great philosophers of that nation, who alone, in modern times, have made for Education a place among the sciences. Truth is of no country, but belongs to whoever can comprehend it.
Nor do I apologize for speaking of what may be called small things nor for dealing with minor details. "When the fame of Heraclitus was celebrated throughout Greece, there were certain persons that had a curiosity to see so great a man. They came, and as it happened, found him warming himself in a kitchen. The meanness of the place occasioned them to stop, upon which the philosopher thus accosted them: 'Enter,' said he, 'boldly, for here too there are gods!'" Following so ancient and wise an authority, I also say to myself in speaking of these things which seem small and mean: Enter boldly, for here too there are gods; nay, perchance we shall thereby enter the very temple of the goddess Hygeia herself.
THE CULTURE OF THE BODY.
"Haec ante exitium primis dant signa diebus."—Virgil.
"Now my belief is—and this is a matter upon which I should like to have your opinion, but my own belief is—not that the good body improves the soul, but that the good soul improves the body. What do you say?"—PLATO, REP. BOOK III.
If we could literally translate the German word Fertigkeiten into Readinesses, and use it as a good English word, we should then have a term under which to group many arts of which a fully educated woman should have some knowledge—I mean cooking, sewing, sweeping, dusting, etc. When a woman is mistress of these, she is called capable, that good old word, heard oftener in New England than elsewhere, which carries with it a sweet savor of comfort and rest. Some knowledge of these should undoubtedly constitute a part of the education of our girls; but the "how much" is a quantity which varies very materially as the years go by. For instance, the art of knitting stockings was considered in the days of our grandmothers one to which much time must be devoted, and those of us who were born in New England doubtless well recollect the time when, to the music of the tall old kitchen clock, we slowly, laboriously and yet triumphantly, "bound off" our first heel, or "narrowed off" our first toe.
But weaving machines can do this work now with far greater precision; and while stockings are so good and so cheap, is it worth while for our girls to spend long hours in the slow process of looping stitches into each other? Would not the same time be better spent in the open air and the sunshine, than in-doors, with cramped fingers and bent back over the knitting-needles?
Of Sewing, nearly the same might be said, since the invention of machines for the purpose. Sewing is a fine art, and those of us who can boast of being neat seamstresses do confess to a certain degree of pride in the boast. But the satisfaction arises from the well-doing, and not from the fact that it is Sewing well done; for anything well and thoroughly done, even if it be only boot-blacking on a street corner, or throwing paper torpedoes in a theatre orchestra to imitate the crack of a whip in the "Postilion Galop," gives to its doer the same sense of self-satisfaction. It would be folly now, as it may have been in old times, for our girls to spend their hours and try their eyes over back-stitching for collars, etc., when any one out of a hundred cheap machines can do it not only in less time but far better, and the money which could be saved in many ways, by wisdom in housekeeping and caring for the health of children, would buy a machine for every family. This matter of stitching being done for us, then, we may say that the other varieties of sewing required are very few: "sewing over-and-over," or "top-stitching" as the Irish call it, hemming, button sewing, button-hole making, and gathering. Indeed, hemming, including felling, might be also omitted, as, with a very few exceptions, hems and fells are also handed over to the rapid machine; and "over-casting" is but a variety of "top-stitching." There are then only four things which a girl really needs to be taught to do, so far as the mere manual facility goes—"to sew over-and-over;" to put on a button; to gather, including "stroking" or "laying," and to make a button-hole. Does it not seem as if an intelligent girl of fourteen or fifteen could be taught these in twelve lessons of one hour each? Only practice can give rapidity and perfection; but at the age mentioned, the girl's hand has been pretty thoroughly educated to obey her will, and but very little time is needed to turn the acquired control into this peculiar activity, while, with the untrained muscles of the little child, much more time is required and much fretfulness engendered, born of the confined position and the almost insuperable difficulty of the achievement.
Above the mere manual labor, however, there comes another work which always has to be done for the child, and is therefore of no educational value for her: I mean the "fitting" and "basting." They cannot be intrusted to the child, for the simple reason that they involve not merely manual dexterity, but also an exercise of the judgment, which in the child has not yet become sufficiently developed. But when the girl has lived fourteen years, we will say, and has been trained in other ways into habits of neatness and order, she has also acquired judgment enough for the purpose, and needs only a few words of direction. The sewing of bands to gathers, the covering of cord, the cording of neck or belt, the arrangement of two edges for felling, the putting on of bindings, belong, so to speak, to the syntax of the art of sewing, and come under this division, which must, perforce, be left till maturer years than those of childhood. There is still a sphere above this, the three corresponding exactly to apprenticeship, journeymanship and mastership, in learning a trade. The third and last sphere is that of "cutting," and this demands simply and only, judgment and caution. There are a few general statements which must be given, as, for instance, "the right way of the cloth," in which the parts of the garment should be cut, etc.; but these being once learned—and a lesson of one hour would be a large allowance for this purpose—the good cutter is the one who has the most exact eye for measurement—trained already in school by drawing, writing, etc.—the best power of calculation—trained by arithmetic, algebra, etc.—and the best observation and judgment—trained by every study she has pursued under a good teacher.
As to sewing, considered as a physical exercise, it may almost be pronounced bad in its very nature; considered as a mental exercise, in its higher spheres, it is excellent, because it calls for the activity of thought; but after the cutting and fitting are done, it is undoubtedly bad, leaving the mind free to wander wherever it will. The constant, mechanical drawing through of the needle, like the listening to a very dull address, seems to induce a kind of morbid intellectual acuteness, or nervousness. If the inner thought is entirely serene and happy, this may do no harm; but if it is not, if there is any internal annoyance or grief, the mind turns it over and over, till, like a snow-ball, it grows to a mountainous mass, and too heavy to be borne with patience. I think many women will testify, from a woman's experience, that there are times when an afternoon spent in sewing gives some idea of incipient insanity. This lengthy discussion of the woman's art of sewing can only be excused on the ground that it touches the question of physical and mental health. As a means of support, the needle can hardly be spoken of now.
As to Cooking, the same in substance might be said. It is perhaps a little more mechanical in its nature, though of that I am not positive; but if a girl is educated into a full development of what is known as common sense, she can turn that common sense in this direction as well as in any other, if the necessity arises. The parts of cooking which call for judgment—such, for instance, as whether cake is stiff enough or not, whether the oven is hot enough, safely to intrust the mixture to its care, whether the bread is sufficiently risen—require the same kind of trained senses as that by which the workman in the manufacture of steel decides as to the precise color and shade at which he must withdraw it for use. To quote from an English woman: "Cookery is not a branch of general education for women or for men, but for technical instruction for those who are to follow the profession of cookery; and those who attempt to make it a branch of study for women generally, will be but helping to waste time and money, and adding to that sort of amateur tinkering in domestic work which is one of the principal causes of the inefficiency of our domestic servants * * * The intellectual and moral habits necessary to form a good cook and housekeeper are thoughtfulness, method, delicacy and accuracy of perception, good judgment, and the power of readily adapting means to ends, which, with Americans, is termed 'faculty,' and with Englishmen bears the homelier name of 'handiness.' Morally, they are conscientiousness, command of temper, industry and perseverance; and these are the very qualities a good school education must develop and cultivate. The object of such an education is not to put into the pupils so much History, Geography, French or Science, but, through these studies, to draw out their intelligence, train them to observe facts correctly, and draw accurate inferences from their observation, which constitutes good judgment, and teach them to think, and to apply thought easily to new forms of knowledge. Morally, the discipline of a good school tends directly to form the habits I mentioned above. The pupils are trained to steady industry and perseverance, to scorn dishonest work, and to control temper. The girls who leave school so trained, though they may know nothing of cooking or housekeeping, will become infinitely better cooks and housekeepers, as soon as they have a motive for doing so, than the uneducated woman, who has learned only the technical rules of her craft."
