- OTHER VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE BOOKS J. ADAMS PUFFER, Editor VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE THE TEACHER AS A COUNSELOR By J. Adams Puffer A VOCATIONAL READER By C. Park Pressey VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE FOR THE PROFESSIONS By Edwin Tenney Brewster -
"Vocational guidance seeks the largest realization of the possibilities of every child and youth, measured in terms of worthy service."
VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE FOR GIRLS
MARGUERITE STOCKMAN DICKSON
Author of From the Old World to the New, A Hundred Years of Warfare. 1689-1789, Stories of Camp and Trail, Pioneers and Patriots in American History
Rand Mcnally & Company Chicago New York
PAGE A Foreword ix
PART I. PRESENT-DAY IDEALS OF WOMANHOOD
CHAPTER I. WOMAN'S PLACE IN SOCIETY 3
II. THE IDEAL HOME 18
III. ESTABLISHING A HOME 27
IV. RUNNING THE DOMESTIC MACHINERY 49
PART II. GUIDING GIRLS TOWARD THE IDEAL
V. THE EDUCATIONAL AGENCIES INVOLVED 75
VI. TRAINING THE LITTLE CHILD 86
VII. TEACHING THE MECHANICS OF HOUSEKEEPING 102
VIII. THE GIRL'S INNER LIFE 122
IX. THE ADOLESCENT GIRL 130
X. THE GIRL'S WORK 151
XI. THE GIRL'S WORK (Continued)—CLASSIFICATION OF OCCUPATIONS 163
XII. THE GIRL'S WORK (Continued)—VOCATIONS AS AFFECTING HOMEMAKING 194
XIII. THE GIRL'S WORK (Continued)—VOCATIONS DETERMINED BY TRAINING 203
XIV. MARRIAGE 218
Suggested Readings 241
The Index 243
A LIST OF THE PORTRAITS
PAGE LOUISA M. ALCOTT 221
RUTH MCENERY STUART 223
LOUISE HOMER AND HER FAMILY 225
MARGARET JUNKIN PRESTON 227
COLONEL AND MRS. ROOSEVELT WITH MEMBERS OF THEIR FAMILY 229
JULIA WARD HOWE AND HER GRANDDAUGHTER 231
CAROLINE BARTLETT CRANE 233
ALICE FREEMAN PALMER 235
AMELIA E. BARR 237
Fortunate are we to have from the pen of Mrs. Dickson a book on the vocational guidance of girls. Mrs. Dickson has the all-round life experiences which give her the kind of training needed for a broad and sympathetic approach to the delicate, intricate, and complex problems of woman's life in the swiftly changing social and industrial world.
Mrs. Dickson was a teacher for seven years in the grades in the city of New York. She then became the partner of a superintendent of schools in the business of making a home. In these early homemaking years there came from the pen of Mrs. Dickson a series of historical books for the grades which have placed her among the leading educational writers of the country. During the long sickness of her husband she filled for a while two administrative positions—homemaker and superintendent of schools.
Her three children are now in high school and are beginning to plan for their own life work. With the broad training of homemaker, wife, mother, teacher, writer, and administrator, Mrs. Dickson has the combination of experiences to enable her to introduce teachers and mothers to the very difficult problems of planning wisely big life careers for our girls.
The book is so plainly and guardedly written that it can also be used as a textbook for the girls themselves in connection with civic and vocational courses. The only difficulty with the book for a text is that it is so attractively written on such vital problems that the student will not stop reading at the end of the lesson.
J. ADAMS PUFFER
"Vocational guidance has for its ideal the granting to every individual of the chance to attain his highest efficiency under the best conditions it is humanly possible to provide."
PRESENT-DAY IDEALS OF WOMANHOOD
"How to preserve to the individual his right to aspire, to make of himself what he will, and at the same time find himself early, accurately, and with certainty, is the problem of vocational guidance."
VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE FOR GIRLS
WOMAN'S PLACE IN SOCIETY
Any scheme of education must be built upon answers to two basic questions: first, What do we desire those being educated to become? second, How shall we proceed to make them into that which we desire them to be?
In our answers to these questions, plans for education fall naturally into two great divisions. One concerns itself with ideals; the other, with methods. No matter how complex plans and theories may become, we may always reach back to these fundamental ideas: What do we want to make? How shall we make it?
Applying this principle to the education of girls, we ask, first: What ought girls to be? And with this simple question we are plunged immediately into a vortex of differing opinions.
Girls ought to be—or ought to be in the way of becoming—whatever the women of the next generation should be. So far all are doubtless agreed. We therefore find ourselves under the necessity of restating the question, making it: What ought women to be?
Probably never in the world's history has this question occupied so large a place in thought as it does to-day. In familiar discussion, in the press, in the library, on the platform, the "woman question" is an all-absorbing topic. Even the most cursory review of the literature of the subject leads to a realization of its importance. It leads also into the very heart of controversy.
It is safe to say that no woman, in our own country at least, escapes entirely the unrest which this controversy has brought. Even the most conservative and "old-fashioned" of women know that their daughters are living in a world already changed from the days of their own young womanhood; and few indeed fail to see that these changes are but forerunners of others yet to come. They know little, perhaps, of the right or wrong of woman's industrial position, but "woman in industry" is all about them. They perhaps have never heard of Ellen Key's arraignment of existing marriage and sex relations, but they cannot fail to see unhappy marriages in their own circle. They may care little about the suffrage question, but they can hardly avoid hearing echoes of strife over the subject of "votes for women." And however much or little women are personally conscious of the significance of these questions, the questions are nevertheless of vital import to them all.
The "uneasy woman" is undeniably with us. We may account for her presence in various ways. We may prophesy the outcome of her uneasiness as the signs seem to us to point. But in the meantime—she is here!
Naturally both radical and conservative have panaceas to suggest. The radicals would have us believe that the question of woman's status in the world requires an upheaval of society for its settlement. Says one, the "man's world" must be transformed into a human world, with no baleful insistence on the femininity of women. It is the human qualities, shared by both man and woman, which must be emphasized. The work of the world—with the single exception of childbearing—is not man's work nor woman's work, but the work of the race. Woman must be liberated from the overemphasized feminine. Let women live and work as men live and work, with as little attention as may be to the accident of sex.
Says another, it is the ancient and dishonored institution of marriage which must feel the blow of the iconoclast. Reform marriage, and the whole woman question will adjust itself.
Says still another, do away with marriage. "Celibacy is the aristocracy of the future." Let the woman be free forever from the drudgery of family life, free from the slavery of the marriage relation, free to "live," to "work," to have a "career." Men and women were intended to be in all things the same, except for the slight difference of sex. Let us throw away the cramping folly of the ages and let woman take her place beside man.
Not so, replies the conservative. In just so far as masculine and feminine types approach each other, we shall see degeneracy. Men and women were never intended to be alike.
Thus we might go on. Without the radicals there would of course be no progress. Without the conservatives our social fabric would scarcely hold. Between the two extremes, however, in this as in all things, stands the great middle class, believing and urging that not social upheaval, but better understanding of existing conditions, is the world remedy for unrest; that not new careers, but better adjustment of old ones, will bring peace; that not formal political power, even though that be their just due, but the better use of powers that women have long possessed, is most needed for the betterment of mankind.
It is not the province of this book to enter into controversy with either radical or reactionary, but rather to search for truth which may be used for adjusting to fuller advantage the relation of woman to society. First of all must be recognized the fact that the "woman movement" deserves the thoughtful attention of every teacher or other social worker, and indeed of every thoughtful man or woman. The movement can no longer be considered in the light of isolated surface outbreaks. It is rather the result of deep industrial and social undercurrents which are stirring the whole world.
In our study of the modern woman movement, which as teachers in any department of educational work we are bound to make, the fact is immediately impressed upon us that home life has undergone marked changes. Conditions once favorable to the existence of the home as a sustaining economic unit are no longer to be found. New conditions have arisen, compelling the home, like other permanent institutions, to alter its mode of existence in order to meet them.
Briefly reviewing the causes which have brought about these changes in home life, we find, first, the industrial revolution. A large number of the activities once carried on in the home have removed to other quarters. In earlier times the mother of a family served as cook, housemaid, laundress, spinner, weaver, seamstress, dairymaid, nurse, and general caretaker. The father was about the house, at work in the field, or in his workshop close at hand. The children grew up naturally in the midst of the industries which provided for the maintenance of the home, and for which, in part, the home existed. The home, in those days, was the place where work was done.
