THE GIRL AND HER RELIGION
BY MARGARET SLATTERY
THE PILGRIM PRESS BOSTON CHICAGO
COPYRIGHT, 1913 BY LUTHER H. CARY
THE PILGRIM PRESS BOSTON
TO THOSE WHO READ THIS BOOK
It is not a technical book, it does not attempt philosophy. It does not contain the solution of all girl problems. It is not a great book, it is simple and concrete. It is a record of some things about which the girls I have known have compelled me to think. I have but one request to make of those who read it—that they also think—not of the book, not of the author, but of the girls—for action is born of thought.
CONTENTS PAGE THE GIRL I THE RIGHTS OF A GIRL 3 II THE HANDICAPPED GIRL 9 III THE PRIVILEGED GIRL 19 IV THE GIRL WHO IS EASILY LED 30 V THE GIRL WHO IS MISUNDERSTOOD 41 VI THE INDIFFERENT GIRL 55 VII THE GIRL WHO WORSHIPS THE TWIN IDOLS 68 VIII THE GIRL WHO DRIFTS 82 IX THE GIRL WITH HIGH IDEALS 96 X THE AVERAGE GIRL 107
HER RELIGION XI THE GIRL AND THE UNIVERSE 117 XII IN THE HANDS OF A TRIAD 130 XIII THOU SHALT NOT 141 XIV THOU SHALT 152 XV A MATTER OF CULTIVATION 162 XVI A PLEA AND A PROMISE 183 XVII A PERSON NOT A FACT 195 XVIII THE GLORY OF THE CLIMAX 206
While packing her trunk she dreamed of college Frontispiece
FACING PAGE Unconscious of her handicaps she anticipates keenly life in the new world 12
She was full of ambition and willing to work 22
She worships Pleasure and Fashion 68
Her heart is filled with a deep desire to serve 154
The future promises nothing and she has lost hope 198
THE RIGHTS OF A GIRL
She has certain inalienable rights, regardless of race, color or social state. When it has thought about her at all, society in general has supposed, until recently, that in a free country, a glorious land of opportunity, the girl has her rights—the right to work, the right to play, the right to secure an education and to enter the professions, the right to marry or to refuse, the right in short to do as she shall choose. And in a sense and to the casual observer this is true. Our country gives to her some rights which she can enjoy nowhere else in the world. But as one learns to know her, little by little the stupendous fact is impressed upon him that girlhood has been and is being denied its rights.
It is the right of every girl to be born into a community where the sanitary conditions are such that she has at least a fair chance to enter upon life without being physically handicapped at the start. But hundreds of girls every year open their baby eyes in dark inner rooms where the dim gas light steals what oxygen there may chance to be in the heavy air, take their first steps in foul alleys, find their first toys in garbage cans and gutters. They have been denied their rights at the start. In a Christian land, they grow weak, anemic, yield to the white specter and in a few years pass out of the unfair world to which they came, or remain to fight out a miserable existence against terrific odds. They make up an army of girls who have been denied their rights. And her religion? What is it that religion may offer to her in compensation for that which she has been denied?
It is the right of every girl to be born under conditions which will make possible sufficient food and clothing for her natural growth and development. But scores of little girls go shivering to school every morning after a breakfast of bread and tea, they return numb with cold after a dinner of more bread and tea and they go home to a supper of the same with a piece of stale cake or a cookie to help out. Nature calls aloud for nourishment and there is no answer. The girl enters her teens, finds a "job," goes to work, hungry the long year through, fighting to win out over the cold in winter, and to endure the scorching days of summer. And her religion? What is it that religion may offer to her in compensation for what she has been denied?
It is the right of every girl to receive, through the educational work of the community, training which shall fit her for clean, honest and efficient living. Yet every year sees hundreds of girls turned out into the world wholly unequipped for life, their special talents undiscovered, their energies undirected, their purposes unformed, their ambitions unawakened.
It is the right of every girl to be shielded from the moral danger and physical strain of labor for her daily bread, at least until she shall reach the age of sixteen. Yet every year sees a long procession of girls from eight to sixteen entering into the economic struggle who cannot claim their rights.
It is the right of every girl to have a good time, to play under conditions that are morally safe, and to enjoy amusements that leave no stain. Hundreds of girls live in communities where this is absolutely impossible. What has religion to offer to a girl denied an education which will fit her for the life she must live, compelled to enter into a fierce struggle for daily bread while still a child, surrounded by every sort of cheap, exotic amusement behind which temptation lurks? Has it anything to offer in compensation, if it permits conditions to go on unchanged?
It is the right of every girl to enjoy companionship and friends. Thousands of girls toil through the day in shops, factories, offices and kitchens and at night sit friendless and alone until the loneliness becomes unendurable and they seek companionship of the unfit and the refuge of the street. Has religion anything to do with lonely girlhood?
It is the right of every girl to receive such instruction regarding her own physical life and development as shall serve to protect her from the pitfalls laid for the thoughtless and ignorant, and shall fit her to understand, and when the time comes accept the privileges and responsibilities of motherhood. Every year sees thousands of girls enter the teens whose only knowledge of self and motherhood is gained through the half truths revealed by companions, the suggestions of patent medicine and kindred advertisements, or the falsehoods of those who seek to corrupt. What has a girl's religion to do with these simple undeniable facts?
It is the right of every girl to receive the protection of wise parental authority. The guidance of parents who earnestly, wisely and with the highest motives require obedience from those too young to choose for themselves is the right of every girl. Yet thousands of girls every year are left to decide life's most important questions, while parents, weak, indifferent or careless sleep until it is too late. Has religion anything to offer to girls whose parents have laid down their task and neglected their duty?
It is the right of every girl to receive such moral and religious instruction as shall develop and strengthen her higher nature, fortify her against temptation and lead her in the spirit of the Author of the Golden Rule into service for her fellows. Yet thousands of girls are without definite moral and religious instruction and unconscious of the fact that it is their right, and thousands more receive moral and religious training in haphazard fashion and from sources inadequate to the task.
When the community awakens to the necessity for sanitary conditions in the environment of every girl and honestly seeks the solution of the problems of economic injustice; when the educational system seeks to prepare its girls for the life they must live; when laws for the regulation of labor for girls are made in the interest of the girl herself; when the community makes it possible for its girls to play in safety and makes provision for friendless and lonely girlhood; when mothers instruct their daughters in the most important facts of life, parents exercise protective authority and the church provides adequate assistance in the task of moral and religious instruction, then, and not till then, will the girl receive her rights.
And the girl's religion? The girl is naturally religious. Without religion no girl comes into her own. Whenever and wherever religion concerns itself with the rights of a girl it becomes a girl's religion to which she can pledge body, mind and soul. For the coming of that religion the world of girlhood eagerly waits.
THE HANDICAPPED GIRL
They were both handicapped, as a careful observer could tell at a glance. One stood behind the counter, the other in front of it examining the toys she was about to purchase for a Christmas box for some young cousins in the country. She had not been able to find just what she wanted and was impatient in voice and manner as she explained to the girl on the other side of the counter what she had hoped to find. She was extravagantly gowned in a fashion not at all in good taste for morning shopping, but she was pretty and her fair complexion, her shining hair, soft and well cared for, the beautiful fur thrown back over her shoulders fascinated the other girl and filled her heart with envy. She was pale and anemic, her hair was dark and there was barely enough of it to "do up" even when helped out by the puffs she had bought from the counter on the opposite side. The weather had been bitterly cold and she was suffering from sore throat and headache. She had turned up the collar of her thin coat but it had failed to protect her and she was thinking of that as she looked at the fur. She was worn out by the strain of the Christmas season, had slept late, and then rushed to the store with only a cup of coffee to help her do the work of the morning. She did not care much whether the girl before her found the toys she wanted or not. Toys seemed such a small part of life and Christmas aroused in her all sorts of conflicting emotions. It was winter and life looked very hard, as it can look to a girl of fourteen upon whom poverty had laid a heavy hand and whose life has been robbed by the sins and misfortunes of others, who has been handicapped from the beginning.