Every girl ought certainly also to know how to drive a nail, to put in and take out a screw, and to do various other things of the same kind, as well as to sweep and to dust; but of all these "readinesses," if I may be permitted the word, the same thing may be said. I have spoken of them under Physical education, as their most appropriate place.
Passing now to the more definite consideration of Physical education, it will be convenient to consider this division of the subject under three heads, as I have to speak of
1. Repair, 2. Exercise, 3. Sexual Education.
All parts of the body are, of course, as long as life exists, in a state of continual wear, old cells being constantly broken down, and new ones substituted in their places. When the Apostle exclaimed, "I die daily," he uttered an important physiological as well as a spiritual truth; though, if he had said, "I die every instant," he would have expressed it more exactly. It is only by continual death that we live at all. But continual death calls for continual creation, the continual destruction for continual repair, and this is rendered possible by means of food and sleep. Clothing, too, properly belongs under this division; for, were it not for this, the heat of the body would often be carried off faster than it could be generated, and the destructive process would outstrip the reconstructive. Moreover, the clothing too frequently interferes with the normal functions of the most important repairing organs, and its consideration, therefore, must constitute the third branch of our inquiry. The division Repair, then, will embrace a consideration of
a. Food, b. Sleep, c. Clothing.
Food.—The kind and quantity of food must obviously vary with age, temperament, and the season. But three general rules may be laid down as of prime importance: the meals should be regular in their occurrence; they should be sufficiently near together to prevent great hunger, and absolutely nothing should be taken between them. An exception may, however, be safely made to this last rule, with regard to young children, in this wise, making a rule which I have known as established in families. "If the children are hungry enough to eat dry bread, they can have as much as they want at any time; if they are not, they are far better off without anything." These are the plainest rules of Physiology, and yet how few of the girls around us are made to follow them! Nothing is more sure to produce a disordered digestion, than the habit of irregular eating or drinking. If possible, the growing girl should have her dinner in the middle of the day. The exigencies of city life make this arrangement in some cases inconvenient, and yet inconvenience is less often than is popularly supposed synonymous with impracticability. If this cannot be done, and luncheons must be carried to school, the filling of the lunch-basket should never be left, except under exact directions, to the kind-hearted servant, or to the girl herself; and she should under no circumstances be allowed to buy her luncheon each day of the baker, or the confectioner, a usual practice twenty years ago of the girls in Boston private schools.
There are children and young girls who are said to have cravings for certain kinds of food, not particularly nutritious, but in ninety-nine per cent of these cases the cause of the morbid appetite can be found in the want of proper direction in childhood. The fact is, that the formation of a healthy appetite is properly a subject of education. The physical taste of the little girl needs rational direction as well as her mental taste, though mothers too often do not recognize the fact. It would seem almost like an insult to the intelligence of my readers, to say, that warm bread of whatever kind, pastry, confectionery, nuts, and raisins, should form no part of a girl's diet; did we not every day, not only in restaurants and hotels, but at private tables, see our girls fed upon these articles.
The German child, in the steady German climate, may drink perhaps with impunity, beer, wine, tea and coffee; but to our American girls, with their nervous systems stung into undue activity by the extremes of our climate, and the often unavoidable conditions of American society, these should all be unknown drinks. The time will come soon enough, when the demands of adult life will create a necessity for these indispensable accompaniments of civilization; but before the time when the girl enters upon the active duties of a woman, they only stimulate to debilitate.
It cannot be too often repeated, that the appetite and the taste for certain kinds of food are, to a greater degree than is usually acknowledged, merely the results of education; and the mother who sees her daughter pale and sickly, and falling gradually under the dominion of dyspepsia, in any of its multitudinous forms or results, and who seeks the physician's aid, has too often only her own neglect to blame, when the medicines fail to cure. From the food is manufactured the blood; from the blood all parts of the living tissue of every organ; not only bone and muscle cells, but nerve cells are built up from it, and if the blood be not of the best quality, either from the fact that the food was not of proper material or properly digested, not only the digestive organs, but the whole system, will be weak. Moreover, those organs which await for their perfect development a later time than the others will be most apt to suffer from the result of long-established habits, and it is as true of the human body as of a chain, that no matter where the strain comes, it will break at its weakest part. The truth of what is here stated may be illustrated by the teeth, which are formed at different periods of life. Many have a perfect set of what are known as first teeth; but in too many children in our American homes, the second teeth make their first appearance in a state of incipient decay, while it has become almost proverbial, that the wisdom teeth are of no use, except to the dentist. Mothers have only to consult easily procured books to learn the kinds of food most easily digestible, and most nourishing. That they do not do so, results from the seeming general belief, that this matter of eating will take care of itself, and that it does not come within the province of education. The whole matter lies in the hands of women. The physician can do but little, because he can know but little. It is the intelligent women of America who must realize the evil, and must right the wrong, if we would see our girls what we most earnestly desire them to be—perfectly healthy and well developed.
Again, the cure of many diseases, especially those which are prevalent in the summer months, belongs more to the women of the household than to the physician. They alone can check the evil at its commencement. Every educated woman ought to know, for instance, that cracked wheat and hominy, oat-meal, corn-bread, and Graham bread, should not, as a general rule, be made the staple of diet in case of what is popularly known as "summer complaint"; and yet, how few girls seem to have any idea, when they are thus sick, that it is a matter of the least consequence what they eat, or that they ought not to make their breakfast of Boston brown bread; and by how few of our girls is it considered a matter of any moment that the opposite trouble exists for days. Ought they not to be educated to know that they can devise no surer way of poisoning the whole system, and then of straining all the contiguous organs, than by wilful neglect in this direction? When some facts are obvious, and some are latent, the blame, if trouble exists, is not unnaturally laid on the visible facts. It is evident to the physician that the girl has attended school. It is not so evident that, since her earliest childhood, she has been fed on improper food, at irregular hours, and that the processes by which the poisonous dead matter is removed from the system, have been irregularly carried on. His questions put on these topics are put in a general way, and answered in the same, with, perhaps, a worse than foolish mock-modesty to prompt the reply. He does the best that he can, but he cannot help stumbling, if he is required to walk in the dark. This false shame of which I speak, on this matter, seems to be a folly peculiarly American, and I am quite sure that it is not so common now as it was twenty years ago, though there are still many American women who would choose to run the risk of making themselves sick rather than to tread the folly out under a pure womanly scorn. This is also a matter which belongs to education.
One great trouble with our American girls, and one which can be remedied by us, though we cannot remedy the climate, is not that their brains are overworked, but that their bodies generally, including brain, are underfed. I do not mean that they do not eat enough in bulk, though that is often the case, but that they do not take in enough of the chemical elements which they must have to build up the system. Their food is not sufficiently nutritious, and the energy of the digestive organs is wasted in working upon material which, if it does not irritate and inflame, is at least of no economic value, and is simply rejected by the system; or, worse still, in default of better, it is absorbed, and the whole blood becomes poisoned. Sometimes our girls do not eat often enough. For instance, a girl who, after tea, has been obliged to employ her brain in unusually hard work, might probably be helped by eating some nourishing food before sleep. If she do not, the result will not infrequently be that she will awake tired and languid; she will sit idly at the breakfast table, play with her knife and fork, and feel only disgust at the food provided. She may soon suffer from, if she does not complain of, back-ache and other attendant troubles, the simple result of weakness. It is only Micawber's old statement over again: "Annual income, twenty pounds, annual expenditure, twenty pounds, ought, and six; result—Misery."