With the invention of labor-saving machinery came an entire revolution in the place and manner of work. The father of the family has been forced by this industrial change to follow his trade from the home workshop to the mechanically equipped factory. One by one, many of the housewife's tasks also have been taken from the home. To-day the processes of cloth making are practically unknown outside the factory. Knitting has become largely a machine industry. Ready-made clothing has largely reduced the sewing done in the home. In the matter of food, the housekeeper may, if she chooses, have a large part of her work performed by the baker, the canner, and the delicatessen shopkeeper. Even the care of her children, after the years of infancy, has been partly assumed by the state.
The home, as a place where work is done, has lost a large part of its excuse for being. Among the poorer classes, women, like their husbands, being obliged to earn, and no longer able to do so in their homes, have followed the work to the factory. As a result we have many thousands of them away from their homes through long days of toil. Among persons of larger income, removal of the home industries to the factory has resulted in increased leisure for the woman—with what results we shall later consider. Practically the only constructive work left which the woman may not shift if she will to other shoulders, or shirk entirely, is the bearing of children and, to at least some degree, their care in early years. The interests once centered in the home are now scattered—the father goes to shop or office, the children to school, the mother either to work outside the home or in quest of other occupation and amusement to which leisure drives her.
A second change in the conditions affecting home life is found in the increased educational aspirations of women. Once the accepted and frankly anticipated career for a woman was marriage and the making of a home. Her education was centered upon this end. To-day all this is changed. A girl claims, and is quite free to obtain, an education in all points like her brother's, and the career she plans and prepares for may be almost anything he contemplates. She may, or may not, enter upon the career for which she prepares. Marriage may—often does—interfere with the career, although nearly as often the career seems to interfere with marriage. Under the new alignment of ideals, there is less interest shown in homemaking and more in "the world's work," with a decided feeling that the two are entirely incompatible.
The girl, educated to earn her living in the market of the world, no longer marries simply because no other career is open to her; when she does marry, she is less likely than formerly, statistics tell us, to have children—the only remaining work which, in these days, definitely requires a home. Marriage and homemaking, therefore, are no longer inseparably connected in the woman's mind. Girls are willing to undertake matrimony, but often with the distinct understanding that their "careers" are not to be interfered with. To them, then, marriage becomes more and more an incident in life rather than a life work.
A third disintegrating influence as affecting home life is the great increase of city homes. Urban conditions are almost without exception detrimental to home life. Congestion means discomfort within the home and decreasing possibility for satisfying there either material or social needs; while on every hand are increasing possibilities for satisfying these needs outside the home. Family life under such conditions often lacks, to an alarming degree, the quality of solidarity which makes the dwelling place a home. No longer the place where work is done, no longer the place where common interests are shared, the home becomes only "the place where I eat and sleep," or perhaps merely "where I sleep." The great increase of urban life during the last half century is thus a very real menace, and, since the agricultural communities constantly feed the towns, the menace concerns the country-as well as the city-dweller.
Believing that for the good of coming generations the true home spirit must be saved, we shall do well to admit at once that the old-time home was an institution suited to its own day, but that we cannot now call it back to being. Nor would we wish to do so. There is no possible reason for wishing our women to spin, weave, knit, bake, brew, preserve, clean, if the products she formerly made can be produced more cheaply and more efficiently outside the home.
There is danger, however, of generalizing too soon in regard to these industries. There is little doubt that in some directions, at least, the factory method has not yet brought really satisfactory results. How many women can give you reasons why they believe that it no longer "pays" to do this or that at home as they once did? Do the factories always turn out as good a product as the housekeeper? If they do, does the housekeeper obtain that product with as little expenditure as when she made it? If she spends more, can she show that the leisure she has thus bought has been a wise purchase? Is she justified in accepting vague generalizations to the effect that it is better economy to buy than to make, or should she test for herself, checking up her individual conditions and results?
The fact is that the pendulum has swung away from the "homemade" article, and most of us have not taken the trouble to investigate whether we are benefited or harmed. It may be that investigation will show us that the pendulum has swung too far, and that, in spite of factories mechanically equipped to serve us, some work may be done much more advantageously at home. It is even possible, and in some lines of work we know that it is a fact, that homes may be mechanically equipped at very little cost to rival and even to outclass the factory in producing certain kinds of products for home consumption.
Spinning, weaving, and knitting are doubtless best left in the hands of the factory worker. But, under present conditions, buying ready made all the garments needed for a family may be an expensive and unsatisfactory method if the elements of worth, wear, finish, and individuality are worthy of consideration, just as buying practically all foodstuffs "ready made" presents a complex and disturbing problem to the fastidious and conscientious housewife. There is at least a possibility that it would be as well for the home of to-day to retain or resume, systematize, and perfect some of the industries that are slipping or have already slipped from its grasp. It is possible to reduce some processes to a too purely mechanical basis.
A woman lived in our town who wasn't very wise. She had a reputation for making homemade pies. And when she found her pies would sell, with all her might and main She opened up a factory, and spoiled it all again.
Nonsense? Yes—but with a strong element of sense, nevertheless.
Entirely aside, however, from the industrial status of the home, unless we are to see a practical cessation of childbearing and rearing, homes must apparently continue to exist. No one has yet found a substitute place for this particular industry. It is a commonly accepted fact that young children do better, both mentally and physically, in even rather poor homes than in a perfectly planned and conducted institution. And we need go no farther than this in seeking a sufficient reason for saving the home. This one is enough to enlist our best service in aid of homemaking and home support.
From earliest ages woman has been the homemaker. No plan for the preservation of the home or for its evolution into a satisfactory social factor can fail to recognize her vital and necessary connection with the problem. Therefore in answer to the question "What ought woman to be?" we say boldly, "A homemaker." Reduced to simplest terms, the conditions are these: if homes are to be made more serviceable tools for social betterment, women must make them what they ought to be. Consequently homemaking must continue to be woman's business—the business of woman, if you like—a considerable, recognized, and respected part of her "business of being a woman." Nor may we overlook the fact that it is only in this work of making homes and rearing offspring that either men or women reach their highest development. Motherhood and fatherhood are educative processes, greater and more vital than the artificial training that we call education. In teaching their children, even in merely living with their children, parents are themselves trained to lead fuller lives.
"The central fact of the woman's life—Nature's reason for her—is the child, his bearing and rearing. There is no escape from the divine order that her life must be built around this constraint, duty, or privilege, as she may please to consider it." It is the fashion among some women to assume that it is time all this were changed, and that therefore it will be changed. They look forward to seeing womankind released from this "constraint, duty, or privilege," and yet see in their prophetic vision the race moving on to a future of achievement. The fact, however, ignore it as we may, cannot be gainsaid: no man-made or woman-made "emancipation" will change nature's law.
It was well that after centuries of repression and subjection woman sought emancipation. She needed it. But the wildest flight of fancy cannot long conceal the ultimate fact. Woman is the mother of the race. "The female not only typifies the race, but, metaphor aside, she is the race." Emancipation can never free her from this destiny. In the United States, where woman has the largest freedom to enter the industrial world and maintain herself in entire independence, the percentage of those who marry is higher than in the countries where woman is a slave. Ninety per cent of the mature women in our country become homemakers for a certain period, and probably over 90 per cent are assistant homemakers for another period of years before or after marriage.
Any vocational counselor who fails to reckon first with the homemaking career of girls is therefore blind to the facts of life. All education, all training, must be considered in its bearing on the one vocation, homemaking. The time will come when the occupations of boys and men must likewise be considered in relation to homemaking, but that problem is not the province of this book.
Women will bear and rear the children of the future, just as they have borne and reared the children of the past. But under what conditions—the best or those less worthy? And what women—again, the best or those less worthy? Has woman been freed from subjection, from an inferior place in the scheme of life, only to become so intoxicated with a personal freedom, with her own personal ambition, that she fails to see what emancipation really means? Will she be contented merely to imitate man rather than to work out a destiny of her own? We think not. When the first flush of freedom has passed, the pendulum will turn again and woman will find a truer place than she knows now or has known.
