THE YOUNG MAIDEN.
A. B. MUZZEY,
Author of The Young Man's Friend, Sunday School Guide, &C
"Young Men, and Maidens; * * * Let them praise the name of the Lord."
Boston Wm. Crosby & H. P. Nichols, 111 Washington Street 1848.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1840, by A. B. Muzzey, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
Cambridge: Metcalf and Company, Printers to the University.
Chapter I.—The Capacities of Woman, page 5 Chapter II.—Female Influence, 30 Chapter III.—Female Education, 53 Chapter IV.—Home, 81 Chapter V.—Society, 107 Chapter VI.—Love, 136 Chapter VII.—Single Life, 151 Chapter VIII.—Reasons for Marriage, 163 Chapter IX.—Conditions of True Marriage, 191 Chapter X.—Society of Young Men, 205 Chapter XI.—First Love, 213 Chapter XII.—Conduct during Engagement, 222 Chapter XIII.—Trials of Woman, and her Solace, 237 Chapter XIV.—Encouragements, 255
TO THE YOUNG MAIDENS OF OUR FAVORED UNION, THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED, BY THEIR FRIEND, THE AUTHOR.
THE YOUNG MAIDEN.
THE CAPACITIES OF WOMAN.
The appropriate sphere of woman—how ascertained. By considering her Intellectual, Moral, and Physical Constitution; by a view of the Scripture teachings on this point; by a reference to History, observation, and experience. The women of Babylon. Patriotism of Phoenician women. Grecians and Romans. Modern Pagan Women. Occupations and Habits of Christian females friendly to improvement. State of Society, especially in this country, favorable. Effect of Chivalry on woman. The division of Duties between the sexes, and their Mutual Influence demand separate spheres. Woman should not engage in severe Physical toil. Milton's opinion. Nor in Political life. Plato's theory. Nor in promiscuous public Discussions. Home one part of her sphere. Private Beneficence. The Statue of ivory better than that of brass. Society requires Woman's presence. Lord Halifax's a good view of Female capacities.
Before entering on any statement of duties, it is incumbent on us to determine what power there is to perform them. An angel's task may not be laid on a mere mortal. It is only where many talents have been given, that great returns can justly be required. Nor should our requisitions fall below the powers of those of whom they are made. We may not claim simply a child's service, where the ability of a giant clearly exists. Achilles would spurn the light offices of Adonis. So will that woman, who regards her sex as co-equal in every part of their nature, with the opposite sex, contemn the delicate tasks, usually termed feminine.
Much is said in our age and country of the appropriate sphere of woman. The discussion of that point is too interesting and too important to be passed over in this work, but the consideration of it involves another, viz., What are her Natural Capacities? How does she compare with, and wherein differ from man? This topic seems a fit introduction to what may follow in our survey of the wide field now open before us.
The capacities of woman may be ascertained by the study of her Physical, Intellectual, and Moral constitution; by the disclosures of the Sacred Scriptures; and by a reference to History, observation and experience.
1. The Physical Constitution of woman is peculiar. In barbarous nations she has often been subjected to the same manual exertions as man; sometimes to those even more arduous. But the progress of refinement and civilization always establishes a marked distinction between the two sexes, in this respect. Nature revolts at the thought of the Amazon. A Boadicea and a Joan of Arc, were they now to appear, would be almost universally regarded as disloyal to their sex. A masculine woman and an effeminate man are in equal disesteem. We instinctively pronounce her to unsex herself, who arms for the battle-field, or engages in those agricultural, mechanic, or other manual pursuits, which demand great bodily vigor. God hath made the sexes herein to differ, and man, we feel, ought not to confound them.
In respect also to Intellectual Powers, there is among most people a conviction that severe reasoning, comprehensiveness, and logical acuteness belong pre-eminently to man. I know there are illustrious exceptions to the truth of this statement; but do we not rightly esteem the Elizabeths and Somervilles that occasionally challenge our admiration of their intellectual strength, as exceptions to the ordinary female mind? Ascribe this difference, if you please, to the neglect of their education, say that man is only the superior, because of his higher advantages of culture, still must not the fact of his present mental superiority be conceded?
Nor should I deem it to the discredit of woman, were it incontestibly proved, that her Maker had given her less intellectual power in some provinces than man. For though, in civil affairs, in controlling the destinies of nations, in framing laws and administering justice, man labors in his exclusive sphere, yet in delicacy of perception and taste, and as a guardian at the fountains of Imagination, to woman he must yield the superiority. In the silence of her retirement she ponders on the themes of fancy, and while the consecrated names of Hemans and Sigourney shall endure, let man be slow to assume an absolute dominion in all the noble provinces of intellect.
But maintain as we may our constitutional ascendancy in the Physical and Mental capacities, there is one realm where woman reigns in undisputed supremacy; it is the realm of Moral power.
God has given her a keen sensibility, and a strength of feeling, and sympathies and affections which prepare her for singular eminence in moral attainments. In the religion of Ancient Greece, it was she who presided at the tribunal of fate; her native enthusiasm qualified her for this office. "A man," says Diderot, "never sat on the sacred tripod; a woman alone, could deliver the Pythian oracle; alone could raise her mind to such a pitch as seriously to imagine the approach of a god, and panting with emotion, to cry, 'I perceive him, I perceive him; there! there! the god!'" The same zeal which was displayed in devotion to a false faith, is seen in Christian lands, sustaining the morals and piety of eternal life.
Woman is more susceptible than man of sudden and strong impressions. Her impulses are quick and prompt, but this trait unless counterbalanced by others, would expose her to irresistible evil. She would fall an easy prey to lawless emotions. God has kindly averted this calamity, by inspiring her with a constancy and devotedness seldom witnessed in man. Let her place her affections on any object, and they will cling to it through every trial and change. What love so strong as woman's? What moral power can compare with hers, when principle, duty, devotion, once engage the full energies of her soul?
2. What we have learned from this glance at the constitution of your sex, is verified by the Sacred Scriptures. In the book of Genesis we are told that God "took one of the ribs of Adam, as he slept, and closed up the flesh instead thereof." Some commentators translate this passage thus: "he took one out of his side, and put flesh in its place;" and they thence infer that Adam and Eve were created at once, and joined by the side to each other; that God afterward sent a deep sleep upon Adam, and then separated the woman from him. They were thus on a perfect equality till the period of the fall. After that melancholy event, the sentence was pronounced on woman, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." And through all the subsequent history of woman, as found in the Bible, it is said, her inferiority to man is constantly implied.—Among the woes predicted by the prophet Isaiah, as awaiting Jerusalem and Judah, this is included, "Women shall rule over them."
Let the original relative capacities of woman have been as they might, one fact is clearly apparent, that the general condition of women among the ancient Jews, and in contemporary nations, was one of degradation and servitude. She was the slave of man. The Essenes, a Jewish sect not unlike the modern Shakers, treated this sex with little respect, often with contempt. The system of polygamy, of old almost universally prevalent, tended directly to "stifle the best emotions of the female heart, and to call all its worst passions into exercise." It has been supposed by some, that the wonder which the disciples of Christ expressed, when they found him conversing with the woman of Samaria, originated partly in their low opinion of her sex. The Talmud teaches that it is beneath the dignity of a Rabbi, to talk familiarly with a woman; and the Jew was accustomed, we are told, to give thanks to God, that he was not a woman.
But open the New Testament, and how in a moment is this estimation elevated. Of the Physical and Intellectual rank of woman, nothing is, indeed, there said. But as a creature of God, and a member of the great family of mankind, she is placed on an entire equality with man. Christianity does not make her responsible, as a moral and immortal being, to man, but represents both as having a common Master in heaven. No virtue inculcated on the one sex is omitted in describing the duties of the other. The Christian character is a moral statue, to be wrought by every living hand; and taste, composition, symmetry, effect, are required and expected, in the spiritual workmanship, no less of woman than of man.
The personal treatment which this sex received at the hand of Jesus, was always respectful, as well as tender and kind. "His earliest friend was a woman; his only steadfast friends through his ministry were women." It was "the daughters of Jerusalem," who wept for him in his final agony. "The last at his cross, and the first at his sepulchre, was a woman. And when, after his ascension, the little company of believers was assembled, waiting for the fulfilment of his promise, there also were found the women who had accompanied him in life and stood by him in death." How could he, with such proofs of their piety, zeal and perseverance, fail to regard the sex with a consideration, at least equal to that he bestowed upon man?