The girl before the counter finally decided upon the toys, ordered them sent to her home and looking scornfully at the cheap jewelry and tawdry ornaments passed out of the store. She was thinking what a nuisance cousins were, how ridiculous it was in her father to insist each year upon her remembering his poor relations at Christmas, just when she needed all her allowance for herself, and planning to tell him that next year she did not intend to do it. She was in a most unhappy mood because she had been denied permission to attend a house-party and she could not bear to be denied anything. She was handicapped by the heavy hand of money, newly acquired by her father and by the atmosphere of pride, vanity and social ambition which surrounded her.
All day through the busy streets of the shopping district they passed—the city's handicapped girls. Some were held back from the best that life can give by poverty, which like a great yawning chasm lies between the girl and all her natural desires and ambitions, some held back from the joy of simple, natural living by the forced, artificial social system of which they are a part, some pitiful specimens of physical and mental handicap and some who showed the strain of the handicap of sin, mingled in that Christmas crowd.
Through the open door of great sea-port cities there have poured during the years past steady streams of handicapped girls. They are poor, they are plunged into a life whose manners and customs they cannot grasp, they are handicapped by a language they do not understand and by great expectations seldom destined to be fulfilled.
According to our government statistics during nineteen hundred twelve, ninety three thousand, two hundred sixty-one (93,261) girls from fifteen to twenty-one years of age came to us from across the sea and in three years an army of two hundred forty-six thousand, five hundred fifty-four (246,554) became a part of the girl problem our country must meet. It is hard to picture in concrete fashion how great this host of girlhood is. Sometimes when one looks into the faces of a thousand college girls at Wellesley, Vassar, or Smith and realizes that in a single year more than ninety three times as many girls from fifteen to twenty-one came to test the opportunities of a new land, the significance of the figure becomes a little more clear to him. When he realizes that in three years enough young girls land in this country to found a city the size of Rochester or St. Paul, when he tries to imagine this army of girls marching six abreast through city streets for hours and hours until the thousands upon thousands, representing scores of tongues and nations, have passed, some conception of the great task facing any organization attempting to direct that army of unprepared, unequipped and largely unprotected girlhood comes to him.
Where will they be in another year—those ninety-three thousand and more who came to us in nineteen hundred twelve? What an array of factories and kitchens, what rows of dingy tenements, the moving picture film could reveal to us if it followed these handicapped girls! It does not follow them—they come in over the blue waters of the bay, look with shining eyes at Liberty with her promise of fulfilment of all the heart's desires, they sit in the long rows of benches at Ellis Island, pass through the gate and are gone, the majority to be lost in the mass that struggles for a mere livelihood—just the chance to keep on living.
What if some summer morning, or in the dim twilight of a bitter winter day, a miracle should be wrought and the handicapped should be lifted so that girlhood might be free to work out the realization of its dreams! Many have prayed for such a miracle, some have hoped for it—but it will not come. There will be no miracle suddenly wrought for men to gaze upon in wonder and after a time forget. The release of the handicapped can come only through man's God-inspired effort on behalf of his brother man. In removing his brother's handicap he will remove his own and both shall be free to live. But it cannot be done in a moment. Effort is slow. It cannot be done by any organization, or church, or creed or individual. It must be done by the public conscience. Educating the public conscience is a long process and America is in the midst of that process now. There are two qualifications without which the educator of the public conscience cannot succeed—one is patience, the other persistence. All educators of the public sense of right, like Jane Addams, have had these two characteristics in marked degree, and all churches, creeds and organizations which have had local success in removing local handicaps have shown the ability to wait and the power to persevere despite every opposition.
How the public conscience will act in directing the work of removing the conditions which so sadly handicap girlhood today we cannot say. It may be that vocational schools built and maintained by the State, not by charity, will be one strong hand laid upon the inefficiency and ignorance that handicap. It may be that the Welfare teacher whose salary and rank shall equal that of the teacher of Greek, Ancient History or arithmetic will be another hand laid upon the shoulder of the girl limited by the lack of friendship and protection. It may be that houses maintained as a business proposition and paying honest returns, built in such a way that girls obliged to work away from home may be decently housed and have a fair chance for health, will be another strong hand reached out to release her from the things that handicap. It may be that a minimum wage, safety devices, laws wiping out sweat-shop methods, will reduce the number of handicapped girls.
Wise cities may establish special schools for the immigrant girl where she shall learn something of the language while being taught the making of beds, simple cooking and the common kitchen tasks, then to be recommended with some equipment to the homes greatly in need of her. Even if she should choose later to go into shop or store, the State will have gone a long way toward removing the great handicap by having taught her to understand the language of the new land, to care for a room, cook simple food and keep clean.
It may be that some thoughtful States will require school attendance until a girl is sixteen, the age under which no girl should enter the business world as a wage earner.
It may be that the natural good sense of the true American woman will finally triumph over the extravagant and unnatural living of the present day and that the handicap of false standards, superficiality, display idleness, and wild pursuit of exotic pleasures shall be lifted from the girls now held prisoners by the tyranny of money and complex social life.
It may be that in all these ways and scores of others, the public conscience, working out along lines in which it finds itself best fitted and most interested to work, will solve the problem of the handicapped girl.
Before one can possibly help another in a permanent way he must know what is the trouble with him, and then what has caused the trouble. The greatest encouragement in our girl problem today lies in the fact that politics is looking at her and asking questions it scarcely dares to answer; the corporation is looking at her, compelled to do so often against its will; City Government, School Board, Board of Health are all looking at her; women's clubs, whose individual members have never given her a thought, are reaching out a hand to her; the Church, whose part we shall study definitely later on, is looking more practically and sensibly and with deeper interest than ever before; the Young Women's Christian Associations are looking wisely and intelligently, getting facts which speak with tremendous power and showing them to the world. More than all this the handicapped girl is looking at herself.
It has become in these days the passionate desire of those who see the problem with both heart and mind, and are interested not in abstract girlhood but in the individual, living, real girl, that the public conscience be more deeply touched and stirred until it shall feel that by whatever means the thing is to be accomplished, the bounden duty of Church and State to give themselves to the task of solving the problem is clear.
For in the midst of every problem—political, social, economic, religious, there stands The Handicapped Girl. God help her—and us—for until we have gained the wisdom to remove her handicap the whole problem will remain unsolved. We are learning—every year shows a gain and in this fact lies our hope.
THE PRIVILEGED GIRL
One finds her in all sorts of unexpected places. Last summer I saw her in a home of wealth and luxury. She was fifteen, the eldest of a family of four children. Behind her was a long line of ancestry of which anyone might rightfully be proud. Her face was pure and sweet and her eyes revealed the frankness and honest purpose of past generations. After breakfast she played for the hymns at prayers and in a clear, true, soprano led the singing. A twelve-year-old brother had selected the part of the Bible to be read and the eight-year-old sister had chosen the hymns. The father's prayer was simple and sincere and some of its sentences were remembered for many a day. After prayers the girl attended to the flowers. This was her work for the summer. I saw her gather from their lovely garden dainty blossoms and sprays of green, making them with unusual skill into bouquets for the Flower Mission in the city. Then three small baskets were filled with pansies. These went to three old ladies in the factory section of the village. She told me they were "the sweetest old ladies" and "dear friends" of hers. She seemed to take real delight in making the baskets beautiful. I saw her later in the day galloping off through the woods on her horse, her face glowing with health and happiness. In the afternoon she spent an hour on German which she said was her "hopeless study," but I found her reading German folk lore with ease. She was familiar with the best things in literature, was intensely interested in art and revealed unusual knowledge without any evidence of precociousness. She was just a normal, healthy, natural girl, well-born, well-bred, a girl with every advantage. When I said good-night to her in her lovely room and thought of her protected, sheltered life, I wondered how she might be helped to know into what pleasant places her lot had fallen and how she might come to understand and do in later years her full duty toward the other fifteen-year-old girl who that day made paper boxes, feathers, flowers or shirtwaists, toiled in the laundries or the cotton factory, or walked with heavy heart from place to place searching for work. They are dependent upon one another, these two. They do not know it now, but if each is to be her best, they must know.
How to lead her daughter to value and help this other girl, that sweet mother told me as we talked in the library that night she felt was her great problem. "We women are responsible for so much," she said, "and our daughters will be responsible for still more. We must help them estimate things at their right value." With that thought and spirit in her mother's heart the girl I had watched all day with such pleasure seemed doubly privileged.