Two obstacles to the successful pursuit of her ultimate vocation stand prominently before the young woman of to-day: first, the instruction of the times has imbued her with too little respect for her calling; second, her education teaches her how to do almost everything except how to follow this calling in the scientific spirit of the day. She may scorn housework as drudgery, but no voice is raised to show her that it may be made something else. With the advent of vocational guidance, vocational training of necessity follows close behind. And with vocational training must come a proper appreciation, among the other businesses of life, of this "business of being a woman."
Must we then educate the girl to be a homemaker, and keep her out of the industrial life which has claimed her so swiftly and in which she has found so much of her emancipation? No, we could not, if we would, keep her from the outside life. We must rather recognize her double vocation and, difficult though it seem, must educate her for both phases of her "business." She will be not only the better woman, but the better worker, because of the very breadth of her vocational horizon.
Training for homemaking, then, must go hand in hand with training for some phase of industrial life. Vocational guides must consider not only inclination and temperament, but physical condition and the supply and demand of the industrial world. They will consider the girl not merely as an industrial worker, but as a potential homemaker. They will, therefore, also study the effect of various vocations upon homemaking capabilities.
How then shall the teaching of this double vocation be approached? How shall we, as teachers of girls, make them capable of becoming homemakers? How shall we make them see that homemaking and the world's work may go hand in hand, so that they will desire in time to turn from their industrial service to the later and better destiny of making a home? This book offers its contribution toward answering these questions.
[Footnote 1: Ida M. Tarbell, The Business of Being a Woman.]
[Footnote 2: Lester F. Ward, Pure Sociology.]
THE IDEAL HOME
That we may understand, and to some extent formulate, the problem which we would have girls trained to solve, we must of necessity study homes. What must girls know in order to be successful homemakers?
A historical survey of the home leads us to the conclusion that although times have changed, and homes have changed, and indeed all outward conditions have changed, the spiritual ideal of home is no different from what it has always been. The home is the seat of family life. Its one object is the making of healthy, wise, happy, satisfied, useful, and efficient people. The home is essentially a spiritual factory, whether or not it is to remain to any degree whatever a material one. "Home will become an atmosphere, a 'condition in which,' rather than 'a place where,'" says Nearing in his Woman and Social Progress. "The home is a factory to make citizenship in," writes Mrs. Bruere.
But although this spiritual significance of home has always existed, we are sometimes inclined to overlook the fact. Because conditions have changed, and because our external ideals of home have changed and are still changing, we fail to see that the foundation of home life is still unchanged.
"I sometimes think that many women don't consciously know why they are running their homes," says Mrs. Frederick, author of The New Housekeeping. We might add that many of those who do know, or think they know, are struggling to attain to purely trivial or fundamentally wrong ideals. It seems wise, then, for us to face at the outset the question "What is the ideal home?"
Laying aside all preconceived notions, and remembering that changes are coming fast in these days, let us look for the ideals which may be common to all homes, in city or country, among rich or poor.
First of all, the home must be comfortable, and its whole atmosphere must be that of peace. In no other way can the tension of modern life be overcome. This implies order and cleanliness, beauty, warmth, light, and air; but it implies far more. It means a home planned for the people who will occupy it, and so planned that father's needs, and mother's, and the children's, will all be met. What does each member of the family require of the house? A place to live in. And that means far more than eating and sleeping and having a place for one's clothes. There must be not only a place for everything, but a place for everybody in the ideal house. The boys who wish to dabble in electricity, the girls who wish to entertain their friends in their own way, the tired father who wishes to read his newspaper "in peace," the younger children who want to pop corn or blow bubbles or play games, all must be planned for. There will be no room too good for use, and no furnishings so delicate that mother worries over family contact with them. There will be a minimum of "keeping up appearances" and a maximum of comfort and cheer. There will be little formal entertaining, but many spontaneous good times. In addition to being comfortable, the ideal home must be convenient. There will be places for things, and every appliance for making work easy.
The ideal mother, who is the mainspring of the smoothly running mechanism of the ideal home, will be scientifically trained for her position. Her "domestic science" will no longer be open to the criticism that it is not science at all, nor will she feel that her business is unworthy of scientific treatment. Always she will keep before her the object of her work—to make of her family, including herself, good, happy, efficient people. She will not be overburdened with housework, for overworked mothers have neither time nor strength for the higher aspects of their work. She will know how to feed bodies, but also how to develop souls. She will clothe her children hygienically, but she will teach them to value more the more important vestments of modesty and gentleness and courtesy. She will require obedience, but, as their years increase, the requirement will be less and less obedience to authority and more and more obedience to a right spirit within.
She will work for her children and will make them wish to work with her, teaching them the true value of work and sacrifice. She will play with them, for their pleasure and development, and she will also play, in her own way, for her own rejuvenation and her soul's good. She will study each member of her family as an individual problem, and, abandoning forever the idea of pressing any child's soul into the mold that she might choose, will rather strive to aid its growth toward its natural ideal. She will strive to hold and to be worthy of her children's confidence, that they may turn to her in those times that try their souls. But she will always respect the personal liberty of either child or husband to live his own life.
She will interest herself in the interests of husband and children, that she may remain a vital factor in their lives; and she will make the home so delightful as to reduce to a minimum the scattering influences that tend to destroy home life. She will weave intangible but indestructible ties of affection, holding all together and to herself. She will keep her interest in the outside world, so that she may better prepare her children to live in it and may resist the narrowing influence of her enforced temporary withdrawal. She will take some part in civic work and social uplift, and, when her years of child rearing are ended, in the leisure of middle age she will return to the less circumscribed life of her youth, bending her matured energies to the world's work.
The father of this ideal family will be first of all a man happy in his work. The plodding, weary slave to distasteful labor can be ideal neither as husband nor as father. Overworked fathers are quite as impossible in our scheme as overburdened mothers. In ideal conditions the father will have time, strength, and willingness to be more of a factor in the home life than he sometimes is at the present time. More than that, his early education will have included definite preparation for homemaking, so that his cooeperation will be intelligent and therefore helpful. He will know more than he does now about the cost of living and he will assist in making a preliminary division of the year's income upon an intelligent basis. He will recognize the necessity for equipment for the homemaking business and will contribute his share of thought and labor to improving the home plant.
He will be a companion as well as adviser to his boys and girls and will retain their respect and love by his sympathetic understanding and his remembrance of the boy's point of view. In all his dealings with his children he will be careful that interference with his comfort and convenience or the wounding of his pride by their shortcomings does not obscure his sense of justice. He will be a student of child nature and will keep in view the ultimate good and usefulness of his child. He will regard his fatherhood as his greatest service to the state.
The children reared by this ideal father and mother in their ideal home will grow as naturally as plants in a well-cared-for garden. With examples of courtesy and kindness, of cheerful work and health-producing play, ever before them in the lives of their parents, they may be led along the same paths to similar usefulness. Their educational problems will be met by the combined effort of teachers and parents, and natural aptitude as well as community needs will dictate the choice of their life work.
That this ideal family is far removed from many families of our acquaintance merely proves the necessity of training for more efficient homemaking, and indeed for a better conception of homemaking ideals and problems. If we are to teach our girls and our boys to be homemakers, we must consider carefully what they need to know. If we are to counteract the tendencies of the past two or three decades away from homemaking as a vocation, we must show the true value of the homemaker to the community, and the opportunities which domestic life presents to the scientifically trained mind.
Education for homemaking necessarily implies teachers who are trained for homemaking instruction; and we may pause here to notice that no homemaking course in normal school or college can be sufficient to give the teacher true knowledge of ideal homes. She must have seen such homes, or those which approximate the ideal. Perhaps she has grown up in such a home. More probably she has not. If not, it must then necessarily follow that the lower have been the ideals in the home where the teacher had her training, the more she should see of other homes, and especially of good homes. Her whole outlook may be changed by such contact; and with her outlook, her teaching; and with her teaching, her influence.