And in the religion itself, we find qualities with which the capacities and powers of woman singularly harmonize. It is based upon the affections. Love to God, and love to man, are its two great commandments. The sacrifice it requires on the altar of life is that of the heart. And what is this but the unquestioned empire of woman? Sentiment with her is natural, the growth of her moral being; in man it is usually acquired, the result of thought. Deny, as man may, her mental equality with himself,—doubt as we may, the comparative strength or capabilities of any other portion of her nature, as related to man, in the possessions of the heart, no man can contest the ascendancy with woman. She is naturally less selfish than man. She can, if she will but obey her best impulses, rise to the loftiest heights of Christian excellence. And, if serious impediments oppose her progress, on herself, her own culpableness, not on her nature, must each consequent failure be charged.
Another characteristic of our religion is its call for what have sometimes been termed the passive virtues, fortitude, submission, patience, resignation. The acquisition of these qualities is to man a most arduous task. He can toil, and struggle, and resist. In scenes of active effort, and strong conflict, he is at home. But his power of endurance is by no means commensurate with these traits. In woman they find a congenial spirit, a heart open, and waiting for their reception.—"Those disasters," says an elegant writer, "which break down and subdue the spirit of man, and prostrate him in the dust, seem to call forth all the energies of the softer sex, and give such intrepidity and elevation to their character, that at times, it approaches to sublimity." Who does not perceive that this sex enjoys pre-eminent advantages for the culture of that spiritual union with God required of the Christian? And in sustaining the ordinary trials of our lot, as social beings; in cherishing forbearance toward the unjust, kindness to the thankless, and love toward those who inflict personal injuries, woman is endowed by her Maker with a divine power.
3. The History of this sex is a still farther testimony to their moral capacities. We have examples of illustrious female virtue in the annals of the Patriarchs, as Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel. In Holy Writ, we read also of Miriam and Deborah; and the picture left us by Solomon, of "a virtuous woman," evinces not only the existence, but the appreciation of a true woman, by some in those early ages.
If we turn to the records of heathen nations, we find them occupied, when they speak of this sex, almost universally, in describing rare cases of personal prowess or physical conquests. The wealth of Babylon was such, and its advancement in science and refinement so great, that we may presume the female character to have been more elevated, than in savage countries. There was a true moral courage in that act recorded of the Phoenician women, who agreed, that if their countrymen lost a certain battle, they would perish in the flames, and who crowned with flowers her who made that proposition in a council. Would that history had transmitted the testimony of those quiet, unobtrusive virtues, which must at some ancient periods have prevailed, and which are the glory of woman.
In more recent ages, we find among the Greeks noble examples of female heroism, of conjugal love, and sisterly affection; but the exclusion of woman from society placed her under great moral disadvantages. Rome allowed this sex more free intercourse in social life, and the renowned Cornelia was hence a representative of no small number of her age.
But how few opportunities do modern Pagan religions allow woman for exhibiting her moral capabilities. The stern creed of the Mussulman pronounces, we are told, that woman has no soul; she is treated, in any event, according to this doctrine. In China, among the lower classes, all the hard labor is laid upon the wife, while the husband performs only the lighter tasks. In the higher classes, the sex is completely secluded from all places of public instruction, and subjected to laws which repress all their energies, both of mind and heart. India furnishes examples of conjugal devotedness, worthy a more enlightened direction. Alas! that such a spirit can find no purer modes of self-sacrifice, than casting the body on a funeral pile, or beneath the wheels of Juggernaut. Profane History, in its wide range, gives us indeed but an occasional gleam of the genuine virtues of woman. How unlike Christianity, which presents a brilliant succession of these fair examples.
In Christian lands the occupations and habits of woman are such as to give scope for moral eminence. She has fewer worldly interests and engagements than man. She is not here accustomed to command armies, nor lift up her voice in the Senate chamber. Nor is she subjected to those coarser employments, and that severe bodily toil, which elsewhere rob her of all true delicacy. What an immense chasm do we see between the Christian female, devoted to her quiet domestic duties, and the inhabitant of Van Dieman's land, for example, diving into the sea for shell-fish, while her husband sits by the fire, pampering his appetite with the choice morsels which she has procured for him.
But Christianity must be pure, to produce this change; we shall else retain, under the light of the Gospel, the spirit and practices of Paganism. "In one place on the road," says a recent traveller in Italy, "we saw at least one hundred young girls, mixed up with as many rough coarse men, carrying baskets of earth, some fifty rods, upon their head, for the purpose of filling up an embankment or road." "Heathenism, and paganized Christianity," he remarks, "degrade woman to a level with the slave." "In none of the slave States which I have visited," says Professor Stowe, "have I ever seen negro women drudging in such toilsome out of door labors, as fall to the lot of the laboring women in Germany and in France." "Haggish beldames fill all our markets," says Chevalier, "and three-fourths of our fields."
But in the beautiful language of another, when speaking of the sect called Friends, which language I would apply to all genuine piety, "The Inner Light sheds its blessings on the whole human race; it knows no distinction of sex. It redeems woman by the dignity of her moral nature, and claims for her the equal culture and free exercise of her endowments. As the human race ascends the steep acclivity of improvement, the Quaker cherishes woman, as the equal companion of the journey." The Christian's home is a scene of retirement favorable to moral culture and to growth in grace. There the soul may contemplate its Creator, and hold communion with the lovely image of his Son. Far from the fields of ambition and gain, away from the agitations of a public arena, in sacred seclusion pursuing her domestic avocations, why should not woman be distinguished for her spiritual attainments? Can it be, that with the same watchfulness, and self-denial, and toil, she should not surpass man in the acquisition of holiness and purity?
Another circumstance, friendly to the developement of woman's capacities, is the state of society and the country in which we live. Our free institutions do much to remove those obstacles, that elsewhere exist, to the full exercise of her powers and faculties. Those false distinctions in society, by which wealth and rank alone can secure to a child its rightful education, are here seldom witnessed. In the public schools, the daughters of all, rich or poor, high or low, mingle for literary instruction. A mighty arm is thus raised to level that barrier, which in other lands, rises even between the cradles of the titled and the obscure.
Not only is the intellect of woman thus trained in childhood to equal progress with that of the opposite sex, but all those moral advantages, which are connected with mental culture, are secured to this sex. The constitutional advantage she possesses, for attainments in virtue and piety is thus indulged with peculiar facilities for its exercise, and her sphere of employment, so quiet and hallowed, is not corrupted but purified by the social atmosphere she breathes from her earliest days.
We are now prepared for a reply to that exciting inquiry alluded to in the commencement of this work, "What is the appropriate sphere of woman?" Having determined for what duties and occupations she is qualified, it becomes less difficult to decide when she is acting within her true sphere, and when she departs from it. If Nature has intimated any class of employments, as more suitable, from their delicacy, for her physical powers than others, then we infer, that if she forsake those for sterner avocations, she disobeys the will of God; and that too, as clearly and certainly, as if it were inscribed in letters of fire on the material heavens.
It would have been surprising, however, had not many in this age, and especially in our own country, have passed to extremes in their opinions of the rights of woman, and of her appropriate sphere. Having escaped, through the influence of Christianity, from the error of degrading her to the station of a slave, it was natural that they should more and more elevate her, until her true position in the world would be entirely misapprehended.
The first impulse in this direction was seen in the age of Chivalry. Then woman was the idol of man. She was served with a sickly and sentimental devotion, through which its object became indolent, degraded, and lost to all moral and intellectual excellence. Then came the influence of those Political changes produced by Christianity, which, while they somewhat elevated the mental condition of this sex, left them still subordinate in many respects to man. At length a republic was founded on these shores, tending, in its true uses, to elevate all classes, but still to render each individual, when his own best interests were perceived, content in that state, for which Providence manifestly designed him.
But how natural that the condition for which God had created the strongest physical frames and intellectual capacities, should be an object of envy, and discontent, and ambition, with those to whom he had denied these endowments. Could it be anticipated that woman would in all cases be true to her sex, and reply, as did the discreet Shunamite to the prophet's interrogatories, "What is to be done for thee? Wouldst thou be spoken for to the king? or to the captain of the host?" "I dwell among mine own people." That is, "Where God has appointed my lot, I am content to live and toil."
It may be objected that I assume the existence of two distinct spheres of action, in this world. This is acknowledged, and it is, I believe, susceptible of demonstration. In all nations there is found a division in the character of human occupations. The savage has his hunting and fishing grounds, which call for labors of a wholly different character from those of the wigwam. And though woman may, and often does engage in the sterner duties of the tribe, yet man cannot supply the earliest wants of the infant, and he violates the plainest decrees of nature, if he leave not some other duties exclusively to woman.
