Oh, American women, be exhorted to flee from the sorceress whose enchantments are binding you in the silken chains of an ignoble effeminacy. Your weakness weakens our nation and sends a destructive palsy down into succeeding generations. Your loss of strength is humanity's loss. How can there be individual identity where Fashion rules? how individual taste, individual opinion, individual virtue and character? How can there be genius and talent where Fashion molds the will and cuts the life to a pattern? How can there be wisdom where Fashion dictates the mode of thought and the form of utterance? How can there be greatness where Fashion shapes the growth and prescribes its bounds? There is nothing in our country so paralyzing to the growth of mind and the progress of righteous principles as the easy and general conquest of Fashion over our people. If it were only in matters of dress and equipage, of outward adornment, that it bore sway, it would not be so ruinous. But it goes into every department of thought and life, into opinions, principles, religion. It shapes the creed, prescribes the form of worship, and puts its excommunicating ban upon all heresy. It enters the sweet retreat of home and poisons its love and life. It sets up its proud form in the sanctuary and dishonors worship with its cold formality. Everywhere it is a godless tyrant. To develop our strength of body and mind we want freedom. Genius expands its wings in freedom's airs. Health blooms in freedom's prairie-fields. Wisdom grows in the hermit-cells of individual thought where no binding chains of custom cramp the mental powers. Love is always truest and sweetest and noblest where it is freest. Nature is freedom's temple. No forming shears of Fashion cuts her patterns. She grows every leaf, and opens every flower, and solemnizes every bird-marriage, and utters every hymn of praise in the truthful and innate spontaneity of her universal soul. So humanity should be free; not free to sin with impunity, but free to dress according to its own individual taste and comfort; free to live in homes arranged without respect to Fashion, but agreeable to the wants and interests of their members; free to eat and swear and act as seemeth good in each one's mental sight; free to think and speak on all the great subjects of human interest; to believe and worship by the light of reason and the inspiration of conscience without fear of the guillotine of public opinion established by Fashion. The greatest want of our country is this freedom. We now do every thing so much by rule, that the rule crams the soul out of every thing done. The rule is always of Fashion's make. We love and marry, educate and worship, by rule. I would not recommend an abjuration of all rules. Rules are good so far as they are just and founded on universal principles. But arbitrary, time-serving rules are evil. In matters of dress I would have every woman consult her own taste, form, complexion, comfort, character, and person. In doing this she may develop her mind, cultivate her taste, and gratify a reasonable desire to please others. Instead of every one's dressing alike as Fashion dictates, let each one consult her convenience and circumstances, and dress as best becomes her ideas of a suitable wardrobe for herself. If one chooses to wear a dress very long, let her do it; another to have her dress Bloomerized, let her do it. If one prefers a close bonnet, another an open; one thin shoes, another thick boots; one a flowing robe, another a tight dress; one a high-necked, another a low-necked dress, one a belted, another a bodiced waist, let it be as each one shall prefer. In a word, let each woman dress herself and her household as her judgment, skill, and taste shall dictate, without everlastingly consulting the last fashion-plate. It would be better that every one was dressed differently from all others, than as now, all rigged up to order by the last nuncio from Paris. In nature, variety spreads a curious interest over all her vestiture. In the human world, Fashion clothes all in a tiresome sameness. To say the least, a very great improvement might be made by a little more freedom and courage, and exercise of individual judgment and taste. As it is, individualism is laid on the shelf, and all are swallowed up in a fashionable generalization. So in matters of household arrangement, in the general character and style of equipage, in food, culinary affairs, social etiquette, and all that pertains to the outward life, to health, to labor, to individual interests, I would have more freedom, ease, and flexibility, would see more of individual judgment and peculiarity, more marks of personal character and affirmative force of will and opinion. As it is, there is a tedious monotony in all these things. Our houses are all made and furnished too nearly alike; and so of all our affairs. A fashionable sameness, somber and dull, spreads over our whole outward life.
Then, in opinions of men and things, of politics and social relations, in education, literature, art, in morality and religion, there should be more freedom, more conformity to individual judgment, more thinking for self and less by proxy, more personal and less party influence. There is a terrible tyranny over us in these things. We are cast in the stiff mold of Fashion. We have our fashionable forms of thought, and seem afraid to break them. We have our formulas and creeds, and they bind us. If there were more freedom there would be less error and atheism. Our minds are all different. No two think exactly alike, or look exactly alike, or feel exactly alike. Then why should we not be free and use our own reason for our own purposes and give others the same privilege? Why be such slavish conformists, and brand as traitors or heretics all who differ from our party or church?
I would awaken young women to these things. They have their individual interests, both temporal and eternal. They have their characters and life-connections to form. They have great and stirring interests to hold in their hands. They have examples to set and lives to live And they have a mighty influence to exert in their day both upon the present and coming generations, both upon this and the future world. The subject of this essay is one of inexpressible interest to them. Woman is too much in chains. She wants more freedom. And she will never have it till she takes it herself. She should covet and seek a higher life. She should claim her full equality with her brother, man, and strive to show herself worthy. In woman and her life are wrapped up some of the greatest interests and issues of humanity. O that each individual woman could feel it, and live as realizing the solemn fact!
Life a School—Education a Work of Progress—Schools of Vice—Every Circumstance a Teacher—Kinds of Education—Female Education—True Womanly Ambition—Improve your Opportunities—Principles should be Understood—Time Trifled Away—Some Excuses—Society Needs Woman's Influence—Education as it is—Girls should have Something to Live For.