If all girls grew up in ideal homes, it seems probable that homemaking would appeal to them quite naturally as the ultimate vocation. Indeed, we know that many girls feel this natural drawing, in spite of most unlovely conditions in their childhood homes. The task of mother, teacher, and vocational counselor (who may be either) in this matter is a complicated one. Some girls are not fitted by nature to be homemakers. Some may with careful training overcome inherent defects which stand in the way of their success. Some have the natural endowment, but have their eyes fixed on other careers. Some have unhappy ideals to overcome. The fact, however, confronts us that at some time in their lives a very large majority of these girls will be homemakers. It is the part of those who have charge of them in their formative years to do two things for them: first, to train them so that they may understand the tasks of the homemaker and perform them creditably if they are called upon; second, to teach all those girls who seem fitted for this high vocation to desire it, and to choose it for at least part of their mature lives.
ESTABLISHING A HOME
Certain very definite attempts are being made in these days to meet the evident lack of homemaking knowledge in the rising generation. And since definiteness of plan lends power to accomplishment, we cannot do better than to analyze as carefully as possible the various lines of knowledge required by the prospective homemaker in entering upon her life work.
What are the problems of homemaking? And how far can we provide the girl with the necessary equipment to make her an efficient worker in her chosen vocation?
Country life and city life are apparently so far removed from each other as to present totally different problems to the homemaker and to the vocational educator of girls. And yet underlying the successful management of both urban and rural homes are the same principles of domestic economy and of social efficiency. The principles are there, however widely their application may differ. While we may wisely train country girls for country living, and city girls to face the problems of urban life, we must not lose sight of the fact that country girls often become homemakers in the city and that city girls are often found establishing homes in the country. Nor should we overlook the truth that some study of home conditions in other than familiar surroundings will broaden the girl's knowledge and fit her in later life to make conditions subservient to that knowledge.
Both rural and urban homemakers must be taught to appreciate their advantages and to make the most of them. They must also learn to face their disadvantages and to work intelligently toward overcoming them.
The country homemaker has no immediate need of studying the problems of congestion in population which menace the millions of city-dwellers. The country home has plenty of room and an abundance of pure air. Yet it is often true that country homes are poorly ventilated and that much avoidable sickness results from this fact. The country home is often set in the midst of great natural beauty, yet misses its opportunity to satisfy the eye in an artistic sense. Its very isolation is sometimes a cause of the lack of attention to its appearance to the passerby.
The farmer's wife has an advantage in the matter of fresh vegetables, eggs, and poultry, but the city housekeeper has the near-by market and finds the question of sanitation, the preservation of food, and the disposal of waste far easier of solution.
The city housewife is often troubled in regard to the source of her milk supply; the country-dweller has plenty of fresh milk, but frequently finds it difficult to be sure of pure water.
The country homemaker often lacks the conveniences which make housekeeping easier; the city woman is often misled, by the ease of obtaining the ready-made article, into buying inferior products in order to avoid the labor of producing.
The family in the farming community often has meager social life and lack of proper recreations; the city-dweller is made restless and improvident by an excess of opportunities for certain sorts of amusement.
Thus each type of community has its own problems. But practically all of these problems fall under certain general heads which both city and country homemakers should consider as part of their education. The present turning of thought toward training in these directions is most promising for the homes of the future.
It is one of the misfortunes of existing conditions that the city and the country are not better acquainted with each other. Scorn frequently takes the place of understanding. The town or village girl goes out to teach in the country school, knowing little of country living and less of country homes. It is difficult, if not impossible, for such a teacher to be an influence for good. Especially as she approaches the homemaking problem is she without the knowledge which must underlie successful work. It is important that the city girl under such conditions should make a special effort to study country life and country homes in a sympathetic, helpful spirit.
Perhaps our analysis of homemaking problems can take no more practical form than to follow from its hypothetical beginning the making of an actual home.
No more inspiring moment comes in the lives of most men and women than that in which the first step is taken toward making their first home. There is an instinctive recognition of the greatness of the occasion. But ignorance will dull the glow of inspiration and wrong standards will lead to wreck of highest hopes. Let us, therefore, be practical and definite and face the facts.
A home is to be established. The first question is: Where? To a certain extent circumstances must answer this question. The character and place of employment of the breadwinner, the income, social relations already established, school, church, library, market, water and sanitary conditions, must all be considered. Yet even these regulating conditions must receive intelligent treatment. How many young homemakers have any definite idea as to what proportion of the income may safely be expended for shelter? How many can tell the relative advantages of renting and owning?
Probably the first consideration in selection is likely to be whether the home is to be permanent or merely temporary. When the occupation is likely to be permanent, the greatest comfort and well-being will usually result from establishing early a permanent home; and this involves a long look ahead to justify the selection of a site. Not only must health and convenience be considered, but future questions relative to the expanding requirements of the homemakers and to the education and proper upbringing of a family as well. Then, too, young people must usually begin modestly from a financial standpoint, and they are therefore cut off from certain locations which they may perhaps desire and which they might hope to attain in later years. In the country, where the livelihood is often gained directly from the land, a new element enters into selection and must to some extent take precedence over others. Soil considerations aside, however, we have health, beauty, social environment, educational advantages, and expense to consider; and we should establish certain standards in these directions for our young people to measure by.
Considerations of health must include not only climatic conditions, but questions of drainage, water supply, time and comfort of transportation to work, and the sanitary condition of the neighborhood.
Prospective homemakers must learn, too, the value of reposeful surroundings and of some degree of natural beauty. They must recognize the value also of desirable social environment—that is, of such moral and intellectual surroundings as will be uplifting for the homemakers and safe for the future family. They will, it is hoped, learn that a merely fashionable neighborhood is not necessarily a desirable environment. The church, the school, the library, and proper recreation centers are also to be considered in one's social outlook. They are all distinctly worth paying for, as also is a good road.
With the site selected, the great problem of building next confronts the homemaker. Here again the principles of selection should be sufficiently known to young people, boys and girls alike, to save them from the mistakes so commonly made and frequently so regretted.
The people who can afford to employ an architect to design their homes are in a decided minority, and the only way to insure good houses for the less well-to-do majority is to see that the less well-to-do do not grow up without instruction as to what good houses are. The great tendency of the day in building is fortunately toward increased simplicity and toward a quality which we may call "livableness." This tendency we shall do well to fix in our teaching.
In general, the good house is plain, substantial, convenient, and suited to its surroundings. Efficient housekeeping is largely conditioned by such very practical details as closets and pantries, the relative positions of sink and stove, the height of work tables and shelves, the distance from range to dining table, the ease or difficulty of cleaning woodwork, laundry facilities, and the like. Housekeeping is made up of accumulated details of work, and adequate preparation for comfort in working can be made only when the house is in process of construction.
Not less are the higher and more abstract duties of the homemaker served by the kind of house she lives and works in. In a hundred details the homemaker should be able to increase the efficiency of the "place to make citizens in." A common mistake in building produces a house which adds to, rather than lessens, the burdens of its inmates. More often than not this is the result of a misapprehension of what houses are for.
There are many large mansions in our villages and cities built for show and display of wealth in which no one will live today. These houses are being torn down and sold for junk. The modern home is built for one purpose only, a home.
We must therefore teach our boys and girls that houses are for shelter, work, comfort, and rest, and to satisfy our sense of beauty, not to serve as show places nor to establish for us a standing in the community proportionate to the size of our buildings. We must teach them to measure their house needs and to avoid the uselessly ornate as well as the hopelessly ugly. We must teach them to consider ease of upkeep a distinctly valuable factor in building. But most of all must the homemaker be taught that the comfort and well-being of the family come first in the making of plans.
Few persons possess sufficient originality to think out new and valuable arrangements for houses; therefore we must see that their minds are rendered alert to discover successful arrangements in the houses they are constantly seeing and to adapt these arrangements to their own needs. Unless their minds are awakened in this direction, the majority will merely see the house problem in large units, overlooking the finer points of detail which mean comfort or the opposite.
I recall spending a considerable number of drawing periods in my grammar-school days upon copying drawings of houses. I recall that we became sufficiently conversant with such terms as front elevation, side elevation, and floor plan to feel that we were deep in technical knowledge. But I do not recall that anyone suggested any question as to the suitability of these houses for homes, or opened our minds to consideration of the fact that house building was a proper concern for our minds. It was merely a case in which educative processes failed to function. They do things better now in many schools. But we should not rest until all of our prospective homemakers have opportunity to obtain practical instruction in home planning and building.