Last September I saw another privileged girl. She showed me her trunk packed for college. Every member of the family was interested in it, perhaps most of all her father who had put into the bank that first dollar on the day that she was born with the faith that what should be added to it might one day mean college. Behind her was a long line of honest ancestry, simple people who had worked hard and managed to "get along." She was the first on either side of the family to "go to college." No one in the family, even the most distant relative, failed to feel the importance of the event. "Tom's Dorothy goes to college this week—think of it," a great aunt, in a little unpainted, low-roofed farmhouse far away in the hills, told all her friends at church.
Great ambition, hopes and dreams were packed into that trunk and the day when she should graduate and come back to teach in the high school seemed near. Jack and Bessie and Newton were in her plans for using the money she should earn when those four short years were over.
Looking at her sweet, fresh face so full of happiness one knew her to be a privileged girl. All through high school she had had her purpose clear, her studies were a pleasure, her simple good times were enjoyed to the full and life, every moment of it, was worth the living. When I saw her lock the trunk and excitedly instruct the expressman as to just how it must be carried, I had a sudden vision of the thousands of girls, with happy faces filled with anticipation of all that is wrapped up in that one word, college. A great army of privileged girls, they are. One cannot help wishing that he might feel sure that when they leave those college halls it might be with a deep appreciation and real sympathetic understanding of the other girls who have turned their eyes with longing toward four years more of study and fun, but whose feet were obliged to walk in other pathways. They are so dependent upon one another, these girls who can go to college and the other girls who cannot go. They do not know it now but neither girl can ever come to her best until the privileged girl sees and understands.
One of the most interesting of the privileged girls I met one morning going to work. It was her third month in the office. "One of the finest in the city. There's a chance to work up, and me for the top," she told me, her face beaming. Her father had come across the sea from Sweden when a boy. Long generations of honest folk were behind him and he made good in the new land. He saved a good share of the wages he made in the bicycle shop, studied with a correspondence school and assumed more and more responsible positions with higher wages. At last he was able to build a house for his young family, at the end of the car line where the children had room to play and the cow and chickens kept the boys busy and taught them to work. Olga was the eldest and it was a proud night for the family when she graduated from grammar school. Going home on the trolley her father determined that she should have the desire of her heart and go for two years to business college. There was great rejoicing on the part of the family when he made his decision known and Olga hardly slept that night. When the two years were over the principal of the school had said such fine things of her work that Olga had blushed to hear them. More than that, he offered her the best position open to his students. He was a little astonished the next morning when Olga's father came down to ask in his careful English regarding the character of the men in the office where his daughter was to work. To Olga's great joy he was able to satisfy the father to whom the matter was of enough importance to make him put on his best clothes and take half a day off, in order to make sure that all was right.
It was a great day when Olga came home with her yellow envelope and laid the money on the table. Not a cent would her father take. "No, Olga," he said, "the money is yours. You shall keep the account of it and show it to your father. You shall buy the new bed for your room and the chairs. Your mother wants the house made pretty. Perhaps you will help. That will be very good. But the money is yours." No one seeing the girl's face as she related her father's words could doubt the appreciation in her heart. Her girl friends had "paid their board" and she had expected to do the same. That night she refurnished the house in her dreams and the memory of that dream room of her mother's, with paper on the wall and rugs on the floor, helped her save her money until the dream came true.
Olga is indeed a privileged girl. She has parents wise enough to have given her the best equipment possible for the work she wanted to do. She has her own money and may dress as well as any girl in the office. She has an object for saving what she can and knows the joy of helping to make home beautiful. The suburban church is the center of many of her pleasures, for it is alive and the young people in it know how to enjoy themselves. She is loved and sheltered in a real home. She can live a normal, useful, happy life with opportunity for promotion in her work and an object for her ambition. She has health, sane pleasures and good friends. Any such girl is indeed privileged.
When one sees her going happily to work he is forced to think of the other girl, her homeless boarding place, chance friends, pitiful economies and few pleasures; the girl who has forgotten what it means to be sheltered and protected, if she ever knew, to whom love is a myth or a dream.
Perhaps one of the happiest of the privileged girls was the one who took me to her room on a beautiful June day to show me her cedar chest, her gowns and the gifts already beginning to come. The day was near. The young man whom she was to marry was honest and fine, in business with his father and hoping to make the firm a greater success than ever, as the years should pass. The girl was just twenty-one. After high school, a mother who was not strong needed her help and she had made that home a center of enjoyment for three years. Surrounded by the loving appreciation of parents and brothers, her life was filled with happiness. Now in a few days she would go across the street to the house built for her and furnished simply and well, with the articles which he and she had chosen on the long shopping tours during the months past. She was in every sense a privileged girl.
The other girl saw her married. She was looking forward to her own wedding day but it seemed farther away than ever. She had no hope for a house built for her, but she knew where there was a flat for rental which she had mentally furnished many times that month. But they could not afford it. They had added and subtracted and gone over the figures again and again but it was of no use. He was manly and fine, he had hope and ambition, but the clerkship was only fifteen dollars a week and he had tried in vain for another position. Fifteen dollars a week would not do in their city. Butter, eggs, coal, ice, milk and meat stood in the way. So they were waiting and there were tears in her eyes at the wedding of the privileged girl.
That day was a hard one for another girl. She read of the wedding—the decorations, the gifts, the congratulations of friends—then putting down the paper forced back the tears and went out to finish the shirt waist she was making, for it must be ready to wear to the office in the morning. That evening he would come, she knew, to tell her again that it was not fair, that her family would get along some way and that he had been patient for a long time. She knew that he must continue to wait, for her mother was doing her utmost, Wilbur could earn only a little and the other two children were too young to leave school. It was three years since her father's death. The young man had said then that he could wait ten years. She had begged him to take his release but he refused. Of late he had been very insistent. She knew she must stand by her mother and help her through. If he could not see it that way there was but one thing to do. She found it hard even to think the words that she must say and she thought of the privileged girl with longing in her soul. But the privileged girl did not know. If she had, her sympathy and understanding would have helped.
One rejoices as he remembers the thousands of pure, sweet, wholesome girls who have been privileged to enjoy the results of a long ancestry unstained by weakness and sin, the results of training, guidance and protection, the opportunity for healthful, normal living, for pleasures and the satisfaction of human friendship and love. Our country looks today with increasing hopefulness to these privileged girls for the solution of many of the problems of the other girl. Our country looks to them for another generation of privileged girls even stronger and wiser than they.
One of the greatest of the problems with which our country is concerned today, the solution of which involves every phase of social, religious and economic life, is the providing of ways and means by which the unprivileged girl may, in large numbers, be promoted into the privileged class.
THE GIRL WHO IS EASILY LED
She is a chameleon sort of girl but she is not rare. So often she is sweet and lovable. Almost without exception she is obliging, a jolly companion, fearless and frank. One often finds her a girl of talent and natural ability. She is the very opposite of the indifferent girl for she responds to everything. The girl she will finally become depends upon the companions whose lead she follows. Her safety lies in the establishment of the habit of going in the right way. She is the girl who most needs care and guardianship. So much depends upon her choice of friends that parents and teachers must be wise for her.
A little ten-year-old, in whom all her teachers were interested because of her versatility and quick response to every interest, moved into a new neighborhood. Some weeks later because of her ability to learn rapidly she was put into a higher grade. Her new home and new classmates in a short time entirely changed the character of her environment. Before long the girl herself began to show the result of the change. She had always been too much interested in her studies to waste time or disobey the school rules. Following the leadership of some of the newly made friends she entered into all the little conspiracies of a group of girls and boys who made things hard for the teacher, a rather weak disciplinarian. One day, the girl hitherto perfectly honest, told a lie to get out of the trouble into which the following of the new leaders had brought her. It troubled her conscience and she cried on the way home from school, but her companions laughed at her, told her she was "all right," and had stood by them splendidly. They made her feel heroic and she dried her eyes and stifled her desire to tell her mother. Before the year was over the child had entirely changed. Her studies suffered, she seemed to lose her ambition, her naturalness and spontaneity vanished. Her mother began to discover increasing untruthfulness. One day, toward the close of the school year, the child asked to wear her best dress to school, saying there was to be an entertainment. There was no entertainment. Instead there was a party at the home of one of the girls of whom her mother disapproved. The party began later than they had planned and it was nearly six before the child reached home. She found her mother greatly troubled and said quite glibly that she had stayed after school to help the teacher. Next day the mother called at the school to remonstrate with the teacher for keeping the child so often and so late to "help" her. Then the whole truth came out and the mother was dismayed. She felt that the matter was so serious that she must remove her daughter at once from her companions and before school opened in the fall the family had moved back to their former neighborhood and the parents were permitted to send the little girl to another school where new associates were carefully chosen. Before she left that grammar school she had recovered her frank, sweet spirit, her interest in her studies returned, and surrounded by a group of fine boys and girls she went through the high school with the love and respect of teachers and companions.