Civilization modifies this division of labor, but cannot obliterate it. Rather must its true work be the more wide separation of the sphere of each sex from that of the other. Christianity elevates the rank of woman, and through civilization, gives her a new moral and intellectual importance in society. Mental culture, again, diminishes both the taste and the necessity for those coarser tasks, to which, in ruder ages she must in some degree be subject. But if it qualify her for higher intellectual employments, her progress does not surpass that of man. They are relatively, as distant in this respect from each other, as they were in the days of the Patriarchs. The cultivated female mind enchants the world,
"And fills The air around with beauty; we inhale The ambrosial aspect, which, beheld, instils Part of its immortality."
This leads us to say, that God must have designed woman for a peculiar sphere of action, because it is only when she is thus situated, that the mutual influence of the sexes, so important to earth's moral good, can be fully exerted. The boy at school inclines to rough manners. What more effectual restraint upon this tendency, than the delicacy and gentleness which marks the little girl? She again, may become painfully diffident, and a recluse in her bearing, if not subjected to the society of the more confident sex. Encourage the boy to sit always by the fireside, and studiously shun conversation with the opposite sex, or put the girl forward and incite her to a bold and boisterous manner, and their mutual influence is diminished and soon lost. You transgress a plain law of the Creator.
So in the society of adults. Let men group themselves together, and they will converse only of their farms, their merchandize, and their manufactures, or of governments and administrations. Insulate the female sex, and they shall discourse upon dress, or the minor affairs of their neighbors, far too exclusively. But shall we, to obviate these evils, completely transpose their conditions? Do we wish to see woman on Change, or man given up to fashion, and culinary duties? No; let the main pursuits of each be distinct; but let neither regard him or herself as having no influence on the duties of the other.
What check were there on man's wrong impulses as a lover of gain, or a devotee of ambition, should woman participate with him in these dispositions? And would not the inevitable consequence of her resigning herself to masculine offices and labors be, that she became as insane in the toil for riches as man; that she proved his rival instead of his ally; that far from composing and regulating the fire of his ambition, she did but kindle it to a devastating flame? To argue the contrary were to close our eyes on the native ardor of woman, and to forget the fearful agency of sympathy, when it takes an unholy direction. Morality, religion, the order, if not the very existence of society, hence point out a peculiar and appropriate sphere to woman.
Let me say first, negatively, what is not the province of this sex.
They should not engage in pursuits, for which their Physical powers are inadequate. If man is endowed with superior bodily strength, to him exclusively be allotted those manual avocations, which demand that strength. Let not the more delicate sex be tasked with the severe exercises of the field or the workshop. And if mental power depend at all on physical, if giant minds are usually found in vigorous frames, woman may infer that she can engage in the highest intellectual pursuits only by becoming an exception to the ordinary character of her sex.
"For contemplation he, and valor formed, For softness she, and sweet attractive grace."
Again, it is not the province of woman to enter into Political life. Plato, indeed, admitted this sex to an equal share with man in the dignities and offices of his commonwealth. But we should remember his was an imaginary state, an Utopia, not a part of our plain, practical world. I do not forget here the long line of Queens that grace the annals of history; yet what had they achieved, wreaths though they wore on their brows, had not man been usually the prime minister and controlling agent in their governments? The affairs of nations require in those who guide them a practical acquaintance with business transactions, and a familiar knowledge of pursuits and interests with which woman is not ordinarily conversant. And how unfeminine were it in her to raise her gentle voice amid the storm of debate, or to rush into the heat and strife of partizan politics! Let such scenes never be coveted save by the Wolstonecrafts and the Wrights who have madly unsexed themselves.
Nor can I admit that woman may with propriety be seen and heard at Public Meetings, mingling with the opposite sex. Man becomes effeminate by intermeddling with the province of woman. She also becomes coarse and masculine, when she enters his sphere. Is her nature more mild than his? Why then desecrate it, by those fierce collisions with him, which attend so many of our public discussions? How unlady-like are contention, violence, and passion. How certainly will woman sacrifice her best influence over man by consenting to stir his spirit to hostility, in ardent debate. Where are those mutual services, and friendly offices, so beautifully ordained by Providence, between the two sexes, when once they are ranged, as public competitors, in pride, zeal, envy, and jealousy, stimulating each other to the struggle for victory?
But to speak on the positive view of our subject. What is the appropriate sphere of woman? Miss Sedgwick, in her work on Self-training, has answered this question well, and to that I refer the reader. Meantime we all have, I think, an ideal of this sphere, although in the details of it we may somewhat differ. We all desire to see this portion of our race pure and pious; and we should add to these qualities gentleness, graceful manners, and a delicate, modest deportment. There are limits moreover of propriety, established in our own minds, beyond which we should be pained to see a friend of this sex ever pass. For one, I would not so contract these limits, as to repress the powers, or to do injustice to the capacities, or trench on the rights, of woman. I would encourage no Sultan spirit, nor arrogate a single claim over her, deduced from any assumed superiority of my own sex. Give her every opportunity; remove all obstacles; furnish the utmost facilities, and let God speak his will through her actions.
To this end, I would name first, what is incontestibly one part of the sphere of woman, Home. She may act in other situations, in this she must. Providence whispers to her in the cradle the divine monition, "Be a kind, obedient, dutiful daughter." And if, to the latest moment of her life, she heed not this solemn charge, she is false, not only to her own sex, but to man and to God.
The Sister, by what other virtues can she expiate a neglect of the claims of her beautiful relation? Let her be a monitor to the younger, and receive kindly the counsels of the elder, in her paternal circle, and how does she grace a sweet portion of her appropriate sphere. Nor will I omit to say, that whether united to another by the sacred bond of marriage or not, if she be a true woman, she is instinct with those inward charms, and Christian dispositions, which qualify her for that responsible connection. Intelligence, wisdom, disinterested affection, a mind to advise, a heart rich with sympathies, and a hand to aid,—these should find in her their chosen resting-place.
And what Mother can fill the sphere ordained for her sex, if she be not a devoted parent? Possessed of this trait, no woman can fail of honor and usefulness. She who looks on her race with a maternal interest, who feels that God hath made of one blood all the children of the earth, and who lives not for herself but her neighbor, she is of the genuine female nobility. There is in her character a grandeur,—let her dwell in "Alpine solitude,"—before which the admired of all admirers, the gay butterfly, whose wings open and close with the sun of adulation, shrinks into an object of pity.
Next to home, I should cite Private Beneficence, the scenes of Charity, and the chamber of sickness, as within the sphere of woman. Let her not only minister to the needs of her own fireside, but put on the sandals of mercy, and go forth to the bed of suffering, and the dwelling of poverty.
Does she court distinction and applause? There are those who would rend the air with shouts, did she pass as a Queen, in some gilded chariot; or clap their hands at the strains of her eloquence, in crowded halls. But how few are these, compared with those who commend her, who is an angel of love in the dark hours of life. What true woman would not prefer that the statue erected to her honor should be of the delicate ivory, rather than of brass, that emblem of boldness?
She who would follow Christ, must, I am sure, take generally the sequestered path of private charity, rather than live for the public gaze, though it were that of the host of officers and members of all the benevolent societies in Christendom. Who were the women, whose charities are engraven on the eternal records of the New Testament? Private almoners, Joanna, Mary Magdalen, Susanna, and others "ministered unto their Lord of their substance," by personal attendance.
But still farther, in the intercourse of Society, woman has duties appropriate to her sex, grave and weighty duties. I would not that she engage in a single pursuit, that shall disqualify her for this function. If she degrade herself to the rank of a painted image, decked in apparel to charm simpletons, or if she flutter in the breeze of silly speeches and simpering airs, she is a traitress to her nature. She goes out, deplorably out, of her sphere.
Nor would I that, by sun-burnt labors and field-tasks, she should bronze herself, and lose that refinement, which is a guardian to her virtue, and the anchor of her spiritual hope. A coarse woman, she who fails in all the attractions and graces of her sex, and who is a corrupter of good society, steps sadly aside from her place. While Christian gentleness, seeking to render all happy, and Christian purity, frowning on every shade of guilt, in social intercourse, are the true praise of this sex.