Matters pertaining to heating, ventilating, and plumbing are easily taught as resting upon certain definite, well-understood principles. Here the personal element is less to be considered, and scientific knowledge may be passed on with some degree of authority. Our courses in physics, chemistry, and hygiene can be made thoroughly practical without losing any of their scientific value. Especially in our rural schools should matters of this sort receive careful and adequate treatment. In times past it was considered inevitable that the country-dweller should lack the advantages, found in most city houses, of a plentiful supply of water, radiated heat for the whole house, proper disposal of waste, and arrangements for cold storage. We know now that these things are obtainable at less cost than we had supposed; and we know also that it is not lack of means, but lack of knowledge, which forces many to do without them. In many a farm home the doctor's bills for one or two winters would pay for installing proper systems of heat and ventilation. Everything that tends to increase the comfort and safety of home life must be taught, as well as everything that tends to lessen the labor of keeping a family clean, warm, and properly fed.
Accurate figures should be obtained to set before the boys and girls who will be homemakers, showing the cost, in time, labor, and money, of running a heating plant for the house as compared with several stoves scattered about in the dwelling. To accompany these we must have more figures, showing the comparative time spent in doing the necessary work incidental to the operation of each type of apparatus. We must consider the comparative cleanliness of both types of heating plants, with their effect, first, upon the health of the family, and secondly, upon the amount of cleaning necessary to keep the house in proper condition. We must compare types of stoves with one other, hot-air, steam, and hot-water plants with one another, and various kinds of fuels, both as to cost and as to efficacy.
The water question is one of real interest to both city-and country-dweller, although the chances are that the country-dweller knows less about his source of supply than the city-dweller can know if he chooses to investigate. The city-dweller should know whence and by what means the water flows from his faucet, if for no other reason than that he may do his part in seeing that the money spent by his city or town brings adequate return to the taxpayer. For the rural homemaker, of course, the problem usually becomes an individual one.
Is the water supply adequate? Is the water free from harmful bacteria? Is the source a safe distance from contaminating impurities? Are we obtaining the water for household and farm purposes without more labor than is compatible with good management? Is not running water as important for the house as for the barn? How much water does an ordinary family need for all purposes in a day? How much time does it take to pump and carry this quantity by hand or to draw it from a well? How much strength and nerve force are thus expended that might be saved for more important work? Does lack of time or strength cause the homekeeper to "get along" with less water in the house than is really needed? Is there any natural means at hand for pumping the water—any "brook that may be put to work," any gravity system that may be installed? If not, are there mechanical means available that would really pay for themselves in increased water, time, and comfort for all the family?
From a consideration of water supply we pass naturally to questions of the disposal of waste, and here again is found a subject too often neglected both in town and in rural communities. In the city the problems are not individual ones in the main, but rather questions of the best management and use of the public utilities concerned. Does the average city householder know what becomes of the waste removed from his door by the convenient arrival of the ash man, the garbage man, the rubbish man? Does he know whether this waste is disposed of in the most sanitary way? Does he consider whether it is removed in such a way as to be inoffensive and without danger to the people through whose streets it is carried? Does he know anything of the cost to the city of waste disposal? Is it merely an expense, and a heavy one, for him in common with other taxpayers to bear? Or is the business made to pay for itself? If not, is it possible to make it pay? Does any community make the waste account balance itself at the end of the year?
In the country, once more we face the individual problem rather than that of the community. Here proper provision for the disposal of waste often necessitates more knowledge of the subject than is possessed by the homemaker, or sometimes it requires the installation of apparatus whose cost seems prohibitive. A careful consideration of these matters will possibly disclose the fact that a smaller expenditure may accomplish the desired purpose. Or, if this is not true, it may be found that the end accomplished is worth the expenditure of what seemed a prohibitive sum. A water closet, for instance, has not only a sanitary but a moral value. We must somehow educate people to understand and to believe that the basis of family health and usefulness is proper living conditions, and that some system of sewage and garbage disposal is a necessary step toward proper living conditions. With the urban population these matters are removed from personal and immediate consideration, but every rural homemaker must face his own problems, with the knowledge that since his conditions are individual his solution must be equally his own.
In the matters pertaining to decoration within the house as well as beautifying its surroundings, the country-and the city-dweller meet on equal terms. Their problems may differ in detail, but the principles to be studied are the same. Here our art courses must be made to contribute their share to the homemaker's training. We must strike the keynote of simplicity, both within and without, and must teach girls especially the value of carefully thought-out color schemes and decorating plans, to be carried out by different people in the materials and workmanship suited to their purses. They must learn that expense is not necessarily a synonym for beauty; they must know the characteristics of fabrics and other decorative materials; and they must be trained to recognize the qualities for which expenditure of money and effort are worth while.
In the designing of school buildings nowadays close attention is paid to beauty of architecture, symmetry of form, convenience of arrangement, and durable but artistic furnishings. All unwittingly the child receives an aesthetic training through his daily life in the midst of attractive surroundings.
Many of our rural schools are doing excellent work in teaching children to beautify the school grounds. Some, of them go farther and interest their pupils in attacking the problem of improving outside conditions at home. Every child whose mind is thus turned in the direction of attractive home grounds has unconsciously taken a step toward one branch of efficient homemaking. If it were possible to give pupils the foundation principles of landscape gardening, they might learn to see with a trained eye the problems they will otherwise attack blindly.
With the house built and ready for its furniture, the selection of the latter becomes both part of the scheme of decoration and part also of the domestic plans for securing comfort and inspiring surroundings. The same principles of beauty and utility, restfulness, comfort, and suitability, are called into requisition. The trained housewife will have an eye toward future dusting and will choose the less ornate articles. The same person, in her capacity as the mother of citizens, will see that chairs are comfortable to sit in, that tables and desks are the right height for work, that book cases and cabinets are sufficient in number and size to take care of the family treasures. She will use pictures sparingly and choose them to inspire. Perhaps, most of all, the woman with the trained mind will know how to avoid a superfluity of furniture in her rooms. She will be educated to the beauty of well-planned spaces and will not feel obliged to fill every nook and corner with chairs or tables or sofas or other pieces of furniture which merely "fill the space."
Before furnishing is considered complete, the housekeeper must take into account the matter of operating apparatus. Perhaps a large part of this important department of house equipment has been built into the house. The water system, the sewer connection or its substitute, and the lighting apparatus are already installed, so that the turn of a switch or a faucet, the pull of a chain, sets one or all to work for us. We are now to consider whether we shall buy a vacuum cleaner or a broom and dustpan; a washing machine and electric flatiron or the services of a washerwoman, or shall telephone the laundry to call for the wash. Shall we invest in a "home steam-canning outfit" at ten dollars, or make up a list for the retailer of the products of the canning factory? Shall we have a sewing machine, or plan to buy our clothing from "the store"?
Once upon a time practically the only labor-saving device possible to the housekeeping woman was another woman. To-day many devices are offered to take her place. Our homemaker must know about them, and must compare their value with the older piece of operating machinery, the domestic servant. She must know what it costs to keep a servant, in money, in responsibility, and in all the various ways which cannot be reduced to figures.
Already the pros and cons of the "servant question" have caused much and long-continued agitation. The woman of the future should be taught to approach the matter with a scientific summing up of the facts and with a readiness to lift domestic service to a standardized vocation or to abandon it altogether in favor of the "labor-saving devices" and the "public utilities." Certain of our home-efficiency experts assure us that all "industries in the home are doomed." If this is true, the domestic servant must of necessity cease to exist. Most persons, however, cannot yet see how "public utilities" will be able to do all of our work. We may send the washing out, but we cannot send out the beds to be made, the eggs to be boiled, or the pictures, chairs, and window sills to be dusted. The table must be set at home, and the dishes washed there, until we approach the day of communal eating places, which, as we all know, will be difficult to utilize for infants and the aged, for invalids, and for the vast army of those who are averse to faring forth three times daily in search of food. For a long time yet the domestic servant, or her substitute, will be with us, doing the work that even so great a power as "public utilities" cannot remove from the home.
At present there is much to indicate that the servant's substitute, in the form of various labor-saving devices, will eventually fill the place of the already vanishing domestic worker. Whether this proves to be the case will rest largely with these girls whom we are educating to-day. The pendulum is swinging rather wildly now, but by their day of deciding things it may have settled down to a steady motion so that their push will send it definitely in one direction or the other.