After a long course of this kind, the physician is summoned, and the girl is forbidden to study. But it seldom occurs to any one that if 5 - 8 = -3, the two may be made equal just as easily by adding the three to the five as by subtracting it from the eight, i.e., although we, as a nation, are supposed to be, at least, more conversant with arithmetic than with any branch of school study, though we do know that 8 > 5, we do not see that 5 + 3 = 8, and so we try to cancel the offending -3 by diminishing the 8. But would not the other process be quite as rational? Physical life is only a simple balance of forces, the expenditure and nourishment corresponding exactly to demand and supply in the Science of Political Economy. They tend continually to level themselves. Have we not the right to decide in which way the leveling shall be effected—the equation be formed? This is a simple solution of the difficulty. I suggest that this experiment be tried: let the girl study her extra time in the evening, if she desires, only being cautious that she do not infringe upon her sleep hours; then give her a supper of bread and butter and cold meat, and send her to bed. If her digestive organs are in good state, she will very possibly sleep a sound and dreamless sleep, and rise refreshed in the morning, with a good appetite for her breakfast. By this simple hygienic remedy, aching backs may not only be prevented, they may be gradually cured. I am stating actual facts. If the evening be spent in conversation, or mere lounging over books, the supper will not be needed, and will prove, if taken, only a burden; but if, as has already been said, it be spent in actual brain-work, the tremendous and unusual strain on the whole nervous system, occasioned by the destruction of nerve-cells, must be made good, or those organs most intimately connected with the nervous system and the sources of life, will be sure to suffer. It must, however, be repeated here, if we would secure the good results desired, that the supper must be of nourishing, not of stimulating food.
Even the destruction, through exercise, of the inferior muscle-cells demands food before sleeping. It is no merely fashionable custom which calls the dancers at an evening entertainment to the loaded supper-table, as those of my readers who have attended the so-called cold-water Sociables will bear me witness. It may be seriously questioned whether the regulation which forbade any refreshment except cold water was not, like many other unthinking, economical plans, really no economy at all. Instead of one pantry's furnishing food to the famished dancers, this was furnished for each one at home, from her own mother's private stores, and as the members of the Sociables met at each other's houses in order, the total result of expenditure to each family, at the close of the winter, was probably the same as it would have been, had each family furnished, on one evening, a moderate entertainment of the same sort to the bankrupt systems. Fashion is often wiser than we think her, especially when at parties for the "German" she prescribes a cup of beef-tea as the regulation refreshment.
A long, rapid walk in the evening, as we all know, will produce the same effect. We return, and remark that we are hungry, merely meaning that we have received polite official notice that our physical bank account has been overdrawn. If we do not pay any attention to this notification, we shall surely in time be passed from adversary to judge, and from judge to officer, and finally be cast literally into a prison from which, unlike some of our city prisons, we shall not escape till we have paid the uttermost farthing. Then we shall be likely to receive from the kindly friend whom we summon to visit us, wise and good advice, on the extravagance of spending so much. But might not the advice be possibly quite as useful if delivered in this wise: "Why don't you earn more, and make larger deposits." The force of weakness compels us to stop spending our muscle cells; the kind friend, as far as is possible, puts a stop to the expenditure of nerve cells, and draws on the funds derived from the Cinchona forests of South America and the iron mountains of Missouri, to make new deposits on our account; and when the matter is thus doubly settled for us by nature and science, we go on our way rejoicing, only to repeat the same insane folly. But it is not good for one's credit to overdraw too frequently her bank account; and there may come a time when suspension means bankruptcy, and when all the kindness and skill of all our friends can be no longer of any avail. Is it not our own fault, and shall we not so educate our girls that they shall not fall into it, since they comprehend its unreason?
We are undoubtedly creatures of habit; but we oftener apply the word to our mental and moral than to our physical nature, and wrongly. When regular and constant demands are made upon any organ of the body, the body, as it were, falls into the habit of laying in enough force in that particular department for that particular purpose, as the scientific steward at Vassar lays in for each day so many pounds of beef or mutton, because he can rely with certainty on its consumption. If in any case the demand is, for any reason, slackened, there is a surplus of energy which must find a vent, or render its possessor very uncomfortable. Need mothers be reminded of how very troublesome the little girl becomes in a short school vacation, or during the first days of a long one? Or need teachers be told that it is only a loss of time in the end, to assign at the commencement of the September term lessons of the same length as those which were learned with no difficulty in June? There is a decided inertia in the bodily functions, and time is required for a sudden change. Inconvenience in such a case will be sure to arise, unless the surplus force be instantly directed into other and unobjectionable channels.
If the reverse takes place, and the demand be suddenly increased, the result is weakness, debility, and finally disease; though precisely the same amount of work might have been done, not only with safety but with positive advantage, provided the increase of the demand had been gradual.
Is there any country in the world equal to America in the irregularity and spasmodic nature of the demands which society makes upon its women? Are there any girls in the world so ready to rush headlong into all kinds of exercise, mental or physical, which may be recommended to them, as our American girls? It is a pity that, to balance our greater amount of fiery energy in the matter of education, we have not a sounder philosophy.
Once more, physical life is only a balance of forces, as spiritual life is a series of choices, and the question is not simply how much intellectual or brain work we are doing. This question cannot justly be considered apart from the other inquiry, of how much appropriate material we are supplying for the use of the brain. We cannot judge whether the amount of force expended be healthful or unhealthful till we know how much force has been and can be generated. There is undoubtedly a limit to this last factor in our problem, but if we do not exceed this limit in our expenditure, it seems unquestionable, that the more brain work we do, the better will it be for the entire system, and the stronger will be our health, this being only our power actively to resist the destructive forces of nature.
The nervous system, at the head of which stands the brain, is undoubtedly the regent of the monarchy of the body, whose sovereign is the thinking spirit; and all the organs in a well-regulated body should be worked in the interest of the organ of thought, as servants for a wise and watchful master. It seems sometimes as if we were in danger of forgetting that though "the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee, nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you," there will come a time when the thinking spirit, grown to full stature, shall say to all of them, "I have no need any longer of any of you."
The consideration of the subject of Ventilation properly comes under this division, for pure air is as much food for the body, as meat or bread. This whole matter, however, seems to be practically not well understood, if we may judge from the results so far, and no extended discussion of the means will be in place there. It is sufficient simply to indicate its immense importance. But that bad air is likely to be a more active cause of disease in America than elsewhere seems true, for in no other country are furnaces and closed fire-places in so general use. Moreover, the women and girls who spend most of their lives in the house, will be expected to show the evil effects more than the men and boys, who do not. The practical suggestions on this point are apparent to every one.
One more thing which the body, to be healthy, demands for food is Sun-light, that invaluable medicine for all forms of nervous disease, which Americans, more than any other people, curtain carefully out for fear of fading carpets and furniture. But what are French moquettes, brocade, or satin, compared with rosy cheeks, clear complexions, and steady nerves? If we would only draw up the shades, open the shutters, and loop the heavy curtains out of the way, or, better still, take them down altogether, might we not look for a marked improvement in systems affected by nervous diseases? This want of sun-light may be expected also, of course, most to affect those who remain within doors, and who, even in walking, shade themselves with veils and sun-shades from the life-giving rays of the sun.