Lord Halifax, in his advice to his daughter, observes, "Nature hath made you such large amends for the seeming injustice of the first distribution, that the right of complaining is come over to our sex. You have it in your power, not only to free yourselves but to subdue your masters, and without violence, throw both their natural and legal authority at your feet. We are made of different tempers, that our defects may be mutually supplied. Your sex wanteth our reason for your conduct, and our strength for your protection; ours wanteth your gentleness to soften, and entertain us. The first part of our life is a good deal subjected to you in the nursery, where you reign, without competition, and by that means, have the advantage of giving the first impressions. Afterwards you have stronger influences, which well managed, have more force on your behalf, than all our privileges of jurisdiction can pretend to have against you. You have more strength in your looks, than we have in our laws; and more power by gentleness, than we have in our arguments."
Have I circumscribed too much the sphere of woman? Does she aspire to other and broader scenes of occupation? If God hath endowed any one with the spirit of a prophetess, let her prophecy; if of teaching, let her wait on that office. Wheresoever a capacity is bestowed, it is the sign-manual of Heaven. Forbid it, honor, justice, and all that is manly, that I close one avenue opened by the Divinity. But I have spoken of woman in the mass;
"Common clay, ta'en from the common earth, Moulded by God, and tempered by the tears Of angels, to the perfect form of woman."
She who is faithful to her Home, to the sacred calls of Charity, and to the holy impulses of her Social being, fulfils no mean office. She ranks with the glorious sisterhood, who have gone to the rest of the sainted. Let her soul be baptized into the spirit of God, let his glory be the seal of her deeds, and she shall at length join that great company, who "neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God."
Christianity a bond of union. Why woman was created. Her influence on Society; on Intellectual Culture. Madame Galvani. Miss Herschel. The Mother's Influence. Bonaparte's Remark. Alfred the Great. Influence on Society. Home friendly to piety and virtue. Man's Temptations. The plea of Eve. Fraternal and Sisterly Influence. The Mother's sway over her Children. Woman's Political Influence. The Christian Religion. The Church. Religious Education. Benevolent Enterprizes. The Minister of Legislative Beneficence. Responsibilities correspond to Influence. Madame de Stael's description of Society in Paris. Woman by Nature a Teacher. Domestic Claims. Patriotism. The women in the French Revolution. A Family in the West. Claims of Religion.
Christianity was designed for the benefit of all classes of mankind. There are none so high that it cannot raise them still higher; and none so low, as to escape its kindly notice and fostering influences. It unites in one fraternal bond, all who bear the impress of God. As a social religion, breaking down every wall of partition, and bringing the whole race into fellowship, its fundamental principle is, "We are members one of another;"—"No man liveth unto himself alone."
If we consider the influence of woman, on the Social, Intellectual, Moral, and Religious condition of the world, we shall find abundant reasons for giving a prominent place, in all counsels and instructions addressed to the public, to her spiritual necessities.
Let me here premise, that, in dwelling on this topic, I should revolt at the thought of administering to a vain, self-complacent spirit. It is mournful, it is humiliating to know, as we do, that the incense of adulation has been offered up to this sex, from the most selfish and unworthy motives, and in commendation of qualities which a true woman will regard as her lowest praise, mere personal attractions. Was it for this that the beneficent Author of nature called her into being? Does she answer the purpose of her existence by submitting to be the toy of man? Has God breathed into her an immortal principle, to bestow its best energies on the mortal frame that enshrines it? to live for an outward adorning? to be satisfied with applause for her external graces alone?
"For nobler cares, for joys sublime, He fashioned all the heirs of time."
This position will be confirmed by a view of the influence of woman on the condition of Society. If this be at all extensive, then we must infer that her Creator intended she should be thoroughly educated; that her moral and intellectual powers should be fully developed; that the spirit should not be subject to, but reign over, and that with entire supremacy, the outward and perishable form.
But, is it not true, that civilization, refinement, and the manners and habits of society, depend much on her character? In Christian lands, and beneath our own observation, we can see that it is so. Mark the nation, the city, the village, where order, purity and the social virtues in general, prevail. What is there the female character? We hazard nothing in the reply, that it is elevated, accomplished, and pure. The coarse jest, the impure expression, the subtle inuendo,—poisoning the more surely and deeply, by its very obscureness,—where are these tolerated? Where woman maintains the high rank of her sex? No! for she has but to frown on such improprieties, and steadily, and on all occasions, to discountenance them, and they are banished from the social circle. Let her influence, in this regard, be correct, let it be mild and gentle, yet always decided, and there is no passion so rude, nor any proneness to an outbreaking of temper, or to a violation of the courtesies of life, which she cannot, and does not, restrain.
The influence of woman on the Intellectual condition of the world, is by no means small, or unimportant. How many of our best literary productions are from her pen. Science owes much to her. Galvani acknowledged himself much indebted to his wife, for aid in those investigations which led to the discovery of the science that bears his name. Miss Herschel, sister of the distinguished astronomer, received a gold medal from the Astronomical Society in London, in praise of her contributions to their great work. In how many Seminaries of learning has woman been the chief instrument in forming the minds of the youth, not only of her own but of both sexes. Who has not marked, that where a taste for reading and mental cultivation is found, there the female sex is usually intelligent, educated, and refined. It follows indeed naturally, that a well trained intellect will discover itself in the intercourse of society, and that it will impart a tone to its familiar associates. She who reads much and profitably, will converse upon the subjects that have occupied her thoughts. This will incite others to imitate her course; and pride is sufficient,—were no higher motive awakened,—to induce man to make himself at least the companion and equal of her who thus laudably cultivates the nobler part of her nature.
But should this position be questioned, none can doubt that in one sphere the intellectual influence of woman can hardly be exaggerated. I refer to that of the Mother. "What is wanting," said Napoleon, one day, to Madame Campan, "in order that the youth of France be well educated?" "Good mothers," was her reply. This struck the Emperor. "Here," said he, "is a system of education in one word." Let the mind of this parent be imbued with knowledge, and her children will imbibe from her the love of learning. How often has she planted germs, which in subsequent years expanded, and produced the fairest fruits of science and wisdom. It is related of Alfred the Great, that at the age of twelve years, when he had not even learned the alphabet, his mother once shewed him and his brothers a volume adorned with versicolored letters and other embellishments. Seeing it excite the admiration of the children, she promised to present it to him who should first learn to read it. Alfred immediately procured a teacher for himself, and in a short time was enabled to claim the promised reward. And such was his thirst for knowledge, that, in after years, he became one of the most learned men of his nation. Bacon, Cuvier, Sir William Jones and many other prodigies of learning, received their first impulse in the path of study from their mothers. Who is that mother, that thinks lightly of her influence on the minds of her children? Let her know that on her it may now be depending, whether a son is to pass through life, ignorant of this world, of his duties as a man, a citizen, and a Christian; or to be so educated as to adorn the stations he may hereafter fill, to be a blessing to his country, an honor to his race, and better than all, trained up to know and to serve the Great Father of lights.
This leads me to observe, that woman affects vitally the interests of Society, from the transcendent influence she exerts on the Domestic relations in general. The prosperity of nations depends intimately on the prevalence of the fireside virtues. Unless the foundations of order, peace, and a genuine benevolence be laid in our homes, we can hope for none of these essential blessings. Let there be discord in our families, and the same spirit that creates it, will lead to public, civil, social, and political, dissensions. If our sons are trained up in an allowed disrespect to their parents, the retribution will be felt, not only in the privacy of our homes, but everywhere around us. And the daughter, who demeans herself irreverently toward the guardians of her life, will not fail to manifest the same melancholy trait in her intercourse with all her superiors.
Nor may we confine these remarks to this one aspect. We desire kind neighbors, men who will regard the rights and the happiness of others, and who will strive to promote them in their daily walk. But from what school do these virtues usually proceed? Where are generous, conciliatory, obliging dispositions first formed? In the family circle. The faithful and affectionate husband, the tender, yet wise and judicious father, the considerate and kind brother, these are the elements which constitute both the good citizen and the good neighbor. He who is false to the claims of home, may shine on splendid occasions, and attract the admiration of a distant world of spectators. But his heart is hollow, and the more he is known, the less will he be loved or esteemed, and the feebler will be his influence.
The inquiry then becomes of paramount interest, "What are the chief springs of domestic wellbeing?" Who are they, that contribute most largely to the advancement of piety at home? I answer, with confidence, the female sex. For what is essential to piety at home? It is gentleness, quiet habits, the beautiful harmony of many members, fulfilling each its appropriate function. It is the peaceful spirit of the Gospel, mingling with the joint efforts of a well disposed household.