There is no inherent reason why making cake should be a less honorable occupation than making underwear or shoes; why a well-kept kitchen should be a less desirable workroom than a crowded, noisy factory. But under existing conditions the comparison from the point of view of the worker is largely in favor of the factory. Among the facts to be faced by the homemaker who wishes to intercept the flight of the housemaid and the cook are these:
1. Hours for the domestic worker must be definite, as they are in shop or factory work.
2. The working day must be shortened.
3. Time outside of working hours must be absolutely the worker's own.
4. The worker must either live outside the home in which she works, or must have privacy, convenience, comfort, and the opportunity to receive her friends, as she would at home.
In short, the houseworker must have definite work, definite hours, and outside these must be free to live her own life, in her own way, and among her own friends, as the factory girl lives hers when her day's work is done.
That women are already awaking to these responsibilities is shown by the increasing number who choose the labor-saving devices in place of the flesh-and-blood machine. Many of these women will tell you that they make this choice to avoid the personal responsibility involved in having a resident worker in the house. There is comfort in not having to consider "whether or not the vacuum cleaner likes to live in the country," or the bread mixer "has a backache," or the electric flatiron desires "an afternoon off to visit its aunt." It is the same satisfaction we feel in urging the automobile to greater speed regardless of the melting heat, the pouring rain, or the number of miles it has already traveled to-day. Perhaps the future will see machines for household work so improved and multiplied that we can escape altogether this perplexing personal problem of "the woman who works for us."
Whether or not we escape this problem when we patronize the laundry, the bakeshop, the underwear factory, is a matter for further thought. To many it seems a simpler matter to face the problem of one cook, one laundress, than to investigate conditions in factory, bakery, and laundry, to agitate, to "use our influence," to urge legislation, to follow up inspectors and their reports, to boycott the bakery, to be driven into the establishment of a cooeperative laundry whether we will or no, in order to fulfill our obligations to the "women who work for us" in these various places. True, our duty to womankind requires that we do all these things to a certain extent so long as the public utilities exist, but with the multiplication of utilities to a number sufficient to do a large portion of our work, it would seem that women would be left little time for anything else than their supervision and regulation.
Problems relating to the establishing of a home would once have been considered far from the province of the teacher in the public school. Formerly we taught our children a little of everything except how to live. Now we are realizing that the teacher should be a constructive social force. Living is a more complicated thing than it once was, and the school must do its share in fitting the children for their task. All these matters we have been considering—the selection of a home site, building, decorating, furnishing, sanitation, and all the rest—represent constructive social work the teacher may do, which, if she passes it by, may not be done at all. College courses should prepare the teacher for such work, but even the girl who is not college-trained will find, if she seeks it, help sufficient for her training. And the work awaits her on every hand.
RUNNING THE DOMESTIC MACHINERY
With a home established, the problems confronting the homemaker become those of administration. The "place for making citizens" is built and ready. The making of citizens must begin.
One of the fundamental requisites for the efficient operation of the home plant is that the homemaker shall have a firm grasp upon the financial part of the business. To estimate the number of homes wrecked every year by lack of this economic knowledge is of course impossible; but you can call up without effort many cases in which this lack was at least a contributing element to the wreck.
Keeping expenditures within the income is only the ABC of the financial knowledge required, although, like other ABC's, it is essential to the acquirement of deeper knowledge. It is not enough that the housekeeper merely succeeds in keeping out of debt. She must know what to expect in return for the money that she spends, and she must know whether or not she gets it. She must have definitely in mind the results she expects, and she must know why she spends for certain objects rather than for others.
In the days of famine and fear, the individual was fortunate who had food, shelter, and a skin to wrap about his shivering shoulders. In these days it is not enough to have merely these things. Certain standards of civilized life must be met, and we shall find that it requires judgment and skill to apportion our funds properly.
The common needs of civilized mankind are usually roughly classified as follows: food; shelter; clothing; operating expenses, including service, heat, light, water, repairs, refurnishing, and the general upkeep of the plant; advancement, including education, recreation, travel, charity, church, doctor, dentist, savings.
The exact proportion of any income devoted to each of these is of course a matter conditioned by the needs of the particular family as well as by its tastes and desires. Figures are obtainable which throw light upon proportions found advisable in what are considered typical cases. We may learn the minimum amount of money which will feed a man in New York or in various other cities and towns. We may find estimates as to the prices of a "decent living" in various parts of the country. Home-economics experts will furnish us with figures which may be used as a basis for apportioning this amount among departments of household expenses. That the figures offered by these experts differ more or less widely need not disturb us. It is perhaps too early in such work for final authoritative estimates.
The following apportionment is taken from Chapin's The Standard of Living among Workingmen's Families in New York City and has to do with the minimum income required for normal living for a family of father, mother, and three children on Manhattan Island:
Food $359.00 Housing 168.00 Fuel and light 41.00 Clothing 113.00 Carfare 16.00 Health 22.00 Insurance 18.00 Sundry items 74.00 ———- $811.00
"Families having from $900 to $1,000 a year," concludes Dr. Chapin, "are able, in general, to get food enough to keep body and soul together, and clothing and shelter enough to meet the most urgent demands of decency." Regarding incomes below $900, he says, "Whether an income between $800 and $900 can be made to suffice is a question to which our data do not warrant a dogmatic answer."
The two apportionments given below have been made by the federal government and concern the maintenance of a normal standard in two industrial sections of the country. In each case the family is assumed to be, as in Dr. Chapin's estimate, made up of father, mother, and three children.
Fall River, Georgia and Mass. North Carolina Food $312.00 $286.67 Housing 132.00 44.81 Clothing 136.80 113.00 Fuel and light 42.75 49.16 Health 11.65 16.40 Insurance 18.40 18.20 Sundry items 78.00 72.60 ———- ———- $731.90 $600.74
These estimates do no more than suggest the minimum upon which the various items of living expense can be met and the proportion to each account. People who can do more upon their incomes than merely live must look farther for help.
Mrs. Bruere in her Increasing Home Efficiency offers the following as a minimum schedule for efficient living:
Food $ 344.93 Shelter 144.00 Clothing 100.00 Operation 150.00 Advancement 312.00 Incidentals 46.85 ———- $1,097.78
"When the income is over $1,200," Mrs. Bruere adds, "the family has passed the line of mere decency in living and entered the realm of choice. Their budget need not show how the entire income must be spent, but how it may be spent to gain whatever special end the family has in view."
That any estimated schedule for any income will fit exactly the needs of any family of father, mother, and three children in any given town in the United States no one supposes, but it is at least a basis upon which to work. And perhaps the main point from an educational standpoint is that it is a schedule at all.
The happy-go-lucky, spend-as-you-go style of housekeeping does not constitute efficiency. The homemaking expert we are training will have a better plan. She will have been long familiar with the idea of apportioning incomes. She will have applied the tests of efficient decision to her personal income before she has to attack the problem of spending for a family. The ideal homemaker of the future will be a woman who has had a personal income, and preferably one that she has earned herself and learned how to spend before she enters upon matrimony and motherhood.
By the less scientific plan of merely recording what one has spent, when the spending is over, it is more than likely that some departments of home expenditure will gain at the expense of others. If we can afford only $150 for rent, and we pay $200, it is evident that we must go without some portion of the food or clothing or advancement that we need. If we dress extravagantly, we must pay for our extravagance by sacrificing efficient living in some other direction. The budget is not entirely or even in large measure for the sake of saving, but rather for the sake of spending wisely. When women become as businesslike in the administration of home finances as they must be to succeed in business life, or as men usually are in their business relations, home administration will be placed upon a secure financial footing and will gain immeasurably in dignity thereby.
Feeding and clothing a family are perhaps the fundamentals of the homemaker's daily tasks. And upon neither of them will the application of scientific principles be wasted. It is not enough that we merely set food before our families in sufficient quantity to appease the clamoring appetite. Children and adults may suffer from malnutrition even though their consumption of food is normal in quantity three times a day. No housewife is properly fitted for her task unless she has some knowledge of dietetics.