This child is the type of many, who as early as ten years and younger, are so easily led that their natural tendencies toward good are wholly transformed by association with evil companions whose strong personality and power of leadership can so easily turn the weak wills into the wrong pathway.
Parents and teachers cannot be too careful of the companions of a girl of vacillating, easy-going, versatile temperament, for they may ruin or make her.
When Leonora moved from the great manufacturing city, which had been her home for fourteen years, to the home of her aunt, in a quiet suburb, where the children attending the high school were from homes of real culture and refinement, she was disconsolate. Voices, language, games, manner of recitation, behavior on the school grounds and street, perplexed her. She seemed lost in her new environment. She had never been a leader but had followed with all her heart. Her playground had been the street. She had enjoyed boisterous good times, had patronized moving pictures of every sort, had entered into the mischief of "the crowd" always close to the leader. In a pathetic letter to one of her chums she said that at the very first opportunity she should run away and be with them all again. She characterized the beautiful suburb with its neatly kept lawns and pretty homes as "a dead old hole" from which she could not wait to escape. Still, her aunt's home, the new wardrobe containing the lovely dresses, becoming hats and coats, for which she had always longed, tempted her to remain. One day, early in October, her classmates made the discovery that she could sing. She had quite a remarkable voice for a girl of her age. The teacher of music became her interested friend and found she could play unusually well, though mostly "by ear." The leader among the girls who "adored" any one who could sing adopted Leonora as her special friend. The new wardrobe added greatly to her attractiveness, and her aunt's social position opened many doors for her. Her new friend's mother was pleased with her daughter's choice of a companion despite the lack of good breeding and lapses in English.
Leonora became the obedient and devoted follower of the new girl friend and the influence of the music teacher was indeed remarkable. Almost as by magic Leonora dropped the coarse slang, loud talking and shouting of her companions, who in the city had been termed "wild" and adopted the ways of the new leader. At the end of two years it would have been quite impossible to recognize in the pretty, interesting, well-mannered girl of sixteen, who sang so sweetly, the uncultured, ill-mannered, slangy girl of fourteen.
Leonora was so easily led that it was not a difficult task or a great accomplishment to have so transformed her. If she remains until she is eighteen or twenty in her present environment, the chances are that the good friend, Habit, will have determined the way that she shall go. If she should now drop back into the old street, the old companionship, the place which until her father's death he had tried with her help to make a home, the chances are the old voice and manner, the old slang and old interests would return.
For a girl of Leonora's type the impress of the right environment, the guidance of the right hand, means everything. To discover such girls, to open the way for the working of new friendships, which shall furnish new leadership for them, is a fine task and a great pleasure for the lovers of girlhood.
But so impossible is the task of attempting, through the individual, to touch the great mass of girls who are easily led, that one can work effectually only through the individual effort plus the law. It must be made "to go hard" with those who, for selfish ends and financial profit, plan to take advantage of the weak will and trusting, unsuspecting mind of the girl who is easily led.
Most of the girls in their teens, who are walking in evil ways, are there because they have followed friends and companions. There are girls who have blazed the way to paths of evil for themselves, but they are comparatively few. Any court, or school for delinquent girls, which contains a sympathetic man or woman to whom the whole truth may be poured out, will testify that somebody led the way. When allowance is made for the tendency to lay the blame upon other shoulders, the facts bear out the testimony that there has been a leader. The girls who by nature are weak of will, and have had no training which could tend to strengthen or develop that will, must be protected, and that protection must be furnished by the community. It may be furnished by putting the welfare teacher into the school; by making the street on which so many girls find companionship as safe as possible; by driving professional leaders of the unsuspecting and easily led from all places of recreation and amusement; by helping parents, especially those parents, who, themselves born across the sea are attempting to bring up daughters in the new land, to see and understand the dangers; and by making it a real crime to lead the easily led astray.
But this is not enough. Perhaps the greatest steps toward the safe-guarding of the easily led were taken when the carefully supervised public playground and the school gardens were started and the women police were sent out into the streets of cities.
A strong, wise, sane woman who is neither a prude nor a crank can do more toward preventing the first steps into forbidden ways than those interested in great city problems have yet dreamed. The day will come when these women will make the arm of the law an efficient friend of the weak and unprotected girl and give all the positive, helpful agencies an opportunity to strengthen her against temptation.
I shall never forget my visit that Sunday afternoon to a detention school for delinquent girls. Over in the corner of the room where the afternoon service was to be held was the piano, the orchestra, made up of members of the school, was gathering. There was a cornetist, two or three violins followed, then a banjo and guitar. The service that day was to be a great event, for the wonderful woman in charge of that school who had done away with the cells, taken down the great spiked iron fence and planted flowers in its stead had persuaded board, committee and municipality to permit her to follow out the one great desire of her heart. The girls were to wear on Sundays and other dress occasions white Peter Thompson suits, big bows of ribbon in their hair and shining, well-fitted shoes.
Soon she entered the room. One could hardly take her eyes from that sweet, sympathetic, calm, face. A glance told one she might trust her with her soul's secrets without fear and might tell her anything and she would understand. After her came the girls and quietly, with an attractive self-consciousness because of their new glory raiment, they took their seats. Who could fail to forgive them if they fingered lovingly the great soft silk Peter Thompson ties and patted the bows on their hair. Some of them seemed scarcely more than children though some were in their later teens. No one of the group present that afternoon will ever forget how they sang, nor how they listened with eager responsive faces. No one can tell what new hopes and ambitions were born as they sat in their new finery, some of them for the first time in their lives becomingly dressed.
After the service they filed out, put on their long checked aprons and got supper. We saw the beds in the wards where all the new comers must sleep, then the smaller rooms with six and four beds, the still smaller with two and the honor rooms which a girl might occupy alone and might arrange as she chose. There were flowers in all the single rooms and pictures on the walls.
It almost seemed as we walked along the edge of the drive over the walk the girls had laid, that we were leaving a boarding school where girls were being taught household economics and the arts and crafts.
The woman who had wrought the miracle which had been wrought in that school stood at the end of the drive as we left and in response to the exclamation, "It seems impossible that these girls could ever have been guilty of the deeds the records show!" she answered, "These girls are not vicious. It is after all a question of leadership and they followed the wrong leaders." She paused a moment, looked back at the buildings, and then said softly, "God pity the girl who is easily led." And in our hearts we echoed her prayer.
THE GIRL WHO IS MISUNDERSTOOD
Every girl in the world I suppose has sometime in her life felt that she was misunderstood, that every one looked at her through the wrong glasses, that no one saw her good qualities or appreciated her abilities and that all with whom she had to do interpreted her at her worst. The cry of a girl's heart for someone who understands is the cry of humanity. No one can perfectly understand another, therefore only God can be just. And so in a sense all girls are misunderstood. But there are special types of girls who suffer more from being misunderstood by their families, neighbors, friends, and by strangers than do others.
There is the self-conscious girl. Shy and made awkward by her shyness, unable to forget that she has hands and feet, painfully aware that she must walk while others watch her, that she is expected to say something and those who listen will criticize, she suffers intensely. The great onrush of self overwhelms her, she stammers, blushes, fingers and eyes help to reveal her suffering and as soon as possible she beats a retreat. How intense her sufferings are only those who know by experience can say. The shy and self-conscious girl will always be misunderstood. People may be very sorry for her but they do not understand her. She needs a friend who has passed through the self-conscious stage to sympathize with and help her, or some girl quick to see her good qualities who can show confidence in her and smooth over the awkward places for her, until she becomes convinced that she is like other girls and that she can do as they do.