But the habits and occupations of man are adverse to this tranquil temper. He is called, in the pursuit of property, to labor abroad, amid conflicting interests. Competition, the pursuits of a crowd, eager for gain, planning and toiling ceaselessly to reap some little advantage over their fellows, this is the sea on which he must follow his fortune. And what a restless and troubled deep it is. Now the sun beams brightly, and the wind is propitious to his course; anon, darkness gathers over his prospects; clouds are lowering; the distant murmur of peril is heard. Too happy is he, if some portentous sign do not swell, and ripen, and at length break upon him, in dread fulfillment of his fears. And what but the same unquiet path do the sons of Ambition tread? Party excitement, and the contests of rival factions, are to them the very breath of life. An intense interest in political questions is at war with inward peace. He who burns for office, station, and power, has little within him congenial with the calm of the domestic circle. And these are the two great spheres of human occupation, gain, and honor; they are both exciting, both unfriendly to the highest virtues of home.
Nor is this all; the employments of our sex lead us of necessity away from the fireside. Were they ever so favorable to quiet excellence, we should be compelled, for the livelihood of our families, to absent ourselves, a large proportion of our lives, from this sphere of duty. But woman passes her days within the walls of domestic retirement. That is her accustomed scene of toil. In the temptations that befall her relatives abroad, she is not present. But where thoughtfulness comes, where good resolutions are formed, where the tears of penitence are shed, in that sacred retreat where man finds his only refuge for prayer, for self-examination, and for the culture of the spiritual life, there woman habitually dwells.
From this circumstance, joined to her native susceptibilities, she is pre-eminently qualified to preside over and foster the fireside virtues. Who has not seen the unbelieving husband sanctified, made serious and holy, by the believing wife? Where a free intercourse on the subject of religion exists between them, it can hardly be that man is not softened, his thoughts withdrawn at times from the world, and the concerns of the soul, infinite and eternal considerations, brought home to his heart by the power of his nearest earthly friend. Sometimes, alas! she, whose whole nature and whose entire condition seem but one lesson to awaken piety, has given her influence against it. By a worldly disposition, by a neglect of the means of religion, or by indifference to the most solemn themes, and an habitual levity of character and speech, the wife has been known to check the best aspirations of her husband, and reduce his spirit to the same low, earthly level with her own. She has fastened the more firmly around him, that chain, which the love of riches, or a thirst for fame, had already drawn till it corroded his immortal part. And when God has spoken to his conscience, and rebuked him for his iniquity, what better plea was at hand than this, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat"?
Look again at the fraternal influences in a family group. What inestimable power, can a wise and virtuous Sister exert. Has she a brother prone to waywardness and passion? Her words may restrain his wanderings, her example subdue his anger. It can hardly fail, that a daily influence, mild, gentle, Christian in its character, will produce no effect on so near a relative. Do the brothers incline to seek their recreations abroad? Are the charms of merriment, of sensuality, or of questionable excitements and pleasures, stealing on the heart, and estranging it from God and duty, from purity and heaven? Now is the moment for kind remonstrance, for affectionate counsel, and earnest entreaty. She, who employs these means, and adds to them all the attractions she can throw round their common home, may be sure that her efforts will not be lost. Let her persevere, and success, earlier or later, shall crown her toils and hopes. What power is there in her intercessions before Heaven, "Years have passed away," says the grateful brother, as his thoughts revert to his distant home, "and Heaven has prospered me. Often, when temptations have assailed me, should I have yielded to them, had not a still small voice have whispered, thy sister prays for thee."
"High above The fret and tumult, and discordant jar Of the base world, she led me, and the war Of grosser passions, which she dreamed not of."
But there is yet another relation, which gives woman her chief power over the destinies of our race. It is that of the Mother. We have already spoken of this power, as affecting the intellect of children. But a far higher work is still to be accomplished. For if the mind alone be educated; if science and literature be all she impart to them, if their love of knowledge be not quickened and controlled by a spiritual love, it will be a vain possession. The culture of the religious affections, the developement of the sense of duty and of the entire moral nature, this is the great business of human life. And to whom has God entrusted the commencement of this solemn work? Who is to cherish the swelling bud, who to point the infant soul to its spiritual Father? On whom does it devolve to call forth the infant man? Where is the influence that shall keep the young heart from fatal wanderings and errors? It is the mother to whom we look, for the discharge of these momentous offices. It is not more certain that Providence designed her to supply the first wants of the animal nature, than it is that she must impart to her child its spiritual nutriment. If she neglect to do this, there remains no substitute, none to whom we can turn, to excite, purify and foster its immortal faculties. An irreligious mother! what an anomaly, what a monster, among things human, is she. A wicked woman is always one of the darkest spectacles this earth can exhibit. But if that woman be a parent, and give poison to her own offspring, who can exaggerate her faithlessness, her unnatural, may I not say, her inhuman qualities?
The influence of woman is felt beyond the circle of her own fireside, in the wellbeing of her Country. If this sex contribute so largely, as we have affirmed, to the progress of civilization and refinement, then can it be no little aid they afford, by their character and exertions, to the support of pure political institutions.
True, the fair hand of woman deposits no vote in the ballot box. She takes no part, at primary meetings, or on days of election, with the mass who place men in office. But is she therefore destitute of political power? No, she has the sacred right of petition. She may be heard, appealing to the legislative body for redress of the wrongs done her, or of the grievances she suffers. Question, as some may, the expediency of her ever exercising this privilege, she has still great influence, a far greater one than the exercise of this right can give her, over the destinies of her country. Think of the mother of Washington. Peruse the biography of the wife of that sainted patriot. Study the character of the elder Mrs. Adams, of the wife of Hancock, and of the long list of females, who lived and toiled in the period of our Revolution. Could they do nothing,—did they accomplish little,—for this country? How many hearts were cheered in the Senate chamber, what courage was infused on the battle-field, by the mother, companion, sister, and daughter, among the noble race that then lived.
In these latter days, what is to give integrity to the statesman, purity to the patriot, and true glory to the nation? It must be done in part by woman. Let her be educated, and above all, let her educate herself, in intelligence, grace, and holiness, and I have no fear of conflicts abroad, or of perils at home. The little watchman, shut in the security of a glazed frame, does not more surely save the ship, amid darkness and storm, than does she, who at the quiet fireside, exerts the influence which she may for her country, on son, husband, and brother, by pointing out the path of political salvation.
The influence of woman is felt in the general interests of the Christian Religion. We have already remarked that she was a personal friend and servant of Christ, while he was on earth. Nor did her devotedness to his cause, terminate with his ascension to heaven. We read of "some of the chief women and the devout," as among the earliest converts of the Apostles. Paul speaks of certain "women, which labored with him in the Gospel," and he sends numerous special salutations to individual females, who had "helped him in the Lord;" shewing that this sex took a direct share in the promulgation of Christianity. They not only embraced it with their whole soul and strength, but they gave their influence, both remote and immediate, to induce others to participate in its blessings.
Their efforts have been seen in determining the general character of the Christian world. If any age has been peculiarly spiritual, or any people more than ordinarily devout, it was because woman was there true to the holiest impulses of her nature. Point me to the most prosperous era of the institutions of Christianity; shew me a sect, who honor the Sabbath, or who sustain most liberally the ministers of Christ, and I am confident that then and there the female sex will be found most active in defence of the holy day, and of sanctuary privileges.
Look at the Church of Christ. Who are they that confessed their Lord before men, in the early ages of the gospel? "Within a few years after Christ, the Christian martyrologies are full of the names of female sufferers, who, for Jesus' sake, went to the stake, with all the courage and inflexibility of apostles."
Whence come the majority of church communicants? Let woman reply. She, who at first encountered danger and death, and who inspired man to do likewise, has always been prompt to profess her faith at the table of her Lord, and give her influence to the honor of his visible church. Had this work been left to the other sex, where had been now this goodly fellowship of avowed believers? Should woman ever forsake her Master, or shrink from bearing his name at the altar, it would portend gloom, decay, and desolation, to the fair fabric she now so devoutly upholds.
To the female sex we owe a large share of the benefits resulting from the present enlarged means and methods of religious education. Not only in the day school, and at the fireside, but in the Sunday school, we find this sex occupied in one of their most hallowed services, the training of the young. Difficulties occur in securing and retaining the aid of male teachers in the Sabbath school. The heart of man is not always so disengaged from the world, and so intent on the calls for a pious benevolence to the young, as to come cheerfully and punctually to this divine work. But our female teachers are prompt to assume, and unwearied in the discharge of, this function. What were the institution, without the spirit of woman operating on its vital principles, toiling and praying, and sacrificing herself, to save those "little ones" whom Jesus loves?