Sleep.—To many of the organs of the body there have been allotted seasons of comparative quiet and repose, even during the day. If the rules for food be observed, the stomach, for instance, has, as stomach, its vacations from labor, by means of which it is enabled to prepare for, and perform, its regularly recurring work with vigor. Even with organs where this is not the case, the action is slackened very materially at times, as in the case of the heart and lungs during sleep. They must continue to work, though more slowly, and the part of the nervous system which carries on their involuntary and mechanical action, has also then a partial relief. But the only rest for the thinking brain is to be found in normal sleep. From the instant when, in the morning, we become conscious of the external world, to the instant late at night, or, it may be, early in the morning, when we pass through the gates of sleep, out from companionship, into an utter solitude, it never rests from its work. Whether, by volition, we summon all our intellectual power to the closest attention, and turn, as it were, the whole energy of our being into one thought-channel, till the organs of sense become simply outside appendages which disturb the internal self with no imported knowledge, or whether, lying idly, as we say, on the sofa, we let our thoughts wander as they will, thought still goes on. Coming and going more rapidly than the shortest pendulum can swing, inter-weaving more subtly than the threads of the most complicated lace under the fingers of the skillful worker; "trains of thought" pass and repass through our minds, following, as we mechanically express it, the Laws of Association. Only in losing consciousness, do we cease to destroy the brain cells; it is only in sleep that the brain can rest.
But it must be remembered that the matter which is thus destroyed, is, as Maudsley so finely shows, the very finest result of the creative life-process, the most precious essence. It is like the oil of roses, to produce one drop of which, unnumbered roses must be crushed. The force required to produce a nerve cell is said to be immeasurably greater than that demanded for a cell of muscle, of bone, or of cartilage. In the nerve cells, lies not only the directive force of the whole complicated machinery, but the material with which the creative intelligence must work. Let us also remember that our waking hours far outnumber those spent in sleep, and we shall begin to realize the immense importance of sleep, even to the fully developed organism. But when we add to the mere labor of repairing the daily waste, the task of construction, which has to be performed during the years of growth, we shall only deepen the impression. I believe that every school-girl under eighteen years of age, and many over that age, should have at least nine hours of uninterrupted sleep in pure air, and the younger ones need even more.
Much, at least doubtful, advice, has been given on the subject of early rising. That the system which has, perhaps, taken no food since six in the evening, should be ready for any amount of labor in the morning before breakfast, does not seem a rational conclusion, and I believe that many nervous diseases must be charged to the idea, that there is virtue in early rising, this implying, generally, either work before breakfast, or, at best, a shortening of the hours of sleep. It should, however, be remembered that in some cases, the greater amount of sun-light obtained by rising with the sun, may, and probably does, compensate for lack of other food. But when early rising means, as it often does, rising long before the day begins, this cannot be said, and sooner or later, the over demand upon the system will make itself felt when it is too late to remedy the evil.
The habit of regular sleep is also one which should be formed by education. The child who is accustomed to go to bed at a regular hour, will also generally form the habit of falling asleep regularly.
If parties for children and young people could be made fashionable under the name of matinees, they might not have bad results; but as they are at present carried on, they are an unmitigated evil, and one that is sapping to a fearful degree the nervous force of our girls. What mother would give her little girl a cup of arsenic, no matter how tearfully or earnestly she might plead? The very idea of education lies in the directing of the capricious and irrational instincts, the blind and ignorant forces, into their proper channels, by the rational and enlightened will of the educator. But if, instead of this, the unformed will is made the guide, the very reverse of education is taking place. It makes no difference to the physical forces, however, whether the hours lost from sleep be lost at a party or at a lecture, a sermon, or tableaux for the benefit of foreign missions. Nature makes no distinctions of motive. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," is her motto. If one opposes himself to her laws, the offender, not she, goes down; and as Sancho Panza very wisely remarks, "Whether the stone hit the jug, or the jug the stone, it is bad for the jug."
It is remarked by all foreigners, that in America the children rule the house. This is simply saying that we are, as a general rule, an uneducated people; which is undoubtedly true. When we learn the immense importance of sleep to the health of our girls, and when we know that our rational convictions should lead them, and not their irrational desires, us, we shall hear less about their breaking down in health as they grow toward maturity. We shall see fewer pale faces and angular forms; though they will probably never, while they live in this climate, acquire the ruddy glow of the Englishwoman or the German, or the rounded outlines of the nations of Southern Europe.
Clothing.—With the external form of the dress as to cut, trimming, or color, this essay has nothing to do. Unless a dress be cut so low in the neck that it becomes an unhealthful exposure after taking off warmer clothing, it in no wise concerns this branch of the subject. I wish to speak only of the underclothing habitually worn by our girls, and its mode of adjustment; these being, as I believe, the causes of much exhaustion and disease.
If technical terms, uncomprehended by any class of readers, be used, it is simply for the sake of brevity; and because, as Kant says, "completeness must not be sacrificed to popularity," the attainment of which would be "a didactic triumph, attained only by omitting everything complicated, and saying only what exists already in the consciousness of every one."
The two rules for clothing evidently are given when we say, first, that it should be sufficiently warm to prevent the heat generated by the body from being too rapidly lost; and second, that it should be sufficiently loose to allow unimpeded muscular action, whether voluntary or involuntary. But it is very rare to find either of these rules observed by girls, and it is also rare to find mothers who are aware that their daughters are daily violating them.
First, as to the warmth: Every girl who is to be reared in this climate of extremes and sudden changes should wear shirt and drawers of wool next her body, and woolen stockings, during at least eight months of the year. The merino underclothing, so generally worn, is preferable to cotton or linen, but all-wool flannel is far better; and if trouble is anticipated from shrinking and fulling, the use of red flannel will prevent this entirely. I am not speaking of becomingness and grace; I am speaking of health and conservation of force. Each organism can generate but a certain amount of vital force, and if a large proportion of this has to be expended in keeping up the even temperature of the body, a smaller part than otherwise will go to the carrying on of the other functions. But relieve the system from the continual drafts made upon it, resulting from insufficient clothing, and it will be able to assume duties to which before it found itself inadequate. Some exceptions must be made to this statement in the case of those to whose skins flannel proves an irritant—but they are comparatively few; and even in these cases the flannel could be worn outside, if not inside, of the cotton or linen underclothing. The mother who will see to it that from her earliest years the girl is protected, over all parts of her body, by flannel underclothing, may simply prevent evils which, afterwards, she and the most skilful physician combined will find themselves unable to overcome. But the facts are, that, from the earliest days of life, when the dimpled neck and arms must be admired by visitors, through the days of childhood, when, dressed during the coldest weather of winter in linen and white cambric or pique, with her body unprotected from the chill, the little girl is led slowly and properly up Fifth Avenue, to the nights when, heated by dancing, she exposes bare neck, shoulders and arms to draughts of cool air, she is, as a general rule, never warmly enough dressed for our climate. I repeat, then, that for proper protection a girl should always be, during at least eight months of our year, clothed, body, arms, legs, and feet, in wool; and pass to the second thought on the subject—i.e., clothing with regard to the mechanical effects of pressure.
We have been continually told that our girls ought not to wear corsets. It has been well said by some woman, that if a man could succeed in fashioning a woman exactly as, according to his theories, she ought to be fashioned, he would not admire her after the work was done; and though the remark was made only with regard to intellectual education, it can be well applied to this subject of corsets. If now, at this present moment, all women were to satisfy this demand, and leave off their corsets, the very men who entreated them to do so, would at once entreat them to resume them. The truth is, that it is not the corsets in themselves that are injurious; they become so only when they are so tightly drawn that they prevent free inspiration, or when, by their great pressure, they force the yielding ribs from their normal curve, compress the lungs, and displace the organs of the abdomen, crowding them into the pelvis, and thus displacing or bending out of shape the organs therein contained. Let the girls keep on their corsets, but instead of the unyielding cotton, linen, or silk braid, let these be laced by round silk elastic cord. They will then give support where it is needed, and yet will yield freely to the expansion of the chest, returning again as the air is expelled, and so preventing discomfort. This is a very simple expedient, and yet perfectly successful, and the girl who has tried it for three days will discard the inelastic braid forever. I say elastic cord, and not ribbon, because the elastic ribbon is too strong, and does not sufficiently yield.