I shall never forget the change which her first year in college made in a girl friend of mine. In the high school she was exceedingly shy. Her recitations were accompanied by so much suffering that they were painful to witness. Her written tests revealed an unusual mind, keen and active. She won the prize for the best essay in a county contest. She was asked to read it to the school and though she begged to be excused, her teacher insisted. She slept little and ate little during the days before it must be read and on the morning when the school assembled to hear it looked pale and wan. It was with very evident effort that she walked to the front of the platform. Her lips opened but no voice came. Her sister thought she was going to faint but she pulled herself together and was able to read in a thin scared voice which could not be heard three seats away. But those who heard and those who read marveled at the thoughts which the girl had written in a clear and original fashion. Still when she left for college she was a misunderstood and unappreciated girl in her own home and among her neighbors.
It seemed as if she could not endure the thought of a roommate but necessity offered no alternative. She reached the room first and arranged all her belongings in her accustomed careful and orderly way. She sat by the window lonely and miserable, trying to read, when the roommate came. She was a rosy-cheeked, laughing, vivacious girl who greeted her as if she had always known her and did not seem to notice that she received monosyllabic replies. Before an hour had passed the shy, self-conscious girl was down on her knees helping her new friend unpack her trunk and talking to her more naturally than she had ever talked with anyone before.
The new roommate was a very wise girl, a little older than most girls entering college. She knew that the girl with whom she must live was shy the moment she caught sight of her and felt the dread with which she had waited her coming. From the time she was fourteen until she left for college she had helped her father make strangers in his church and congregation feel "at home." She knew just how.
During the first trying days every one greeted the shy girl cordially and then gave their attention to the wide-awake, interesting roommate. But the roommate always included her. "How was it, Clara? I don't just remember what was said," she would say, suddenly turning to the girl who blushed but answered and found she could, to her great surprise. Under the warmth of her roommate's confidence in her and pride in her scholarship and the ease with which she conquered the most difficult subjects she learned to forget herself. A great longing to help the girls who found things hard came to her and they gladly accepted her help and loved her for her sympathy. The months wrought a marvelous change and though she found it difficult in the presence of the critical family to talk naturally at first, still the things she had to tell proved so interesting that they forgot to criticize and she forgot herself while they listened. At the High School Seniors' banquet she spoke for her college and her brother declared it the best speech made.
She is a graduate now and all traces of the old awkwardness have left her. She is reserved but easy, simple and gracious in meeting those whom her work calls her to meet and her eye and her heart alike are open for the self-conscious girl wherever she meets her. If she were to try all her life, she tells me, she could never express her gratitude for what that roommate did for her.
What was it that happened to her? She forgot herself. People had told her to do that before but she couldn't, for she felt that they were watching to see her make the attempt. They called attention to her shyness, her roommate ignored it. They bade her take part in conversation and join with others in what they were doing; her roommate gave her a part in the conversation and made a place for her in all that they were doing. Her family and school friends said by their manner and sometimes in words, "The poor girl is so shy, what a pity it is." The roommate expressed calm confidence in her and in manner and words said, "You have no idea how fine she is and how well worth knowing."
If a girl chances to read this page who is herself popular and who finds it easy to meet people and join naturally in whatever her neighbors may be doing, has in her circle of friends a shy, awkward, self-conscious girl, may she see her opportunity and realize her mission. The pure kindliness of heart and the thoughtfulness which prompts a happy girl, free from the pain of self-consciousness, and always at ease with her friends, to shelter, stand by and call out the best in a shy girl suffering from awkwardness deserve a rich reward.
The very opposite of the girl who is misunderstood and undervalued because of her shyness, is the girl who, because of her boldness and independence, her carelessness of speech, hilarity and adventuresomeness is misunderstood.
"She doesn't mean anything by it," said one girl of another whom she was trying to defend in the presence of a critic, "she is good hearted, generous and just fine, but she has been brought up in a large family where they have noisy times together." The critic accepted the explanation but strangers, new people whom she met, men and women upon the street, constantly misunderstood the girl whose unfortunate manners would lead one to believe she was a most undesirable friend. The girl was conscious that she was misjudged and misunderstood and was growing hard and beginning not to care when an older woman who loved her showed her with real tact where the trouble lay. No one could help admiring that girl as she struggled to overcome the things which had been the cause of all the misunderstandings.
I met awhile ago, a girl whom her companions described as wooden. I knew that she wanted to talk with me, that she was interested in the people whom the group were discussing. She seemed like a bright girl and I felt sure that she had thoughts of her own worth hearing if she would only express them. That was her trouble. She couldn't find words so she said "yes," and "no" with effort when a remark was addressed directly to her, otherwise she was silent. Later in the day a girl friend who really appreciated her told me how very interesting she was when one knew her well enough to dispel the awful fear that she should say the wrong thing. She read the very best things and was conversant with the history of important events all over the world. "She is a regular encyclopedia," said her ardent defender.
This wooden girl is misunderstood simply because she has not learned to express the thoughts she has. She is unhappy, and feels that people do not like her, and do not enjoy her company. In her heart she blames them. But one cannot expect everyone to penetrate the exterior and see and appreciate real worth. Most people take us for what we seem to be and if we appear cold, uninteresting and ill at ease, they seek pleasanter companions. The wooden girl can overcome her stiffness and learn to let people see that she thinks. She can cultivate a very rare art—the art of listening with appreciation. There are very few listeners in any group of people and often not one in a group of women. It is a great thing to be able to listen with that attention and interest which draws out the very best in the one who is talking.
More than that the girl who is termed wooden can learn to express herself in words. She may never become a great talker but she need not regret that. She can take part in conversation and can make it easy for people to talk with her. I know a girl who plans before spending a social evening with friends what she will talk about. Following the advice of her mother who has suffered much through inability to talk, she holds imaginary conversations which often become real when she meets people later. She makes a special effort to remember the names of those whom she meets and some of the things in which they are especially interested. She is learning to remember the names of books and their authors and publishers, she takes special pains to remember worth while magazine articles and last spring people appealed to her again and again for information regarding the Balkan situation. She is making herself an interesting companion and in a few years I believe all traces of the awkward wooden silence will disappear.
In the long line of misunderstood girls, are many whose interests and enthusiasms are altogether outside their immediate environment. There are girls at college and sometimes at boarding-school who have seen a larger world and have come to love the real things of life. They find it very hard to waste the days in superficialities. They long to have life mean more than a round of social events, and the family and friends misunderstand. Some girls of this sort have solved the problem by gaining consent to plan their own days. Some have never been able to gain that consent and have gone on for years in unhappiness. Others have learned to inject into the seemingly superficial some real things and have found an outlet for the best that is in them through work for those in need. One must feel real sympathy for the girl who, striving to be her best, to live above the round of pettiness and selfish pleasure, is met with disapproval and misunderstanding.
Many a girl is misunderstood by the one person in the world who ought to understand her best—her mother. Perhaps more bitter tears are shed by girls because their mothers do not understand than for any other reason. The misunderstanding oftentimes is the result of temperament. It is exceedingly hard for two people of diametrically opposite temperaments to live in close association without clashes. One of the most pitiful things in home life today is seen where mother and daughter have opposite interests and sympathies and lack self-control. The constant criticism and judging of one another, the quick-tempered commands and demands on the part of one and the sullen yielding on the part of the other make one heart-sick.
I am reading over a letter from a girl who says, "I honestly love my mother. I am proud of the things she can do and I admire her beauty.... I am twenty-two years old, very ordinary looking and not a social success. I am a constant disappointment to mother. Our opinions about everything differ. We cannot agree upon the most trivial things. When father was living he laughed at us and his genial spirit made things easier but the last two years have been dreadful. What can we do? Mother does not need me. When I am away on a visit everything goes smoothly at home and her letters to me are affectionate. I love them and have kept them to read when it does not seem as if she could care for me. My uncle has asked me to come to their home in D—— to be a companion for his seventeen-year-old daughter who is lame. I love her and we get on well together. Ought I leave my mother and go? She says I may do just as I wish and does not seem to mind the thought of my going...."