"Meekly ye forfeit to your mission kind The rest of earthly Sabbaths.—Be your gain A Sabbath without end, 'mid yon celestial plain."
Let me add, that the Benevolent Enterprizes which mark the train of Christianity, have received much of their support from woman. Previous to the coming of Christ, public charities were nearly unknown. Among the names of the disinterested women of the first century, who were "full of good works, and alms-deeds, which they did," stands that of Dorcas. Her example was not lost on the ages that followed. And in the Catholic church, the kind, self-denying labors of the "Sisters of Charity," are worthy of all commendation.
To whom, but to this sex, are we indebted for the sacred and sympathetic services rendered by the multiplied Benevolent Associations and Institutions of our own age? So long as the Orphan has a tongue to tell of her deeds, or the sick-bed of Poverty can show a gleam of gratitude, or the Seaman's heart shall beat and glow, they will testify, that it is woman, who is God's high-priest of mercy to the suffering. Legislation may appropriate its thousands for the Blind, the Dumb, and the Insane; but how poor were its consolations, did not she who best knows how to smooth the pillow for the aching head, and cheer the spirit in its heaviness, administer to each sufferer the public bounty? Who can estimate her influence in originating, and directing, in co-operation with man, and in giving its final efficacy to, every blessed charity, that springs from the soil of Christianity?
Such being the influence of woman on all the great interests of humanity, how should she exert it? Is there any peculiar inference to be drawn from the possession of this mighty power? No candid mind can deny that it involves responsibilities, corresponding precisely to its extent. To whom much is given, of them much is required. Were this sex of insignificant moment in the world, then might they plead for an exemption from its duties and obligations. But now the burden presses on them, and no individual can cast it lightly from herself.
In society, woman should ever bear with her a deep conviction of the power she there exercises. Her deportment should never be of that frivolous, or insipid character, which betrays no consciousness of a share in the dignity of our nature. She should carry to the social circle a sense of the value of human life, and a resolution to acquit herself as becomes an intelligent and immortal being. A courteous, yet perfectly natural manner, a cultivated understanding, and pure morals, are the tribute she should lay on this altar.
Why should our approach to a lady be the signal for trifling and nonsense? How long shall there be circles of this sex, from which a man of sense must turn away with the caustic saying of Wallenstein,
"I cannot traffic in the trade of words With that unreasoning sex."?
When will the civilities of social life become, through her influence, something beside an exchange of heartless forms, or of self-seeking attentions? Precisely so soon, and so fast as woman shall determine to reject the empty adulation of fops and simpletons, to be commended only for what deserves praise, and to be entirely sincere and Christian, in the social interview, no less than by her own fireside. Until this take place, society, in fashionable circles, will be, as an authoress remarks, like "the brilliant assemblies of Paris, a collection of young men who have nothing to do, and young women who have nothing to say."
The responsibleness of woman extends widely through the world of Intellect. She is called to preside over schools for the nurture of the infant mind. Every child receives thus the impress of her taste and talents. Shall she come to this work, and daily pursue it, without a thoughtful preparation for her task? Is it for the mother to say, "I may read little or much, as I please. Of what consequence is the condition of my mind?" when she can hardly breathe on the germs before her, without either blighting their beauty, and checking their expansion, or shedding life, health, and eternal freshness, upon them?
Let no young lady disclaim for herself any lot or portion in those sober concerns. Hannah More had, at one time, more than a thousand children under her instruction. Others have recently followed in her steps. Every woman is, I maintain, by virtue of her sex, a teacher. There are now, or there sometime may be, minds subjected to her influence, over whose destinies, for weal or for wo, she will exert a fearful sway. Is it certain she will never be school-mistress, or mother, or guide and guardian to another? No, it is certain that, unless her path be strange, secluded, and anomalous, she will be either the architect, or destroyer of, or at least, a more than leaden weight on, some human intellect. Let her reflect on this fact, and conduct herself always in view of it.
At the fireside, what a sum of duties does her power impose? Here she wields a more than regal sceptre. Wisely did Boaz argue the excellence of Ruth, when he said, in reply to her modest question, "why have I found grace in thine eyes?" "It has fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law, since the death of thy husband." Such domestic piety, a virtue that could sacrifice home, people, substance, and which tendered even life itself for a parent, was an earnest of the choicest worth. It formed
"A wreath that cannot fade, of flowers that bloom With most success, when all beside decay."
Of the confessed power of the mother, and the unrivalled claims of her children on her spiritual care, no language can speak too strongly, or even in adequate terms. From the hour when their first cry announces to her their utter helplessness, onward through the trials of childhood, and the crossing elements of youth, till they part from her charge,—no, this they never do,—but until she grasps their hand amid the chill of death, they draw from her, as a well-spring of life. What a question then is there to be asked, "Does she shed upon them an Eden-like fragrance? Is she a true mother?" Worlds of wellbeing hang on the answer.
In every domestic relation, the influence of woman is of transcendent concern. Let her measure the responsibilities that attach to her position. The faithful daughter, the kind sister, the disinterested inmate, no less than the parent, must habitually realize, that around that little spot, her home, she is distilling and must distill, either dews that fertilize the spirit, or night-damps which blast what they touch.
Consider the demands of her country upon woman. Sparta required her women to bear arms in war. Rome called on hers for the austere virtues of heathenism. But America justly anticipates in this sex a union of grace with power, intellectual cultivation sustained by moral and religious attainments. During the French Revolution, we are told that the wives and daughters of the celebrated artists gave their jewels to extinguish the national debt. Would that they had added the fairer gift of the Christian graces.
She who shapes so emphatically the destinies of home, should be aware of the calls of patriotism on her sex. I have read of a family in the West, in which the daily conversation of both sexes is, "What can I do for my country?" Rare as this example may be, I earnestly hope that, through a sense of her high obligations to her country, woman will everywhere emulate its spirit.
Is it not due for the rank she is allowed to hold in our republic? Released from the servitude of her sex, which prevails in so many foreign lands, and recognized as a partaker in the divinity of our nature, why should she sink into inaction? How, as if an angel spoke to her soul, should she rise and gird herself in the meek robes of righteousness, standing fast by the young, and inciting them to a lofty patriotism, quickening brother, husband and son, to public integrity, and calming the fierce spirit of political contention.
But how shall I describe the paramount necessity of woman's devotion to the interests of religion? Christianity regards her as a human being, equal in moral power to man, and accountable to the same God and Judge with him. Our religion has elevated her sex from Pagan degradation, and expects a commensurate return, in her superior virtue. Let her then first give her own soul to God, and then shew forth in her works the spirit of her Savior. By the study of the Scriptures; by establishing herself in a rational faith; by an humble profession of her belief in Jesus; by diligence in the Sunday instruction of the young, and by a series of benevolent and charitable offices, among the sick and the needy, let her requite the love of God, as manifested in the Gospel of his Son.
How can one of this sex, constitutionally gifted with strong and enduring affections, sequestered from man's peculiar temptations, and summoned by unnumbered considerations, to meditate on heaven, be other than pious, other than a beacon-light on the rock-begirt coast of human life? What can she offer at the judgment-seat of Christ, if she have denied him on earth? To every young woman, I would say, shew
"That thou, in the prime of earliest youth Wisely hast shunned the broad way and the green, And with those few art eminently seen, That labor up the hill of heavenly truth." * * * * * * "That Thy care is fixed, and zealously attends To fill thy odorous lamp with deeds of light."
The term lady. Its various significations. How should woman be educated. As a Human Being. For a Peculiar Sphere. The Persian Women. Hindoo Doctrine. Temperament and Susceptibilities. Madame de Stael's Opinion. Influence. Remark of Cato. Isabella's Influence. Should receive the Best Education. The Whole Nature to be Developed. Wordsworth's Description. The Future. To be Educated partly in Public. Good Intellectual training. Imparts Vigor. Good Taste. Knowledge. Secures good Mental Habits. Is Practical. Qualifies for Every Station. Inspires Virtue. Madame Neckar's View. Mrs. Jameson's. Conversation, an Art. Speak from your own Mind and Heart; of Principles, not Persons. Make Friendships Improving. Intimacies of the School-room. Self-education at Home, and in Private. Reading. Meditation. Extract from Coleridge.