Girls do not know that they dress too tightly. They will repel indignantly the idea that they "lace;" and yet, if they be asked to take a full inhalation, it becomes perfectly evident that the outside resistance is a very positive element. To prove this, it is only necessary for them to put on their corsets laced as above described, and then try to button the dress. It will, in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand, be found, I think, that the dress, which before came together without the slightest difficulty, will no longer meet. There is necessary no other proof that an unnatural pressure has been habitually used, although, from the very fact that it has been so long habitual, the girls are entirely unconscious of it. The Chinese women, I suppose, are not conscious of their compressed feet, and the two cases are exactly parallel. No dressmaker knows the meaning of the words "loosely fitting." She is not to be blamed. She looks at her work with an artistic eye, as a Parisian glove-fitter looks at his, and wrinkles are the one thing which she spends her life in striving to avoid; and, as a general thing, she is not a student of Wordsworth to the extent of assuming as her motto,
"Nor shall she fail to see, Even in the motions of the storm, Grace that shall mould the maiden's form By silent sympathy."
It is not enough to say to the dressmaker, "Make it perfectly easy and comfortable," and then trust to her judgment that it will be all right. The only test for a girl's clothing, as to tightness, should be, "Can you take a good, full breath, and not feel your clothes?" If so, they are loose enough; if not, let them out, and keep on letting them out till you can. Nor is there the slightest need that this kind of dressing involve "dowdiness," or "slouchiness," a characteristic abhorrent to every true woman. Every woman expresses her character in her dress; and where "slouchiness" exists, it means something more than comfortable dressing. It means a lack of neatness and order, a want in the ideas of suitability. It is sure to manifest itself in other ways, and will not be prevented by dresses never so tightly fitting.
The next thing to be considered is the place of proper support for the voluminous clothing below the waist. This gives a certain definite weight in pounds and ounces larger than is generally supposed, and as a result of the law of gravitation, it would all fall if the tendency were not counteracted by a corresponding pressure. This pressure is almost universally being sustained by our girls at the hips, and it comes just where the trunk has no longer, except in the spinal column, any bony support, depending alone on the yielding muscles.
It is idle to assert that the corsets support the dependent weight. In the old times, when corsets had shoulder-straps, this assertion might have had a shadow of truth, but now, when they never have them, their weight must simply be added to the total amount of weight of skirts, to find the number of pounds of downward pressure. They serve only as a kind of fender to prevent the tightly tied skirts from cutting into the muscle, and therefore, conducing to prevent discomfort, only serve to delude the girl into the belief that they hold up her skirts. This weight, evidently, should be borne by the shoulders, where the firmly-jointed skeleton, upheld from below, offers a firm and safe support. But give a girl shoulder-straps, and she finds the pressure over so small an area on the shoulders unbearable, and besides, the process of dressing becomes then a matter of almost as much complication as the harnessing of a horse, when some inexperienced person has done the unharnessing. Suspenders, though answering the purpose perfectly for men, will not answer for women, and even when made especially for them, are found inconvenient. The girl should wear, over her corsets, an under-waist, fitted precisely like the waist-lining of a dress as to seams and "biases," or "darts." It should be made of strong shirting, neatly corded at neck and "arm-seyes," and finished around the waist by a binding of the width of an ordinary belt, set up over the waist so as to have three thicknesses of cloth for buttons. To these buttons, four or more in number, the skirts should be hung. The weight comes then on the shoulders, and is evenly distributed there, so that it is not felt. This statement, of course, implies, that the waists are sufficiently large. Moreover, which is only an incidental matter, the waist answers as a corset-cover, and as a dress-protector at the same time, and in the winter, when dresses cannot be washed, it becomes a matter of necessity to have something to answer the latter purpose. In the summer, when low linings are desirable, these waists can, of course, be made low in the neck. The shoulder-support then becomes narrower, but on the other hand, the weight of the clothing to be supported is very much less than in the winter, so that no inconvenience will be found. These waists themselves can then, if desired, take the place of linings for thin summer dresses, and if this be done, another incidental advantage will be the greater ease and nicety with which muslins and calicoes can be "done up." It should be borne in mind, that within twenty years the weight of the dress-skirt has been also laid upon the hips. Before that time, our dress-waists and skirts were made in one. Of late years they have almost never been so made; that is to say, the shoulders have had, so to speak, absolutely nothing to do, and the hips and waist, everything. In any case, skirts should be furnished with buttons, not strings. It is too easy to draw a string a little tighter than it should be drawn.
Another fashion which our girls have adopted of late years, should be spoken of. As if they had gone to work to discover the only way in which pressure could be increased, they have discarded the old fashion of gartering the stockings, and have buttoned these up by bands of strong elastic ribbon, to a band placed around the waist. This arrangement, it seems to me, exhausts all the possibilities of dragging pressure around the waist, and in this view, it may be looked upon as a negatively encouraging feature. They have, certainly, in respect to the support of clothing, done their very worst. They are trying to the full their powers of endurance, and any change must be for the better.
I was not to speak of external dress, but the skirt of the outside dress, by the present fashion, must be taken into consideration; and of its probable weight any skilful person, who has any idea of the weight of bugles and dry-goods, may make an estimate for himself, though his estimate will probably fall far short of the truth.
If our girls are to walk the same streets with their brothers, is there any reason why the soles of their shoes should not be of equal thickness? And yet no man would think of wearing, at any time, except for house slippers, soles as thin as those which many of our girls habitually wear. Boston is much more satisfactory than New York in this particular, if the contents of the merchant's shelves are a safe index of the desires of his customers. This is a matter which has been often spoken of, and yet one which mothers and daughters seem practically to ignore. Girls should be educated to wear clothing suitable to the time and place, and then their "habituated instincts" will lead them to demand and wear shoes of proper thickness.
Enough. It cannot be too often repeated that a girl may call for anxiety, and often break in health at the time when she develops into a woman, not because of the special demand for strength made at that time, but because the demands on the general system for strength have been, for twelve or fifteen years, greater than the system could supply. It is not the last straw that breaks the camel's back, but it is all the straws. The mother who has educated her daughter into a healthy appetite for food, as to quality and quantity; who has educated her into a healthy appetite for sleep; who has, through constant watchfulness over her clothing, assured herself that no undue demands were made upon the strength of sustaining muscles, and the constructive and repairing power of the general vital force, has no need of hours of anxiety as to the girl's health, and will find no critical periods in her life, for the hours of anxiety have already been represented by minutes of wise and rational supervision in all the previous years, and need not be spent over again.