Here is a clear case of clash of temperaments. Both are to blame, each is misunderstood. In this particular case it seems wise that the daughter should, for a time at least, accept her uncle's offer. She may learn from a distance to understand her mother better and her mother may more fully appreciate her daughter. Often it is far better that two people who constantly clash should learn apart to respect and honor one another than to live in a quarrelsome, fretful atmosphere which is bound to banish deep affection and respect as well. Some daughters cannot be their best at home and some mothers can never reveal their best selves in their daughters' presence. That such can be the case is most unfortunate and wrong. Away back in the daughter's childhood someone was careless, in early girlhood a thin partition was raised which shut out mutual love and trust. It might then have been destroyed, but was left until it became a barrier almost impossible to break down.
But there are some girls who are misunderstood by their mothers, and who because of circumstances must accept it and learn, despite misunderstanding, to let love triumph. There is much that every girl owes to her mother even though it be true that she is unfair and unjust.
One of the sweetest home makers I have ever known, in whose family it seems to me no cross or critical word is ever spoken, whose boys and girls trust her absolutely and love her devotedly, learned her patience and forbearance, acquired her fine courtesy and graciousness in the years when she was a misunderstood girl and had to live in an atmosphere of petulance, ill-temper and selfishness.
The misunderstood girl whatever may be the reason for the misunderstanding must cultivate frankness. She must learn to be generous, she must help people to understand her. She must believe that being misunderstood should deepen her sympathy and increase her tact. One of the most marvelous teachers in our country today, who succeeds in awakening dull hearts and minds, in controlling wayward and wilful childhood, when asked to explain her power said simply, "I was a misunderstood child. How I suffered! My mission is to relieve the suffering of the misunderstood, whatever the cause."
There is a very brief prayer which every misunderstood girl might well pray daily, "Help us to understand as we long to be understood."
THE INDIFFERENT GIRL
Until she has entered upon her teens the attitude of the "don't-care" is rare with the average girl. She either heartily approves or frankly disapproves of those things that cross her path or claim her attention. But with the coming of the teens those closely associated with the girl often become conscious of the loss of that spontaneous response which has made her such a delight. The teacher is puzzled by this change, wonders if she has offended the girl, redoubles her efforts to make the lesson interesting and seeks to win the girl's confidence. Sometimes her efforts are rewarded by renewed interest but often the attitude of indifference persists. The girl's mother feels keenly the change in her once expressive, often demonstrative child, eager to talk and anxious to join in everything, and says in a tone of condemnation that she cannot understand her daughter.
The presence, in a class of ten or twelve girls, of even one indifferent girl, or the presence in the schoolroom of three or four such girls, chills the enthusiasm of the teacher and the class. Such a girl is a "wet blanket," she is a cloud steal-in across the sun on a glorious morning. Her indifference is contagious. She changes the atmosphere. If the class is planning an entertainment she "does not care" what they have, she does not care whether she has any part in it or not, she has no choice as to the way the class funds are spent, she does not want to look up any assigned topics, do any special work, or take part in any debate or discussion.
She is a very real problem to teacher, parents and friends. To be able to diagnose her trouble correctly and find a remedy for it is well worth every effort of those who have her present and future in charge. Before one can hope to help her he must discover the cause of her trouble. Reprimanding her is of little avail, and discussing her indifference with her is useless.
Some years ago a young teacher in the eighth grade in a public school consulted me regarding a girl of fourteen whose indifference was a great source of trial. The girl came to school with fair regularity. At ten and eleven she had been considered a very bright pupil but was now below the average in all her work. She often expressed the wish that she need not go to school but when allowed to remain at home was restless and unhappy.
Observation of the girl in class showed all that the young teacher had said to be true. The girl took no voluntary part in the recitation and when called upon her usual answer was "I don't know." I talked with her and she said she liked the teacher, she liked the school and her classmates. She did not care about them especially. She did not know whether she would go to high school or not; she "didn't care either way." She did not know what she wanted to do when she grew older. Her excuse for falling so far behind her record of other years and her unwillingness to recite was that she did not feel like studying and that she could not seem to remember what she read. She said she felt well but she was growing very rapidly and did not seem strong.
I called upon her mother and learned that she was greatly concerned because of the changes in her daughter. I was surprised to find, however, that she stated quite calmly that the girl's appetite was not good and that she complained of being unable to sleep and of having "dreadful dreams." The mother had not consulted a physician. She scolded the girl for being lazy and indifferent; at school the teacher reprimanded her constantly. I urged the mother by all the arguments I knew to see a physician at once. She said her husband seriously objected to one's "running to the doctor all the time," and that he thought the girl would come out all right. If she did not "brace up pretty soon," she added, they might "take her out of school and put her to work." During the winter the girl contracted a heavy cold and her indifference and apparent laziness increased. The mother was finally enough impressed by our concern for the girl to take her to a good physician. He found her to be in a very run-down state, in bad condition nervously, and really ill.
A year out of school, spent in a country town with her aunt, where she had the best of food, fresh air and exercise, cured this indifferent girl entirely.
Continual headache is often the cause of indifference, and eye strain or improper food the cause of the headache. The first duty of those in charge of the indifferent girl, before passing judgment upon her, is to make sure that the physical condition is not at the bottom of the trouble. Many a case of indifference and loss of spontaneous interest, which cannot be cured by punishment, by persuasion, by prayers or exhortation, can be cured by a wise physician.
Sometimes a girl becomes indifferent from lack of a sympathetic environment. She feels that others do not care about her and that what she does makes no real difference to any one. She may be surrounded by poverty, where the struggle to exist is so keen that there is no time to think of the girl and her needs, or she may have every luxury yet be denied the companionship of one who understands.
I am thinking now of a girl of fifteen, who does not seem in any way to belong in the family where she was born. Her sisters are at work in the factory and content. They are sweet, attractive and good. But she does not want to work in the factory. She would "give the world to have a room alone, that could be all fixed up," as she would like it. The family cannot understand her. She can have none of the things for which she longs, she is not able to be with the sort of people she loves and admires. She wants good books, she enjoys music and longs to be permitted to finish her high school course. She is willing to work out of school hours, to do anything if only she may continue to study. Because the family consider all her notions ridiculous, and all she longs for seems impossible, the don't-care, reckless spirit and the indifferent "what's the use anyway" are gradually enveloping her whole life.
Surrounded by much that money can buy, a most interesting girl whom I met recently is surrendering all her interests to the "don't-care" spirit because the one great desire of her heart is not to be gratified. She has been urged to enter upon the duties of the social world but says she has tried it and "despises society." She does not care about travel, she wants to be trained as a nurse, enter a school of philanthropy and then become a district worker among the poor. Her father will not listen to the plan, her aunt opposes it, her brother laughs at it.
She says that now since all her most earnest desires can never be fulfilled she doesn't care about anything. It was a long time before the teacher of the Bible class of which she was a member could believe that this indifferent girl whose silence had annoyed her each Sunday was longing to serve her fellowmen and had lost heart because the way was blocked. It was only when she had made a special and earnest attempt to really know the girl that she learned the truth.
No one can act wisely in the dark, and before passing judgment upon the indifferent girl who may try one's soul, he should know whether in the thwarting of all her desires, the denial of the right to follow her natural inclination for work and service, lies the explanation of her indifference.
Many times the girl who seems indifferent, is so only on the outside. She has developed more as a boy develops and does not wish to reveal her best self, nor even in the least degree her deeper feelings. She hides. When things are very serious or pathetic she sometimes laughs half nervously. She looks out of the window, at the ceiling, whispers to her neighbor or assumes the most disinterested, superior air possible if she is at all impressed. When one sees her alone, it is a great surprise to discover a new girl who is by no means indifferent, who has thoughts and can express them when other girls are not there to listen. Her indifference is not a serious matter, is usually of short duration and is explained by the attitude of self-sufficiency which manifests itself in the teens.
The girl really indifferent to everything, unless she be ill, does not exist. There is a point of contact, a line of interest. The girl indifferent to religion, to the work of the church, to her studies, may be keenly alive to the call of other things—her friends, plans for her future, all lines of social life. Last summer I met a girl of seventeen, indifferent to all interests save nature study. She had failed in the languages, was defeated by mathematics, but could sit hours in the woods waiting for a tiny bird, or a squirrel to pose for her. She had made some remarkable photographs and tinted them beautifully.