Many a notable housewife who has perhaps never even heard of dietetics has nevertheless a practical working knowledge of some or many of its principles. There are traditions among housewives that we should serve certain foods at the same meal or should cook certain foods together. Often these time-honored combinations rest upon the soundest of dietetic principles. On the other hand, many cooks feed their families by a hit-or-miss method which as often as not violates all the laws of scientific feeding, and which farmers long ago discarded in the feeding of their cows.
Fortunately the girl who so desires may now learn something of these feeding laws in the same school that teaches her the law of gravitation or the rules for forming French plurals. Fortunately, also, the girls of to-day seem inclined to undertake such study. It is not too much to expect that the girl of the future will be able to set before her family meals scientifically planned or food wisely and economically purchased, well cooked, and attractively served. Nor is it too much to expect that teachers will be able to do these things and to instruct others how to do them. That this ideal requires considerable and varied knowledge is clear at the outset. The serving of a single meal involves: (1) knowledge of food values, (2) skill in making a "balanced ration," (3) knowledge of market conditions, (4) skill in buying, with special reference to personal tastes and financial conditions, (5) knowledge of the chemistry of cooking, (6) skill in applying chemical knowledge, (7) skill in adapting knowledge of cooking to existing conditions, (8) knowledge of serving a meal and practice in service.
The fact that a large proportion of deaths is directly due to digestive troubles is certainly food for thought. Such a statement alone would warrant action of some sort looking toward increased knowledge of food values and food preparation. It is not necessarily because people live upon homemade food that their digestions are impaired, as we so often hear stated nowadays, but because we have taken it for granted that, given a stove, a saucepan, and a spoon, any woman could instinctively combine flour, water, and yeast into food. There is little dependence upon instinct in producing the bread of commerce. Bakers' bread is scientifically made, no doubt; but there is no reason why the homemade article may not also be a product of science. And there will always be this difference between the baker and the housewife: the baker's profit must be expressed in dollars and cents, while that of the housewife will be represented in increased force and efficiency in the family that she feeds. With such differing ends in view, the processes and results of each must continue to differ as widely as we know they do at present.
It is now some years since Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote of woman's work:
Six hours a day the woman spends on food, Six mortal hours! * * * * * Till the slow finger of heredity Writes on the forehead of each living man, Strive as he may: "His mother was a cook!"
Many women now doubtless spend less time on cooking than when Mrs. Gilman wrote; perhaps her scorn has borne fruit. But the implication that being a cook is unworthy loses all its force unless it can be shown that "his mother was nothing but a cook." Even so, there are worse things one might be. It is true that women should not spend six hours out of the working day on merely one department of their household work. Yet the ill-fed family is out of the race for a place among the efficient. Let us then teach the coming woman to use less time, more science, and all the labor-savers there are available, and still accomplish the same, or perhaps better, results.
That the question of clothing is equally fundamental, perhaps few of us will acknowledge. Yet we must not underrate its importance. Food furnishes the fuel with which to support the fires of life. Clothes, however, contribute not only to comfort and health, but to mental well-being and self-respect. So long as we mingle with our fellow men in civilized communities, raiment will continue to require "taking thought." That much of the feminine part of the population devotes an undue amount of thought to certain aspects of the clothing question we cannot deny. It is equally certain that many women, if not most women, devote too little thought to other phases of the problem.
Present conditions seem to indicate that the average woman, of any class of society, places the "prevailing mode" first in her personal clothing problems. How to be "in style" absorbs much attention and time. Surely it is overshadowing other very important considerations relating to dress. When American women have awakened to the real importance of these considerations, we shall observe a better proportion in studying the clothes question.
As a scientific foundation upon which to build her practical knowledge of how to clothe herself and her family, the girl of the future must be trained to an understanding of (1) the hygiene of clothes, (2) art expressed in clothes, (3) the psychology of clothes, (4) ethics as affected by clothes, (5) personality as expressed by clothes.
There is no stage of life in which hygiene, art, psychology, and ethics do not apply to clothes. The practical knowledge built upon these as a foundation will guide the girl in choosing clothes which are suitable to the occasion for which they are designed, are not extravagant in either price or style, give good value for the money expended, express the individuality of the wearer, and exert an influence uplifting rather than the reverse upon the community at large.
With such a girl, the fact that "they" are wearing this or that will be always a minor consideration. With women trained in matters of clothing, we shall no longer be confronted by the absurdity of identical styles for thick and thin, short and tall, middle-aged and young, rich and poor. We shall no longer see dress dominating, as it does to-day, the entire lives of thousands of women. From the woman of wealth who spends a fortune every season upon her wardrobe, all the way down the money scale to the young girl who strains every nerve and spends every cent she can earn to buy and wear "the latest style," slavery to fashion is an evil gigantic in its proportions and far-reaching in its results.
We have no right to interfere with the woman's instinct to make herself beautiful. Rather we should encourage it, and should carefully instruct her in her impressionable years as to what real beauty is. It is almost safe to say that at present the principle by which the modern woman is guided in deciding the great questions of feminine attire is imitation. Incidentally, we may remark that nobody profits by such a mistaken foundation except the manufacturer, who moves the women of the world about like pawns on a chessboard merely to benefit his business. The society woman brings the latest thing "from Paris." The large New York establishments sell to their patrons copies of "Paris models." The middle-class shops and the middle-class women copy the copies. The cheap shops and the poor women copy the copy of the copy. Every copy is made of less worthy material than its model, of gaudier colors, with cheaper trimmings, until we have the pitiful spectacle of girls who earn barely enough to keep body and soul together spending their money for garments neither suitable nor durable—sleazy, shabby after a single wearing, short-lived—yet for a few ephemeral minutes "up to date."
How far this heartbreaking habit of imitation extends in the poor girl's life we can hardly say. She marries, and buys furniture, crockery, and lace curtains cheap and unsuitable, like her clothes, always imitations and soon gone, to be superseded by more of the same sort. What thoughtful woman desires to feel herself part of an influence which leads to so much that is insincere, uneconomical, wasteful both of raw material and of the infinitely more important material which makes women's souls? What teacher of young girls has a right to hold back from setting her hand against the formation of habits so undesirable?
And what of the vast output of the factories which turn out cheap cloth, cheaper trimmings, imitations of silk, imitations of velvet, ribbons which will scarcely survive one tying, shoes with pasteboard soles, and all the other intrinsically worthless products which now find ready sale? When women have been educated to a standard of taste, of suitability, of quality, which will forbid the use of cheap imitations of elegant and costly articles, will not the world gain in bringing such factories to the making of products of real worth instead of their present output?
The mother of the future will bring to bear upon the clothing question not only more knowledge, but more serious thought, than she does to-day. For the children she must provide comfortable, serviceable play clothes in generous quantity, that they may pursue their development unhampered in either body or mind. She must know the hygiene of childhood and the psychology of children's clothes. For the growing girls there must be a proper recognition of the growing interest in adornment, avoiding the Scylla of vanity on one hand and the Charybdis of unhappy consciousness of being "different from the other girls" on the other. For the sons there must be careful provision for the athletic life so dear to the boy, together with due recognition of the approaching dignities of manhood, with special care for the small details which mark the well-groomed man.
As in the matter of the food supply, there must be knowledge of markets and skill in buying. And, as in that case, there should be knowledge of the process of transforming materials into the finished product. Processes involving a great degree of technical skill, such as the tailor's art, the average woman will not attempt; but the simpler forms of garment making present no special difficulty to those who wish to try them or who find it expedient to do so.
A wholesale assumption that it is only a question of a short time before all garment making will be done in the factory is probably without warrant. We read again and again of late, "The day of buying instead of making is here! We may like it or not like it, but the fact remains, it is here!" And then we look all about us, and find that the day is apparently not here for at least several thousands of people of whom we have personal knowledge. That discovery gives us courage to look farther. We find paper-pattern companies flourishing; dress goods selling in the retail departments as they have always sold; seamstresses fully occupied; and we conclude that for some time yet the question of buying or making will find individual solution, according to means, inclination, and ability. What we wish to guard against in the upbringing of our future mothers is the necessity of buying because of a lack of the ability to make. The woman trained to a knowledge of the making of garments is the only woman who can intelligently decide the question for her own household. The others are forced to a decision by their own limitations.