The prophet Isaiah, when predicting the fate that awaited the renowned Babylon, uses the following striking expression: "And thou saidst, I shall be a lady forever; so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it." The term lady, here employed in personifying a prosperous city, is one of various significations. Its etymology is Saxon, it being derived from a word meaning "loaf-giver;" which refers to the custom of females distributing bread among retainers, after the feasts which were held in the halls of barons. In later periods it has been used, under monarchical governments, to designate women of rank, the wives of knights, and the daughters of earls. It is used by the apostle John as a title of honor: "The elder unto the elect lady and her children." We find it employed by the prophet in still another sense, that of dominion and power: "Thou shalt no more be called the lady of kingdoms." In our modern use of it, there is perhaps a union of these two significations. I shall be a lady forever, would be now understood to mean, "I shall be always an object of supreme attention, and of honor. To me will also belong all power, so that I can command the services of whom I will, and be free myself from all care and effort."
Before proceeding to my main topic, let me premise, that the word woman is, in my judgment, an honorable appellation; and that, under our republican institutions especially, it should be regarded as no ordinary praise, to say of a female, she is a true woman. Better, far better aspire to deserve this name, than to repose indolently on a rank and a title deduced from monarchies, to say to thyself, "I shall be a lady forever." But our present associations with the term lady being such as they are, and so many in every condition being jealous of their claims as ladies, I am compelled to adopt that appellation in order to guard against injurious misapprehensions.
Having spoken already of the capacities of this sex, and said something also of their Influence, we are now prepared to answer the great questions, "How should woman be educated? Under what training should she be placed? and what is the End of her tuition?"
First, I reply, she should be educated as a Human Being, possessed in common with man, of an intelligent, moral, and spiritual nature. Christianity recognizes no distinction of the sexes, so far as the broad principles of piety and virtue are concerned. Both are endowed with the same conscience. To each is allotted the same sphere of discipline; and unto both is the gospel of Christ, in its solemn appeals, its sacred encouragements, hopes and promises, and its fearful sanctions, alike addressed.
Contemplate this holy companionship, and how insignificant seem those barriers raised between the two sexes, in some ages and countries, by the pride, the caprice, and the despotism, of man. Are we destined to a common moral tribunal? Pitiful is his spirit, who, for any fancied or real, outward advantages, shall here and now, with the ancient philosopher, "thank God that he was born a man, and not a woman." And contracted or misjudging must she be, who allows herself, even in the secrecy of her heart, to look on one of the opposite sex with the murmur, "O that Heaven had made me such a man." In all that is noblest, purest, divinest, thou art a man. Defile not thy spirit with invidious prayers. Thank God that thou dost share with man all that dignifies him, all that is worthy the high aspirations of immortality. Educate thyself as a human being; unfold the godlike powers, which are thy joint possession with man; prize and improve thy blessed partnership in the bequest of Jesus, and thou shall rejoice evermore.
Nor is this view at variance with the position that to woman is assigned a peculiar sphere of duty and action. Her gifts differ, in some important respects, from those of man. Her station and relations in life are not his.
A second point then is this, that she should be so educated as to know her appropriate sphere. There are two errors in this respect, which she is liable to commit. She may undervalue her capacities, and imagine, that being able to acquire or perform little, nothing need be attempted; or that her influence is trifling, that she helps few and harms less, and therefore, whether she be ignorant or learned is of no consequence. Or she may pass to the opposite extreme, and believe herself all-competent, qualified by nature to cope with man in every situation. This view will lead her to self-satisfaction, and of course prove unfriendly to her moral character, and to her spiritual culture. The affectation that has sometimes accompanied learning in females, has led not a few men to abhor the very name of a "literary lady."
A good education will so expand her mind and mature her judgment, as to rescue her from the dangers of these fatal extremes. A refined intellect will not consent, with the women of Persia, to dwell in the harem; nor subscribe to the Hindoo doctrine, that "the female who can read or write, is disqualified for domestic life, and is the heir of misfortunes." Neither will such a one aspire to the baubles of office, pant to join in harangues to the crowd, or to compete with man at the ballot-box.
Woman has rights; but how shall she truly understand them? Not through ignorance, not by being half-educated, or miseducated. It can be only through a liberal culture of all her faculties. So trained, she will ever bear in mind "that knowledge is not to elevate her above her station, nor to excuse her from the discharge of its most trifling duties. It is to teach her to know her place, and her functions, to make her content with the one, and willing to fulfil the other. It is to render her more useful, more humble, more happy."
"Such a woman will not seek distinction, and therefore she will not meet with disappointment. She will not be dependent on the world, and thus she will avoid its vexations. She will be happy in the fulfilment of religious and domestic duty, and in the profitable employment of her time."
Woman should be educated according to her Constitutional Temperament and Susceptibilities. If, in any respect, her endowments be, as they certainly are, superior to those of man, then let there be but a secondary degree of culture given to these faculties. Has she naturally a nicer perception of beauty, or propriety, a more correct taste than man, then do not bestow your chief care on the developement of this quality. Is she less gifted with strength of intellect, with calmness, or comprehensive understanding than man, employ the greater efforts to supply this defect. Let the solid preponderate over the merely ornamental. Plant not the pliant osier, but the firmer elm. Instil principles of severe reasoning, and form habits of connected thought. Is she rich in imagination? Madam de Stael tells us she is, that this is the chief of her faculties, and that "her sentiments are troubled by her fancies, and her actions dependent on her illusions." If this be so, then strengthen her judgment. Does she love God, inspire her with a boundless philanthropy. Thus will she be a true companion and undisputed equal of man. Excitableness and acute sensibility will be beautifully tempered in her by the spirit of sound knowledge and good sense. The whole character shall be fitly framed together in Christ and in life.
Let the education of woman be commensurate with her influence. Is it true that, in the complexion of social life, she is mistress of that which decides its hues? Then let her be trained to wield this fearful power with skill, with principle, and for the salvation of social man. Does she sometimes bear the sceptre of a nation's wellbeing in her hand? Cato said of his countrymen, "The Romans govern the world, but it is the women that govern the Romans." The discovery of this very continent testifies to the political influence of woman. Who favored the bold genius of Columbus? Do you say Ferdinand of Spain? I answer, it was Isabella, prompting her partner to the patronage he so reluctantly bestowed. Her influence unexerted, the Genoese mariner had never worn the laurel that now graces his brow. Will you leave this all-potent being illiterate, to rear sons debased by ignorance, and to become dupes of the demagogue?
Look at the Domestic circle. Not more surely does the empress of night illuminate and beautify the whole canopy of heaven, than does woman, if educated aright, irradiate, and give its fairest tints to, her own fireside. To leave her uncultivated, a victim to ignorance, prejudice, and the vices they entail, is to take home to our own bosoms a brood that will inflict pangs sharper than death. For the love and honor of our homes, let us encourage the most liberal culture of the female mind.
A more general diffusion of the privileges now enjoyed by a few only, would prevent the envy of others, no less than the vanity of the favored ones. It would assimilate the tastes, and multiply the sympathies, of the sexes; it would repress the arrogant sense of superiority in man, and convince him that woman was neither made for a household drudge, nor yet for an education of mere show and accomplishment. The useful would be seen to benefit her at least as much as man.
Some are fearful that women may become too learned, that they will then be discontent with their ordinary occupations, and become tinged with "blue," and lose their native simplicity. Such should recollect that it is "shallow draughts" of knowledge, which "intoxicate the brain." A truly learned person seldom affects superiority to others, or gives himself airs. I know of no better security against the tyranny of fashion, against caprice, ennui, and the languishments of indolence, than a well stored mind. She who best comprehends her nature and relations, will usually best adorn any and every sphere in which Providence may place her.
I am led here to say, that if a distinction must exist in the education of the sexes, that, which is deemed the weaker, should receive the best. Is it not palpably unjust to assign woman a low rank in the scale of intellect, when we do nothing to elevate her to an equality in this respect with man? Why educate the girl only in the graces of learning, while you give the boy tasks which try his utmost power? Are accomplishments all she needs to place her on a level with man? Yet how often do we see her
"Bred only * * * * * * * * * * * * to sing, to dance, To dress, and troule the tongue, and roll the eye."
Give her facilities for the full culture of her understanding and the highest faculties of her soul, and if she then fail, with more reason may you repeat the taunt about her mental inferiority to man.
This leads to the remark, that female education should embrace our whole nature, and not one portion of it. Why sacrifice the body to the improvement of the mind? It is a melancholy spectacle to witness the pale countenances and attenuated forms of many youth of this sex, as they issue from the school-room. How long shall consumption prey on so many at this age? When will American females imitate those of our fatherland, where sickness among this sex is almost as rare as perfect health is in our own country?