The usual social interests of the girls of her age bored her. Her mother stated to sympathetic friends that the girl was hopeless, indifferent to every plan for her future. The girl in turn said half defiantly, that she did not care, and it made no difference to her what people thought of her. It would have been so easy had the right guidance been given, to help the girl see the great need a real naturalist would one day feel for the languages, to show her that she had some social duties and to let them be as few as possible, giving her every opportunity to develop her special talents and interests. But the wise guiding hand was not present and so the girl grew hard, indifferent, and created an atmosphere of constant friction.
Into a night court in one of the cities there was brought an exceedingly pretty girl just out of her teens. She seemed wholly indifferent to any moral appeal and conscience was evidently dead. She would make no promises for future good-behavior, she showed no evidence of shame. She was unmoved by the matron's words of appeal. When she found that she was to be detained through the day she begged the woman probation officer to go with her to her home saying that her mother was ill and she feared the result if she did not return as usual. With a great desire to befriend the girl the officer went. She found a sweet pale-faced woman suffering from incurable heart trouble, a bright beautiful girl of sixteen who was taking the business course in the high school and a ten-year-old boy. The flat was airy, neatly furnished and seemed a very happy home. The girl told her mother that she had had breakfast and must be away that day on business but would return for supper. The love of that mother for the daughter who bade her good-by so tenderly, the evident affection of the younger sister and the admiration of the boy greatly impressed the officer.
The girl walked in silence back to the station, then she broke down.
"Now, you see why I chose the street to make a living," she said. "We used father's life insurance and mother had to have things. She will not live a month now, the doctor says. My sister can soon earn her own living and I can help Fred until he is old enough to help himself, by working in my old position. But for a while I must have money! I hate myself, you understand, but I had to have the money. Oh, mother, mother, it is the last thing you would have me do, but I did it for you and the children," she sobbed. This was the hard, indifferent girl who didn't care for anything. The matron and officer looking at the sobbing girl recorded one more tragedy upon the annals of their experience and set about helping one more girl back into the straight way.
In how many types we find her, the indifferent girl and the girl who does not care, and for what varied reasons indifference and the don't care spirit have fallen upon her. Whatever the cause of her indifference she is a problem. One of the High School girls in a group discussing another girl put it quite forcefully when she said, "Yes, I'd like to help Alice, but she doesn't want to be helped. She just doesn't care about anything. If you don't invite her she doesn't seem to mind, if you do she doesn't care whether she goes or not. I'd rather die than not care about anything." "Such people are so uncomfortable to have around, I'd rather have a girl who gets mad," was the opinion of another in the group. Young people feel naturally that there is something vitally wrong about the girl who has no enthusiasm, whom all the interesting life of every day fails to arouse. And there is something wrong. The problem facing those who have to do with the indifferent, don't care girl is to find what is wrong. Indifference is merely a symptom—there is always a cause. One may discover if he will the things to which the girl is not indifferent, her real interests. Knowing these, he sees the door through which he must go to awaken other interests. Sympathy and friendship are the foes of indifference. If one "feels with" the girl who does not care, he may help to awaken her interests. Friendship can discover causes which nothing else can find.
But there is one word which must be stricken from the vocabulary of parents, teachers and friends, who hope to awaken the indifferent girl. It is the word hopelessly. Hopelessly dull, hopelessly bad, hopelessly indifferent! Experience teaches that these must go. No teacher has a hopeless pupil, no mother has a hopeless daughter. One may regard the indifferent girl as a difficult problem but never a hopeless one. Behind the indifference and the don't-care is the real girl and one must with patience and sympathy find her.
THE GIRL WHO WORSHIPS THE TWIN IDOLS
The twin idols that accept with all the complacency of an ancient Buddha the devotion of more worshipers than any church or creed can claim are Fashion and Pleasure. Not sane fashion which helps make men and women attractive and clothes them with neatness and care, protects them by courtesies, and shields them by conventionalities, but mad fashion. Not real pleasure that fills eye with delight and days with happiness that will be remembered even when one is old and days are dark and hard but mad pleasure, the thief and robber.
What costly sacrifices are offered every hour of the day and night to the twin idols. When men and women away back in the dim past laid their children in the hands of Baal they made their weird music, sang their wild songs and shouted aloud that they might drown the appeal of the sacrifice. The dark ages have passed. It is the enlightened age—and yet with music and shoutings, weird dancings and songs men and women today drown the appeal of the costly sacrifice laid on the altar before Fashion and Pleasure.
There in her room sits Ellen Gregg, that is she used to be Ellen, she is now deeply offended if friends forget to call her Eleanor. She is an ardent worshiper of the Idols. When she was twelve and fourteen she was a frank, contented, happy girl, simple in her tastes and able to have a good time in most inexpensive ways. A trolley ride to a park and supper under the trees she looked forward to for days and enjoyed in retrospect, until a trip to the lake, a concert, a visit to the picture galleries, or a shopping tour down town where she spent the twenty-five cents she had earned and saved, gave her another happy day to remember. Eleanor is now eighteen and she has been at work for two years. She needs plain becoming dresses, plenty of shirt waists, sensible, pretty shoes, rubbers, a rain-coat, a suit, two becoming hats, for it is the beginning of winter. But she has none of these things. She has just been kneeling before the altar and has laid her costly sacrifice of common sense and comfort, perhaps of health, there in the presence of Fashion and Pleasure. Her face is troubled as she sits there in her room for the memory of her mother's reproof and her brother's disapproval stings a little. But in a moment she looks toward the bed. Lying upon it, smoothed out carefully, is the result of the sacrifice—a thin silk gown of palest blue draped with a fragile chiffon, trimmed and caught up with crystal drops and tiny rosebuds. It is a pretty thing. Besides it is a spotless white outing coat, rough, and to quote the words of the clerk who helped her select it, "exceedingly modish." There are pale blue stockings and pumps. She did hesitate about the pumps but they were there. The hat was there too. She hoped to go perhaps to two dances, she knew she should go to the theater, for she already had an invitation and there might be another. Besides that she intended to go herself and invite one of the girls if she were able to get all the things paid for before the theater season was over. Last year everything got shabby so quickly and "looked like a rag," before the season was over but she hoped for better luck this time. She rose and put her new possessions away very carefully in the little closet and boxes and turned to the mirror. The hair dresser had shown her a new way to dress her hair and she tried it now herself. After a long time she met with fair success. She did not call the family to see the result, for there might be more words of disapproval and though they would not influence her in the least still it was a bore to listen to them. The new arrangement was very uncomfortable and it did seem strange to be apparently without ears but she was an earnest devotee and what it pleased the idol to dictate, that she did. Next she tried the new concoctions for cheeks and eyebrows. The result pleased her. She called to her mother to ask the time and exclaiming at the lateness of the hour called back that she was dead tired and would go to bed. When she hung up her skirt she was dismayed to see how worn it was. She had paid for the style in it, not for the material. She did not go to sleep directly though she had a right to be tired, for she had to get up very early each morning and she was obliged to stand all day at her work. But she was troubled. Even the pleasure of possessing the clothes so carefully protected in the closet could not take away the anxiety produced by the conscious need of rubbers and a winter suit. But at last the poor little devotee, the ardent worshiper of the twin idols, worn out by thinking of it all fell asleep.
Over on Blank Street, in another part of town that day, another worshiper and her devoted mother had been talking over plans for the future. Both were "climbers," at least they thought it was climbing. They had social ambitions and it was whispered by their enemies that they intended, at whatever cost to enter the inner circle of those who worshiped the idols. Last year the young girl who wanted to go to college had "come out." It had been a wonderful season but it had left her with a pale face and dark circles under her lovely eyes. The rest cure had done much for her but her physician had said another season in town would undo all that had been done. Her mother was loath to believe it. She had always been able to dismiss her husband's arguments and had done so successfully the night before when he plead for a year of roughing it in the west, society forgotten and the things of nature for amusement and fun. "If we drop out now," she told her daughter, "all is lost." And so they made their plans. The daughter was not an adept in learning the rapid succession of combination dances wherein orientalism, the harem, the submerged tenth, and the various beasts of the field and fowls of the barnyard figured, so the first step was to secure a teacher who would correct her errors and give her skill in the performances which had robbed so many of her friends of all reserve and had taught them the abandonment of motion.