Passing from the elemental needs, shelter, warmth, food, and clothing, we enter upon the most complex of woman's duties—adjustment of her home to community conditions and provision for her family's share in community life. That these more abstract problems frequently overlap the concrete ones already enumerated need not be said. It is impossible, even if we so desire, to live "to ourselves alone." We shall undoubtedly stand for something in the community, whether consciously or otherwise. If it were given us to know the extent of our influence, we should probably be appalled at the crossing and recrossing of the lines emanating from our daily lives.
In some households there are definite aims in the direction of community life. These differ widely. In many the question seems to be entirely, "What can I get from the community?" in some, "What can I give?" in a few, "What can I share?" Of the three, the last is without doubt the one which contributes most to community well-being.
The ordinary family of necessity touches community life at one time or another at certain well-defined points. The efficient homemaker must therefore make intelligent provision for these points of contact with the community.
Church and charity organizations have always been recognized in American life as community matters and have provided community meeting places and community work. Through them, especially in earlier days, women often found their only common activities. The school furnished the same common ground for the children. In the present time of multiplied activity these organizations still stand in the foreground. In them, both young and old find perhaps their best opportunity for "team work."
A parish in which all pull together is perhaps as rare as a school in which every child truly desires to learn. Yet neither is beyond the possibilities. To keep each family in a proper attitude toward these community institutions is part of the homemaker's work—and a delicate task it often is. It is not enough for a mother to adopt a cast-iron policy of indiscriminate approval of pastor or teacher, although that is often recommended. Do you remember your resentment as a child of the inflexible judgment "The teacher must be right"? Really there is no "must" about it, and the child knows that as well as we. The mother, therefore, who is able to review the matter in dispute calmly, justly, and withal sympathetically, and who indorses the teacher's action after such review, is a better conserver of the public peace than the prejudging mother.
Or suppose she fails to indorse the teacher's course. We have always been led to expect that this failure ruins forever the teacher's influence with the child. There are some of us, however, who doubt the immediate destruction of a wise influence, even if we should say, "No, I do not think I should have punished you in just that way. But perhaps you have not told me all that occurred. Or perhaps you overlook the fact that you had annoyed Miss —— until, being human like the rest of us, she lost her temper. Is it fair for you to treat your teacher in such a way that you cause her to lose her self-control?" It is usually possible for the wise mother to turn her fire upon the child's own error without outraging the childish sense of justice by indorsing something which does not really deserve indorsement.
There is, perhaps, no way in which the mother of a family can do so much for the community institutions as by keeping up her own interest in them and thus stimulating the other members of the family to a willingness to do their part in the work of uplift. Where everybody is really interested and working, the first great stumbling block in the way of public enterprises has already been surmounted.
In the case of the school, however, the well-trained mother will find additional work to do. We who have been teachers know how vainly we have sought for intimate acquaintance on the part of parents with the school. And we who have been mothers know something of the difficulties in the way of gaining such intimate acquaintance. In spite of, or perhaps because of, my long years of schoolroom experience, I am quite unable to conquer my reluctance to knock at a classroom door. There is an aloofness about being a school visitor which most mothers feel and few enjoy. However, it is possible to gain so much of sympathetic understanding by persistent visiting that I have found it worth while to disregard my reluctance.
So often we hear mothers say, "I try to visit school at least once each year." I wonder if they ever think of that one visit as an injustice to the teacher? Suppose that, as is quite probable, the visitor arrives at an inopportune moment, finding the children in the midst of work which won't "show off," or the air heavy with the echoes of a disciplinary encounter, or the children restless as the session draws to a close, or dull and listless from the heat of an unusually hot day. What the visitor needs to do is not to visit once a year, but to get acquainted with the school as she does with her next-door neighbor or her mother-in-law. Having done this, she may attend the meetings of the parent-teacher association with a consciousness of knowing something of the problems to be met and solved. Until she has formed such acquaintance she deals with unknown quantities and is therefore in danger of erroneous conclusions.
It is interesting to see how completely both teacher and pupils take to their hearts the mother who really does get acquainted them. How easy it is to appeal to her for advice and help; and what a sense of familiar ownership she comes to have in the school. It is no longer merely "what my child is learning" or whether "my children are getting what they ought to get in school," but rather "what we are doing in our school."
The activities of women in the church usually follow along well-worn paths. The women help as they have always helped by their attendance at service, by their ladies' aid society or guild, by their missionary society, and by their aid to the poor of the town. Many struggling churches depend almost solely upon their women's work for support. That the woman whose problems we are studying should enter upon her church duties armed with wisdom is quite as necessary as that she should be earnest and enthusiastic. The church is not primarily a neighborhood social center. It is first of all a means for spiritual uplift. It must not, in a multiplicity of humanitarian activities, lose its character of spiritual guide. Its women will therefore be animated by a spiritual conception of the church and will base their activities in church work upon such a conception. The church built upon such a foundation will be foremost among local forces devoted to community service and will be a true force in the individual lives of its people. The women of the church need to use the church as an effective instrument for community betterment—not merely material welfare, but actual increase in spiritual worth. Perfunctory church attendance has little part in such a program. It calls rather for intelligent understanding of church problems and an application of spiritual ideals to everyday life.
Outside the organizations common to all communities the homekeeper finds that she must keep in touch with her particular neighborhood through its social life. It is here that her children are growing up, here that they find their friends, here that they give and take knowledge of themselves, of people, of ways to enjoy life and to meet its problems. Here perhaps they will find their life mates and will start out to be homemakers themselves. The mother of a family must know her community thoroughly. She must do her share toward making it a safe place and a pleasant place in which her children and other children may grow up, and in which she and her husband, other women and their husbands, may spend their lives. The mother who knows her children's friends, who makes them welcome at her house, who "gets acquainted" with their qualities good and bad, who is a "big sister" to them all, will not find herself shut out from her children's social life. If all the mothers were "big sisters" and all the fathers were "big brothers," neighborhood society would be a safer thing than it sometimes is.
Nor should all the social life center about the young people. The woman's club, the village improvement society, the men's civic league, all have their places. Club life will menace neither the man nor the woman whose first interest is the home; and every man and woman needs the stimulus of contact with other minds.
Sometimes it will happen that the homemaker finds work to be done in the line of community reform. Perhaps the roads are out of repair, or the cemetery is neglected, or the school building insanitary. Perhaps the water supply is not properly guarded, or milk inspection not thoroughly looked after. Perhaps industrial conditions in the town are not what they should be. Perhaps laws are not being enforced. New conditions require new laws. There may be loafing places on streets and in stores which are dangerous. The billiard halls may need a thorough moral cleaning and a moral man placed in charge. The public dance halls may need proper chaperonage. The moving pictures need state and national censorship to eliminate the careless suggestions leading toward both vice and crime. The homemaker must know under such circumstances how to stir public opinion, how to make use of her existing organizations, how to set on foot the various movements necessary for reform.
In connection with the subject of the homemaker's place in the community we must return to the thought of woman as the buyer for the home and of her consequent influence upon the economic standards of the community. It is not unusual in these days to read or hear such statements as the following: "The woman was no longer producer and consumer.... She became the consumer and her entire economic function changed.... The housewife is the buying agent for the home." Like many statements in regard to woman and her function, this seems overdrawn, since woman in her capacity as homemaker is still a producer as well as a consumer in thousands of cases. That she will become, economically, merely a buying agent, some of us not only doubt, but should consider a certain misfortune, should it occur. The fact remains, however, that as buyer of both raw materials and finished products the woman spends a very large percentage (some say nine-tenths) of the money taken in by the retail merchants of the country. This gives, or should give her, a commanding position in the producing world. If the women of America should definitely decide to-day that they would buy no more corn flakes, or mercerized crochet cotton, or silk elastic, the factories now so busy turning out these products would be shut down to-morrow until they could be converted to other uses. Women often fail to realize their power in this direction. When they do realize it, they are able to accomplish quietly all sorts of reforms in the mercantile and industrial worlds. There need be no crusade against adulterated foods other than real education and the refusal of homemakers to buy from merchants who carry them in stock. The same remedy will apply to overworked and underpaid workers, to insanitary shops and factories. That it is the woman's duty to control these matters is a necessary conclusion when we consider her power as the "spender of the family income." Who else has this power as she has it?