Bodily exercise is in one sense a means of repair, inasmuch as it quickens the circulation and respiration, and makes the whole organism more active. The old maxim that Exercise strengthens every power must not be overlooked, as the arm of the rower or the wrist of the confirmed croquet-player will testify. But it must also be remembered, and this is a matter of prime importance, that it is only judicious exercise which gives strength; and by judicious exercise is meant that in which the parts exercised are not too steadily on the strain, and that which is regular. For instance, continual standing in one spot is not judicious exercise for either man or woman, because the muscles whose contraction is required to maintain the body in an upright position, are kept for too long a time in a state of action; the continual tension prevents the free passage of the blood, and the uniformity of the circulation is destroyed. Continual standing, in the teaching profession at least, has broken down many a man as well as many a woman. With women, and especially with growing women, the danger is greater, resulting, of course, from the greater breadth of the pelvis and the less physical strength; and any woman who persists in it, simply exhibits an amount of recklessness which can be cured only by her own experience, and never by the advice of others. If she had been better educated, she would know better and act more wisely. Secondly, exercise which is irregular or is used spasmodically, is not judicious. If, for instance, our girls had from their earliest childhood and during many months of the year, been accustomed to skating, no harm would probably result from it. But when, as was the case some twenty years ago, a sudden fashion sprang up for this exercise, and girls in all parts of the Northern States insisted upon learning to skate, with untrained muscles, and to skate for hours together during the freezing intervals of our uncertain climate, an immense amount of harm was actually done, the results of which multitudes of women in Boston and New York are to-day enduring.
There are, it is to be presumed, forms of exercise which are not judicious from their very nature; but I find myself at a loss to name any one which girls desire, or in which they indulge, that would properly fall under this class, unless it be sewing and washing. Whenever our girls have been injured by physical exercise of muscle or nerve, it has been, probably, because the exercise taken has been injudicious in one of the senses above defined. Even with regard to the stair-climbing, which our modern houses make a necessity, the harm generally comes from the fact that too many flights are ascended at once, or that the lifting of the weight of the body through the twenty, or forty, or sixty feet is too rapidly performed. But long flights of stairs are a necessity where land is so dear that, though a man may buy an unlimited extension up and down, he can usually afford to purchase little on a horizontal plane, and thus, to our city-bred girls, at least, the necessity of climbing stairs exists from their earliest attempts at walking, so that stair-climbing may, by my second limitation, come under the head of judicious exercise. It were, however, well to inquire whether there are not different sets of muscles called into requisition in this universal exercise by different individuals, and whether children should not be so educated in climbing, that they may lift the unavoidable weight rather by straightening the knee than by making undue demands, as many do, on other muscles not so well placed to bear it. It seems to me that there is a great difference in this respect in different persons. It were also well that architects should remember that shallow steps may be, and, indeed, generally are, much more fatiguing than steps of the usual height, for the very reason that an unusual demand is made, a greater number of volitions or impulses required, for a given height. A greater width in the step, also, makes the effort more difficult—partly for the same reason, and partly because a greater and unusual effort has to be made to throw the body forward at the same time that it is lifted up.
To Dancing, in itself, no objection can be made. Freed from its almost inevitable accompaniments of late hours, thin dresses, and irregular food, it is undoubtedly beneficial. But when we are better educated, so that we shall appreciate the absolute necessity of a strict and rational regimen of food, sleep, and clothing for the individual while yet immature, this matter will be righted, and only then. There is one additional objection to be urged, however, against parties for young people, which is not generally spoken of, though we all know practically that one of the first preparations for an entertainment of this kind consists in sending at least almost all the chairs and sofas out of the rooms which are to be used, and the dancing may not do as much harm as the enforced standing. The woman who has to stand behind the counter, or behind the bookkeeper's desk, or at her loom in the factory, may, perhaps, accustom herself in a measure to the daily strain; but the girl to whom it is an irregular exercise, and who, besides, is probably over-excited as to her nerves, cannot fail to suffer, though the blame is not, as a general rule, laid where it belongs.
There is another exercise which has come into vogue within twenty years, a game against which it is reckoned heresy to speak slightingly—I mean Croquet—which certainly involves an amount of standing vastly disproportioned to the amount of exercise which it gives. This, together with the fact that it is likely to be played during only a few months of the year, and often on damp ground, and for an unreasonable length of time, may, perhaps, furnish an apology for wounding so large a number of feelings as one must wound who has the heart to venture a caution concerning it. It seems to be peculiarly well described by saying that it is "the game which tires without exercising." To Skating I have already referred for the purpose of illustration. It is gravely to be doubted whether, in our changeable climate, where, moreover, it can be practiced during only a very few months in the year, it does not do more harm than good. Horseback riding, rowing, and bowling are very valuable, provided that they be judiciously used.
But there is one exercise to which no doubt attaches, one which can be regular, and hence judicious. This is Walking; and the fact that so few of our girls and women really enjoy it, that so few are capable of walking four or five miles without fatigue, and that they come in, after a walk of one mile, jaded and tired, instead of invigorated, points to a grave error of omission in their education. The walk of the little girl should be so regular a thing, so much a part of the day's routine, that she would as soon think of dispensing with her morning bath as of passing a day without it. Healthy children of three years old, who are educated to walk regularly, can, as I know by actual careful observation, walk two miles at once without fatigue, coming in at the close, brighter and more active than when they set out. This matter of walking is a matter which, as well as sleep, food and clothing, belongs to education; and if the girl does not enjoy walking—nay, if she does not demand it with as sharp an appetite as she has for her food and sleep, it is generally because she has not been properly and rationally educated.
If it is said that it is "not natural" for some to like to walk, the only proper answer to the objection would be that the question whether a thing is natural or not is not at all pertinent, and involves an entire misunderstanding of education itself. The very essence of civilization, of morality, and of religion, consists in the overruling and directing of the merely natural. By nature, man is not man at all. Only in so far as by force of spirit he overcomes, rules, and directs the nature in him, can he lay any claim to manhood. Education, physical, intellectual, moral or religious, is in its process only this directing of what is natural for us. Its material is the natural man; its result is the spiritual man; its process is the rationally-directed transition from the former to the latter. Between the helpless infant, aimlessly stretching out its feeble arms, and the well-trained and fully-developed man; between the mind of the savage who roams the forest, and the mind of Bacon or Shakespeare; between the brute who strikes down his wife as he would knock over a stick of wood in his way, and the physician who stands at his post, tenderly and wisely caring for the fever-stricken patients in the Memphis hospitals, laying down his life for strangers; between the man who follows the caprice of this or that moment, as a desire for present pleasure may suggest, and the noblest Christian who daily sacrifices his own to the Divine will, there is but one difference—that of Education. The natural part of any one of us is, in any significant sense, simply the uneducated part. If a certain course of action is once recognized as rational, it is unnecessary to state that it is "not natural," and the formation of rational habits of body, as of mind, these habits which constitute our second and better nature, is the very work with which education is concerned.
There is room, however, for misunderstanding here, and this I must pause to guard against; I must not be interpreted as saying that all natural feelings or actions are to be crushed out by a cold, reasoning logic. But it must be remembered that every virtue has its negative representative, and that this negative phase is simply and only the same virtue, but in an uneducated state, and not at all another and different thing; as, for instance, license is not different in its essence from self-control—it is only uneducated self-control. Obstinacy is merely uneducated firmness, and the worst forms of barbarous superstition are but the outcome of uneducated reverence. The lawlessness and bravado of our American children and youth, so severely commented upon by foreigners, are simply an index of the uneducated state of the greatest amount of directive force that the world has ever seen. A fatal error is committed in education when this central truth is overlooked, as when one treats these manifestations as in themselves wrong, instead of recognizing their value, and bending the energies in their proper direction. If a missionary should begin his work by destroying in the mind of the savage all reverence for his own and only gods, he would have sawed off the branch on which he himself hoped to stand, and it were wise for him to make his escape from the country as soon as possible.