She had tried to take a nap that afternoon but sleep would not come though she obeyed all the rules for capturing it. Her father's blood was in her veins and even her training had failed to obliterate all of the hard sense which had helped him pass his neighbors in the race for money which should win the coveted title "A Success."
She did not like the dances, she knew she was not equal to the round of varied functions that lay before her. But she was a worshiper—she blindly followed Fashion—she bowed in the presence of Pleasure—and at last sighing wearily, murmured softly, "Well, there is no way out. Mother has set her heart on it and one might as well die as to be out of everything"—she laid her sacrifice upon the altar, took up a book and stopped thinking.
It is easy to think that she is but one, and perhaps the great exception, that because she is not physically strong she shrinks from the long gay season. But she is only one of many, some very young and strong, and some in the twenties who have hearts and find them unsatisfied, who long to be free but held in the grip of the twin idols at last bow down and worship.
In the home of a shoemaker where food was coarse but plentiful and where the loose casements and cracks in walls and doors defied all efforts to keep out the air, grew up a little rosy-cheeked, black-haired girl. When she was fourteen she was tall for her age, her black hair was abundant and beautiful, her large, dark eyes snapped and sparkled in laughter or in anger. She went to work. As yet she had thought little about the twin idols. Before the year had passed, she knelt before them. At the end of the second year she had offered in their name, truth and honesty in exchange for furs, a silver purse and a beautiful necklace. Her parents unable to speak English, ready to believe that anything was possible in the new land suspected nothing. Before the close of the third year, when she was but seventeen, in mad devotion to Fashion and Pleasure, she had laid herself, a living sacrifice upon the altar.
In the same city where she had followed so madly in pursuit of pleasure and dress, in a comfortable home upon one of the new avenues where young shade trees, modern houses, neatly trimmed lawns, all spoke of the young people just starting out for themselves, there lived a family trying in vain to find happiness. Both were young, she only twenty, he twenty-two. She worshiped the idols. He worshiped her. She had social ambitions. She needed money to carry them out. He got it as fast as he could and he was doing pretty well. But it was not enough. That night they had said bitter words to each other, then had repented and he had begged her to be careful, to try for a while to do without unnecessary things for his sake and said that she was more beautiful than any of the more richly dressed women he knew and that she ought to be content. She promised to try. But it was of no use. She heard the call of the idols. She could not resist and bowed down and worshiped them. Before the year had passed she had plunged into hopeless debt and in her mad devotion sacrificed her husband with all his hopes and honest ambitions upon the altar. The music, the lights, the dresses, the compliments, the promise of opening doors into the society in which she wanted to shine, for a time drowned the sight of his suffering and pain. Then suddenly he yielded to temptation, was discovered taking money that was not his and the gods of fashion and pleasure forgot them both; the doors of society closed and she was left with nothing but her bitter thoughts. It was a costly sacrifice but a common one which the Idols accept again and again.
Hardly two blocks below was another home with its lawn, its flowers, its neat window boxes and its young trees. There in his nursery was a little two-year-old. He stretched out his hand to his mother and cried when she passed through the hall and down stairs. He had not been well for some days and missed his old nurse who had been dismissed for a slight offense the week before. He did not like the new nurse. His mother did not know much about her. She seemed kind and she was very courteous in her manner. The mother was going in her friend's machine, out to the club-house for bridge. She was a little late and could not stop though the child had looked very pitiful and rather pale. He still cried despite the nurse's warnings, coaxings and threats. At last she grew impatient, seized him and shook him until there was no breath left to scream, laid him on his little bed and left the room. After a while soft, heart-broken baby sobs came from the tired child and he lay still as she had bidden him.
At the club women dressed in all the extremes of fashion, laughed and chatted or grew tense and strained as they exchanged their cards. Over in one corner some of the younger women blew curls of smoke into the air. The baby's mother sat there.
It seemed very lonely to the little boy lying in his nursery. The sobs ceased, the baby grew interested in life once more, climbed over the side of the bed, slipped to the floor, softly opened the door into the hall. His eyes were swollen and he was weak from the shaking and the strain of the day and when he reached the shining staircase, his foot slipped.
The nurse's face grew pale when she picked up the unconscious child. The doctor said he would live but the spine seemed to be injured and the full result of the fall he could not predict.
While they were bending anxiously over him, he opened his eyes and said "Muvver." Just then she entered the hall and they could hear the congratulatory words of her friend. She had won. Then she started up the stairs. Let us draw the curtain, for on the altar of Fashion and Pleasure a mother has offered as a sacrifice, her child.
You who have read this chapter have been looking with me upon a series of rapidly moving pictures. Perhaps they have seemed too dramatic as they have passed. But they are not fiction—they picture facts. They are not in the past. The same scenes are being repeated now all over our country and across the sea. No one can number the worshipers of the Twin Idols and no one can estimate the awful cost of the devotion of their followers.
It is right that a girl should enjoy pretty clothes and desire them. It is right that she should spend a fair part of her income on the necessary gowns for parties and pleasures. It is right that girls should seek pleasure and enjoy life to the full. It is right that young mothers keep their youth and enjoy the society of their friends. But when girlhood erects an altar and in the presence of Fashion and Pleasure sacrifices time and strength, money, honesty, thrift and virtue, then it is sin and the individual and society must suffer. At this present moment in our country, as in the ages past in nations and with peoples that are now being forgotten, girlhood is worshiping the Twin Idols and one is compelled to ask himself if the final result will be the same.
It is not alone the rich girl who bows the knee in the presence of Fashion and offers her best to Pleasure, the poor girl also worships. In the multitude that bow are all sorts and conditions of girls.
We wait for a prophet. A prophet that shall awaken womanhood and girlhood and show them that to be well dressed means to be appropriately dressed, that extravagant overdressing is clear evidence of the lack of good breeding and good taste; that those who indulge in clothes which they cannot afford and those who make of themselves living models for the exhibition of the latest extravagances, both proclaim the unworthy station in life where they truly belong.
We need a prophet who shall awaken womanhood and girlhood to see that the wild rush for sensational and unhealthful pleasures has always meant one thing—final inability to enjoy, the day when all pleasures pall.
Would that the prophet might come, and speedily, that our girls might stand up on their feet free, no more slaves to Fashion or servants of Pleasure. Free—their faces clear, tinted and rosy with the keen joy of living. Free—their eyes bright with health and energy. Free from the lines of worry that stamp the faces of all those who yield to the demands of the Twin Idols.
It will be a great day when the leaders and worshipers of Fashion and the devotees of Pleasure blow the trumpets and cry aloud, "Bow down," and the mass of girlhood and womanhood, beautiful, strong, healthful, loving life, answer and say, "We will not bow down, nor worship." When that day comes—and it will come—the reign of the Twin Idols shall cease.
THE GIRL WHO DRIFTS
More than two years have passed since I met one of the girls returning from a girls' conference where the depths of her nature, unstirred before had been touched and quickened into life. A passion to serve had been awakened in her and as she told me of her new visions and desires I confess that I feared for her. Here she was, the embodiment of all the charm and power of youth with a soul on fire to accomplish great things, and the temperament which does not accomplish great things. When the train stopped she was met by her father, a keen, common sense, average business man who often expressed the wish that his daughter would "get busy and do something." She went home to a mother large hearted and self-sacrificing, proud of her attractive daughter and doing so much for her that little remained for her to do for herself. On Sunday she went to a formal, dignified, self-satisfied church; she attended a Sunday-school where the teacher made the lesson interesting without requiring much from the girls; she spent the afternoon with a book, the piano, and the relatives and friends who came to call. Church, home, friends, seemed content with her just as she was. She meant to do so much and to some of her friends she told with great enthusiasm her plans for future work. But the days passed as other days had passed. What became of her passion to serve, to share in the work of making life easier and happier? What became of the cry in her heart for something to do to express the new life which had fired her soul? They died. Slowly the fire was quenched by inaction, the embers grew cold, the longings were quieted, life went on as before—so easy it is to drift.