And why should the Moral powers be neglected as they are, and their culture postponed to that of the intellect? For manifold reasons these faculties should be simultaneously developed. The best interests of the mind demand it. Increase the moral energies, and you strengthen the intellect. Vice does not more corrupt the soul, than it darkens the judgment. A pure heart is a well-spring of clear thought. Again, virtue promotes mental composure. It confers inward peace; it secures that tranquillity, without which no science can be successfully pursued. Sin disturbs the reason. Putting evil for good leads one to substitute error in general for truth. Nero was said to be as deficient in taste, as he was cruel and wicked. The imagination of a profligate cannot be other than depraved. And then, as regards the great objects of life, do good, and you perceive these with more and more clearness. Thus is "light" always "sown to the righteous." Live in God, and you enjoy a perpetual sunshine.
Earnestly, therefore, would I plead with all occupied in female education, that while they encourage the study of the philosophy of life, they join with it the practice of its duties. Let knowledge be the herald of goodness. Let intellectual improvement conduct to active virtue, and sincere piety. Unite with literary excellence a devotion to home, to charity, to faith and prayer. I have now in mind a picture of moral purity surmounting skill in the divine tones of music, and the exercises of the pencil and the brush.—Virtuous maiden,
"Thou wear'st upon thy forehead clear The freedom of a mountaineer; A face with gladness overspread! Soft smiles, by human kindness bred! And heavenliness complete, that sways Thy courtesies, about thee plays."
Of what avail indeed is the best literary education, if the heart be left barren and dead? Can any degree of knowledge compensate for a selfish spirit? Let envy, pride, jealousy, vanity, be nurtured by the studies that engage the mind of a young lady, and who can rejoice at her intellectual progress? Better have less learning, less mental power, than increase these possessions only to desecrate them in the service of iniquity. Ignorance is always a less evil than guilt. No amount of literary acquisitions can atone for the want of a spiritual mind, for frivolity, heartlessness, and irreligion. Let then the desire to be useful, to be holy and heavenly, crown and consecrate the education of woman. Let her ponder on wisdom and learning, and "lay all these things to her heart."
Female culture should always have reference to the Future. It should lead to a remembrance of the "latter end" of life's course. How much has been done, in this work, for the present, for show and effect. Instead of rearing a thorough edifice, of sound materials, and on a firm foundation, the endeavor has too often been to build up in a day a specious structure. So has it been, that, when, the storms of life came on, the moral building was rocked by the winds, the rain pierced its thin covering; it rested on the sand; it fell, and great was its fall.
Here is a young school-girl. What is to be her situation on arriving at womanhood? Must she assume responsible stations? Have we here the germ of the conjugal tie, and the elements of maternal influence? How then can we forget these relations, and train a being fit only to bask in the beams of praise? Let not this be. Address now the same motives as you must in subsequent years. If there must then be self-denial, toil, and care, for the love of humanity, leave not the young heart, at this stage, to become steeped in selfishness. Let the glory of God and the good of man become now solemn and effective considerations.
We come here to speak naturally of the Place, the theatre, on which the young female must be educated.
It is to be done partly in public, at the schools instituted for this purpose. But I do not design to enter the halls of science and literature. I would rather, adverting here to the conclusion of her studies, confine myself to the use which a young lady should make of the education she has received at school. The advantages, now enjoyed by the youth of our land for mental culture, are rare. Parents are solicitous that their children should spend much time at the seats of learning. The daughters are receiving a far higher intellectual training than their mothers enjoyed. But is this all a sure good? Have the thousand rivulets of learning that now flow fast by our homes, sprung all from a crystal fount? Do they, in a word,—for that is the test question,—so penetrate the life and soul of the young, as to give them solid, practical excellence? I fear not.
Much is said about "finishing the education." And finished, in one sense, is that of many females in this age. For, between their school culture and their subsequent character, there is as little connection as between the body and its dress. The school-room is left, and the garment, so beautiful to the eye, falls at once off. Into the centre and essence of the individual's being, the permanent character, nothing has passed. The books once studied are gladly thrown aside. Not a single motive is felt, to press forward in the noble work of self-education. Languages have been learned; but their great object, as keys to the study of foreign literatures, is left unanswered. History is a dull theme; philosophy is merged in the newest novel; dress and gossip, a little fancy needle-work, and a world of castle-building,—oh! it is sad; it is humiliating; would to God it were false. I speak to the wise, judge ye, and say if the picture has not some counterpart within your personal knowledge.
But how should the young lady improve the literary privileges of her early days? Let her not depend on the reputation of the teacher who instructed her, nor of the school, high though it be, which she last attended; nor yet again on the branches she has studied, however numerous or unusual they are. It is her own efforts, the attention, the application, and the intellectual toil she passed through, on which alone she may reflect with satisfaction. What effect did all these studies produce on her mind? Is the tree laden with fruits, or did the profusion of blossoms fall barren to the earth?
Among the results of a good intellectual training is this; it gives vigor to all the powers of the mind. Memory is cultivated, but not at the expense of the understanding. Female pupils often shine in those branches which depend on mere memory, while they fail in those which task the reason. Geography and history are their delight; mathematics and metaphysics, their aversion. This should not be.
Woman is exposed, by her habitual seclusion, to many narrowing influences. She has little of that severe discipline of the mind to which man is daily subjected. His intercourse with the world is more extensive. His whole life is a school for the intellect, while she is restricted, to a great degree, within the limits of home. Her duties consist much of details; and small subjects engender contracted views. Therefore should her early days be devoted to studies that, in after life, will serve to counteract this evil tendency. It should be made a matter of principle with teachers and parents,—and the pupil must, of course, co-operate in their plan,—to enlarge her mental vision, to fortify her intellect against limited notions, and to strengthen her judgment. The atmosphere of the fireside is often close and oppressive; let her in her youth, breathe the free air of heaven. So will her mental constitution be invigorated and prepared for all coming duty.
If I may venture to recommend one study in particular, for its invigorating influence, I would name the practice of frequent composition. She who writes daily, whether it be in her journal, or essays on indifferent subjects, or even good letters, will, in addition to many other benefits of this practice, strengthen in herself greatly the habit of connected and profitable thought.
Study should form intellectual Tastes. To what purpose has the girl been placed all these years at school, if, when her privileges terminate, she has no fondness for study? Why lead her through the pleasant fields of learning, if, at the close of her walk, she is to possess no relish for these scenes? She has drank at "the wells of English undefiled," and shall she now turn aside and imbibe the turbid waters of a corrupt and corrupting literature? Alas! that she should now prefer fiction and folly to the healthful writings of wise men. Deplorable is it, that her past lessons of instruction, so many and so faithful, must now, by her own indolence or perversion, prove to have fallen on her ear, like snow-flakes that melt on the ocean.
Another office of education at school is to impart Knowledge. It has been said that a woman must possess either beauty or knowledge to commend her to favorable notice in the world. The former is the rare gift of nature; while the latter may be always acquired. John Wilkes, who was as famous for his ugly face as for being universally popular in society, on being asked the secret of his popularity, answered, that "it took him but five minutes to talk away his face." What a talisman might every young woman thus bear with her into society, would she early cultivate and store her mind. How should it be, that she who has spent years over grammar, cannot now write a letter to a friend without violating its fundamental principles? I have read of one, who, when at a loss how to spell a word, put a dash under the doubtful letters, that if wrong, they might pass for a jest. Miserable subterfuge! What better is it to pass the most precious period of life in a school room, if such be the fruits, than to live uneducated and ignorant? Those are indeed the truly and unpardonably ignorant, who leave their studies with no accurate knowledge. Better is her lot, who was constrained to give her whole youth to manual labor, if she have a thirst for knowledge, and devote her leisure frugally to profitable reading.
The young lady should not finish her school occupations without securing good Habits of mind. Let her carry through life her present mental discipline. Let her accustom herself, if she read a book, to review and give an account to herself of its contents. Is she listening to a discourse? What a valuable means may it be made of intellectual improvement. Let her reflect on each topic, and on the order, the arrangement and connection, of the whole. After listening to an interesting conversation, let her recall, and strive to impress on her mind, every useful thought that was advanced. Indeed, her whole earthly experience may be so improved as to be a continual seminary of self-instruction and mental advancement. How infinitely better is it thus to construct a firm bridge across the entire river of life, than to trust to the frail bonds of ice, the work of a night, and to be dissolved before the next meridian sun.