Up to the period of life at which the sexes diverge, that is, up to the time when the boy becomes a man and the girl a woman, the physical system pursues the even tenor of development, broken only by the two marked advances of the cutting of the first and second teeth. But now, the strength of the general system is supposed, in the counsels of the Creator, to have attained sufficient strength and firmness to be fully capable of assuming a new duty. In both sexes, organs up to this time quiescent, that is, as to any functional action, take on rapidly an independent life, assert their own character, and take up their peculiar work. Heretofore, all the physical development of the child has been for self alone; the gradual growth of each organism has pointed to nothing outside; each has been in a manner isolated. But now we have a foreshadowing of a nobler meaning to human life, for man is not to be alone, an isolated individual; he attains his highest significance only in relation to others. I say it is supposed that by thirteen or fourteen years of steady educated growth, the system in both sexes has acquired strength enough to assume this last duty; and if this growth has been educated growth in both sexes, it does do so. I am considering, however, only the girls, and all that is said hereafter must be understood as applying specially to them. It makes its first trial of its newly acquired power, and, in a well-trained organism, such as we are thankful to know are yet found in our own country, it does do so with as little effort, with as little outer disturbance of the general system as is manifested when the first new tooth cuts through the gum of the seven year old little girl. If it is asserted that such cases are rare, I can only answer that such is not the testimony of other women of large acquaintance, whom I have consulted; and that even if they were, the sufficient answer to the statement would be that cases of girls who have been physically thoroughly educated, are equally rare. No impression can be given to American women which will tend more directly towards producing the opposite result in our girls, than one which should lead them to believe thoroughly that this last period of development is necessarily a period of great physical or mental disturbance. American women have common sense enough to know that they must submit to the inevitable, but they have also common sense enough to fight against, and to conquer, what is not inevitable, provided it is not desirable; and if what I have said above could become the conviction of every American woman as thoroughly as it is that of some of them, we should in thirteen more years be able to prove it by innumerable cases. Every woman who knows it and acts upon the knowledge in educating her daughter, thereby becomes a benefactor to her country and her race.
We all know that many a baby cuts all its first teeth without any trouble, noticeable nervous excitement, or derangement of any of the bodily functions. We know, also, that large numbers are sick; that large numbers die, showing, that where the organism is weak, it is unable to carry on the new and sudden process without over-action, since we have only a limited quantity of vital force. Over-action in one part, is inevitably under-action in another, and either is but another name for, and not the cause of, disease. We know that a larger proportion of children cut their second teeth without any disturbance, and this result was to be expected; for the terrible, and yet most merciful hand of death, seven years before, had thinned the ranks by transplanting the weakest to a clime where the burden of the body is not a hindrance, and had left us only the strongest for the second trial. We know also, however, that many children do suffer from nervous irritability, and from weakness in other directions at this time. If it is the digestive or respiratory organs that manifest the strain, the child is tenderly cared for; if the over-action is in the nervous system, we "wonder what possesses the child," and she, probably, is sent out of the room, or punished in some other way, in word or act.
When the third and last especial and exceptional work takes place, we may expect the same results, and we find them. Up to seven years of age, however, the little girl's life has been comparatively a healthful one, at least as far as sleep is concerned. As far as clothing affects freedom of motion, she has also, probably, not suffered, though when she has walked in our chilly winter and damp spring air, she has had interposed between her body and the climatic influences only a defence of one thickness of cotton, while her brother has been carefully guarded by thickly woven woolen garments. But from seven to fourteen, the deteriorating causes in the average American family increase rapidly in intensity, in fact, much faster than the increase of the growing strength. The food remains nearly the same, though even this is not always the case, for the times at which it is taken often become somewhat more irregular, and its material more varied and innutritious; her hours of sleep are considerably curtailed, from different causes; her clothing, while not increasing in warmth and thickness, is drawn closer, and, in addition to this, the brain is set definitely to work in actual study. Is it not manifest, that while the demands upon the vital force have been increased, the supply of material has been decreased? If this have been the case, she arrives at the period when the third and last demand is to be made on her growing power, with not force enough to assume the additional work, and in consequence she shows signs of disease. And then, forgetting all the previous want of education, we either tacitly assume that God treats his children as Pharaoh treated the Israelites in his unreasonable demands, or, holding to our faith in him, we seize upon the first cause that presents itself to our startled vision. Because the education of the body has had for a long time, in our thought, an importance secondary to the education of the mind, we very naturally seize upon the latter as the cause of the evil, and remove the girl from school. One is here almost tempted to wish that the mind might be proved only a "mode of matter," if, by that means, the body might be raised up to the level of our mental horizon, and within the circle of our rational sympathy, for if we knew that matter and mind were the same, the matter of which our bodies are composed might then secure a chance for respectful and rational attention.
But there are here other considerations of immense importance which must not be overlooked, and it is to these that any rational treatment of the subject must turn its main attention. Besides laying the foundation of trouble at this time, in a neglect of proper physical education for thirteen years back, we have also taken pains to lay it in too great an attention to mental education for exactly the same number of years. It must not be forgotten that the little girl, as she looks out for the first time through her intelligence-lighted eyes, by taking notice of anything, while she lies in her mother's arms, looks out upon a vast and complicated world of civilization, of which she is entirely ignorant, and that, from the very fact that she is "the heir of all the ages," she has to make acquaintance with her inheritance. To the baby, the light, all sounds, its cradle, the room, its own moving fingers, its mother's face, are vast regions of unexplored knowledge. There is absolutely nothing, however small, which is common or customary, and, as she grows older, to the three year old child even, a walk down one of our avenues, or the examination of a bureau drawer, is as exciting as a journey in a fairy palace. In fact, the whole world around her is merely one vast fairy palace, in which miracles are continually occurring, quite as astonishing and exciting as the appearance of the Genies at the rubbing of the wonderful lamp. And her world grows every day fuller and wider and more enchanting, just as the hazy cloud of the milky way unfolds and reveals itself to us under more and more powerful telescopes into star-dust, into myriads of distinct shining points, into stars and suns; and, under the telescopes of reasoning science, into worlds separated by distances so great, that "the imagination sinks exhausted," and very properly. Now, if any one will recall the sensation with which she first looked through a powerful telescope at this sight, she will then understand the state in which the brain of the little girl lives, as a continual atmosphere, and she will have no need to ask herself whether it is needful or allowable to add much cause for activity to that brain, for, at least, the first seven years of its life.
If mothers could only go to walk themselves with their little girls more often, instead of sending their ignorant nurses, they would comprehend this more fully. The fact that they do not "want to be bothered" with the child, only shows that they are dimly conscious of the truth, though their action testifies that they do not appreciate its significance. It is not necessary to speak only of city life here, for a walk along a country road keeps the little three year old girl in a state of continual high excitement. Is there not the wonderful thistle-down to be blown away, and the flight of each silken-winged seed to be watched with anxious eyes? Are there not clusters of purple and white asters in unexpected places? Are not the steep and dangerous rocky precipices by the side of the way to be daringly scaled and slid down? Do not the geese live in this pasture, and the sheep and the one solitary pig in that? The raspberry vines droop their rosy fruit into her hand, the tall, big, golden-rods snap their stalks so unexpectedly when she bends them, while she finds herself unable to gather the slender grasses. Then there are such charming nooks for hiding, among the ferns and hazel-bushes, and the bits of mica glistening all along the road are each of a different size and shape, and must be carefully collected. The toad startles her as it leaps out of the road, the grasshoppers strike her face, and wonderful people drive by in wonderful machines, drawn by vast and wonderful animals. The amount of knowledge which an intelligent child will accumulate during seven weeks' stay in a quiet country town, alone can measure the amount of brain activity which has been carried on for that time; and yet we drive and force this activity from her earliest years, when we ought only to direct it. We exhibit her in her babyhood to crowds of admiring and exciting friends, we overwhelm her with an unreasonable number and variety of exciting toys, we tease her to repeat her little sayings for the amusement of grown people, and lastly, we send her to school to be still more excited, and to have vast additional fields of knowledge of a different kind open to her. The fact is, that no child is ready to go to school till she has had time enough allowed for the dazzling and exciting illumination which pervades the atmosphere of childhood, to
"die away And fade into the light of common day."
We send children to school—or rather we begin voluntarily to teach them, too early by several years, and the only result is that the brain is "too early overstrained, and in consequence of such precocious and excessive action, the foundation for a morbid excitation of the whole nervous system is laid in earliest childhood." As far as the home-life fosters this over-activity, that is, before the time of school life, I think it will be readily acknowledged that this showing-off process is applied with greater force to girls than to boys. The boy is left more to his own devices, but the girl must be made to contribute more to the general amusement of the family, and she must learn "to make herself useful." It is true that to be of service to others, in a rational sense, should be her ruling motive of action, but one may, perhaps, question whether such early expectation, in such ways, be not, at least, "penny wise and pound foolish." To this cause may be attributed a great part of the failure in the health at the last special time of development.
As to the mental progress made, John Stuart Mill may, as he says, have entered life "a quarter of a century in advance of his contemporaries," but was he a quarter of a century ahead of others of his own age when he left it? The question is at least suggestive of the truth.
But, with the development of the organs which are so indissolubly associated with the deepest feelings and with the mental powers, there is also a corresponding mental development. Not only does "the blood rush more vigorously, the muscular strength become more easily roused into activity, but an indefinable impulse takes possession of the whole being," and a great excitation of the imagination also is perceivable. Just here, then, the educator recognizes a duty. This increased force, which we could not prevent if we would, and would not if we could, must be guided into rational channels—and here I have to speak of a branch of the subject which is not often considered. I mean the duty of the mother, who is in this department the proper educator, to speak earnestly, fully, and plainly to the girl of the mysterious process of reproduction. Rosenkranz says, somewhere, that when any nation has advanced far enough in culture to inquire whether it is fit for freedom, the question is already answered; and in the same way, when a girl, in her thought, has arrived at the point of asking earnest questions on this subject, she is fit to be answered. But just here let me call attention to the infinite importance, in this part of education, of perfect confidence and freedom between mother and daughter, and to the equally important fact, that this confidence which does exist at the beginning of life, if once lost, can never fully be restored. If there is a shade of reserve on the part of the girl, it will manifest itself just here and now. Instead of seeking the information which she really desires, at its only proper source, at that source whence she would receive it pure, and invested with a feeling of reverence and sanctity, of which she could never divest herself, she seeks it elsewhere. She picks it up piece-meal in surreptitious and clandestine ways, as if it were some horrible mystery which must, from its very nature, be covered up from the light of day. She talks it over with her young companions in secrecy, and the charm of mystery keeps her thoughts unduly brooding upon the subject.
In old times, and even now, in other countries, the danger was not, is not, so great. Foreign girls have a much closer supervision exercised over them, and their life in the nursery is far less nerve-stimulating than that of American children. They do not ask questions so early as the American girl, and when they do, they have at hand not nearly so many sources of information. If this all-necessary love and confidence is unbroken, and if the mother have been so educated herself, that she recognizes the importance of the moment, and has the requisite knowledge, there is no danger at all. The occasion is seized, and her womanly, "clear, and dignified statement, destroys all the false halo with which the youthful fancy is so prone to surround the process of reproduction, and, at this time, the fancy is very active with relation to whatever pertains to it."
I do not for one moment forget that I am speaking of physical education. The physical consequences of mistakes on this point are decided. By the continual dwelling of the imagination on this subject—of the imagination, I say, for there can be no thought where there is no clearness—the blood is diverted to these organs, and hence, "the brain and spinal cord, which develop so rapidly at this period, are not led to a proper strength. The easily-moulded material is perverted to the newly-aroused reproductive organs," and the preternatural activity thus produced is physical disease.
But more than this: I should be fairly accused of quitting the physical for the moral side of education here, if it were not that I am now upon ground, where, more than on any other, body and soul, matter and spirit, touch each other, and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to draw the dividing line. The inter-action of the two upon each other here becomes so rapid and intense, that one scarcely knows the relation of cause and effect. I repeat—more than this: The patched and medley knowledge of the young girl to whom her mother does not speak, comes to her garbled and confused, the sacred seal of modesty torn off, soiled with the touch of vulgar hands, defaced by the coarse jests of polite society, its sanctity forever missed. The temple has been invaded, its white floors trodden by feet from muddy alleys, the gods thrown down. Is not the temple as much ruined when this profanation has been accomplished, as if the walls had fallen? I will not be misunderstood as doubting, for one moment, the purity of soul of American girls as a whole; but I assert, that the result of which I have spoken is terribly common in our large cities, and that it is much more likely to be common in America than in any other country, from the effect of our climate, our free institutions, and the almost universal diffusion of printed matter.
The remedy lies alone in the hands of the mother, and, where a girl is away from her mother, in the hands of her woman guardian, whoever she may be. When our women are better educated, there will be less prudery and more real modesty. When the minds of our girls and women are kept busy on other things, they will have no time for this most dangerous brooding. Most truly does Schiller say: "In muessiger Weile schafft der boese Geist," and he spares neither body nor soul.
It is always asserted that woman makes and rules society. When our women are better educated themselves, their righteous indignation will banish forever from all conversation in which they have a part, the fashionable jests on subjects which do not admit of jest, and the doubles entendres whose power to excite a smile consists in their vulgar and profane suggestions. They are as common in companies of average women as in companies of average men, and they evidence thoughts, and are themselves as much coarser and lower than the outspoken utterances of Shakespeare's ideal women—whom they assume to criticise and condemn—as the smooth and subtle rhymes of Swinburne and Joaquin Miller are below the poetry of Chaucer and Spenser.
Closely connected with this part of my subject is that of the reading in which girls are passively allowed to indulge. How large a proportion of mothers and guardians exercise anything which can be called watchful care as to what books and papers the children shall read; and yet the booksellers' shelves groan under the weight of the most dissipating, weakening, and insidious books that can possibly be imagined; and newspapers which ought never to enter any decent house, lie on the tables of many a family sitting-room. Any one who will take the trouble to examine the records of any large circulating library, will be astounded at the immense demand which there is for these average novels. And in our parlors and chambers to-day, myriads of little girls are curled up in corners, poring over such reading—stories of complicated modern society, the very worst kind of reading for a child—stories "whose exciting pages delight in painting the love of the sexes for each other, and its sensual phases." And the mothers do not know what they are reading; and the children answer, when asked what they read, "Oh, anything that comes along."
How find a remedy for this evil? How stem this tide of insidious poison that is sapping the strength of body and mind? How, but by educating their taste till they shall not desire such trash, and shall only be disgusted with it, if by chance it fall under their eyes? How, but by giving their minds steady and regular work? If the work be intermittent, it will, under the general principles laid down in the remarks on exercise, not only be, from that fact, injurious to the brain, but it will afford, at the most susceptible period of life, leisure for reveries which can lead only to evil, moral and physical. But give our girls steady and regular work of muscle and brain, a rational system of exercise for both, so that the "motor and nervous systems may weary themselves in action, and may be desirous of rest," and evil will be not only prevented, but cured, if existing.
Even if these trashy books, which we find everywhere, not excepting the Sunday-school libraries, be not actually exciting and immoral in tone and sentiment, they are so vapid, so utterly without purpose or object, so devoid of any healthy vigor and life, that they are simply dissipating to the power of thought, and hence weakening to the will. No one needs to be told how great is the influence of the will over physical health, and any weakening of it tends inevitably to a slackening of all the vital forces, by which alone we preserve health, or even life itself.