"Life is real, life is earnest." To make life grand is the end of living. God has a great purpose in every human soul; that purpose is its truthful education. Life is God's school. He is its great superintendent; his Son is prime instructor. The world is His primary school-house, or, rather, our primary school-house built by him. Here we learn the alphabet of things; and learn to spell and read a little from the great book of God. Here we sit in our places and learn our first lessons; stand in our classes and recite them. Here we get ready for that college which God has built for us on the spiritual Mount Zion. In this lower school we prepare for the department above. Our position in that department must be determined by our dutifulness and progress in this. Oh, solemn thought! We must be measured by our merit; we must stand in our lot; "every man in his own order." The deeds done in the body shall tell upon the life of the spirit. What we make for ourselves now, shall be ours in the college-hall above. Wisdom gained in life shall not be lost in death. It will live a halo of brightness, a crown of glory, when "death, the last enemy, shall be destroyed." God did not ask us whether we would come into this primary school or not; whether we would take this lower-world life. Neither will He ask us whether we will go into the higher department; whether we will take the upper-world life. He gave the one; he will give the other. But the use we make of these lives He has put not a little into our own hands. What will be in these lives He has left not a little with us. Our standings we are to choose to a certain extent. Our characters are the workmanship of our own hands. Our worth is of our own making. Our Education is a personal matter. God has given us minds, a school, a study-room, teachers, all the books of nature, experience, revelation, reason, duty, affection, and now commands us to educate ourselves, promising to be with us and assist us as our kind Superintendent in this grand work of life.
Education, strictly speaking, covers the whole area of life. It is the word which means all God asks of us, all we owe to him, the world, and ourselves—that great word which expresses the sum total of human duty. Nor is it confined to this present period of life. To educate is the work of Heaven. Time and eternity are the school periods of intelligence. Reason may have an eternal growth. Conscience may widen its powers and deepen its sanctities in heaven. Affection may grow in beauty and fervor through immortal ages. Mind may expand and intensify through eternity. To educate is to develop mind; to expand its capacities; to strengthen its energies; to deepen its affections; to elevate its aspirations; to sharpen its perceptions; to quicken its actions; to intensify its emotions; to harmonize its powers; to empower its will, and magnify its sweep of action.
Education is a work of progress. It begins in life and has no end. Death does not terminate it. We learn the elements of things below. Above we shall study their essences. We progress in proportion to our own efforts. Education may be good or bad, right or wrong. Reason may grow strong in error, may revel in falsities. The will may be mighty for evil. The heart may grow in vice, and the passions expand in misrule. The mind may be educated into terrible confusion, so that its passions will clash in battle array, and its powers war with each other like exterminating demons. The din of mental warfare and the clash of spiritual arms are heard in almost every soul. Terrible conflicts are within us. And whole fields of slaughtered virtues are swept over by their death-dealing siroccos. Like nations of the earth our mental powers are grouped together, and group confronts group like embattled armies, sending their hissing arrows of fiery death into each other's ranks. Power strikes at power, like single combatants on the field of strife. Such is the awful sight seen by God in many a human soul. And such to a greater or less extent is what He sees in each one of us; so direful are the results of bad Education.
Few of us have been educated altogether aright. We have gained much mental strength in wicked conflict. Our passions have expanded in lawless riot. Our mental arms have grown strong in corrupting labors. Our energies have been made vigorous in vicious employments. Our feet have been made active in the dance of folly and the race of mammon. We have risen to power in the service of a tyrant master. We have done the bidding of sin, and made our soldiers broad to bear its Atlas burdens. But Education has made us mighty in evil. Giants in vice stalk about us daily who were sweet and beautiful in their babyhood as ever smiled in a mother's face. On every hand we meet with the graduates of some school of vice, in whom the powers of darkness are mighty for evil. Some come out from the dark holes of intemperance; some from the luxurious saloons of gambling; some from the gilded halls of fashion; some from those dark places where virtue dies a bleeding sacrifice to sensuality. These are the schools in which the mighty in wickedness are educated. And then we have lesser schools all about us in which the young take lessons in vice: schools on the street, schools at home, schools at the toilet, schools in pleasure circles, schools in the market and counting-room, where they take lessons in deception, slander, folly, anger, backbiting, sensuality, and vice. Our schools for Education in evil are numerous, and their teachers are legion. I believe much more in evil Education than in innate depravity. The little cherubs that come into our arms right from the hands of Deity are innocent and pure. The skies above us and the flowers around us are not purer and sweeter than they. Their little souls are immaculate. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." I can not believe in depraved babyhood; but I must believe in depraved youth and manhood. All about me are the sinful wrecks of once pure souls. It is wrong Education that has made them the sad, pitiable things they are. Oh, what wretched contortions of God's beautiful handiwork have men made of themselves! Of all the things that God has made, the human soul is most perfect and beautiful. The flower and trees and fields are beautiful. The flashing aurora, the golden clouds, the sapphire sky, are beautiful. The circling planets, the blazing sun, the starry canopy, are beautiful. But what are they compared to a human soul? What is an ephemeral flower or an age-lasting star compared with glorious reason, with eternal love, with deathless benevolence, and conscience? What were the material universe with all its sublime grandeur and awe-inspiring magnificence with no soul to gaze upon it? And yet perfect and beautiful as were our souls when God gave them to us, what unsightly, miserable, demoniac things we have made of them! It is evil Education that has done it all. We have trained our minds in wrong schools. We have educated our powers at the feet of evil teachers. We have taken lessons in the science of wickedness. We have followed bad examples and copied corrupt manners. And we still do so. These things have made us what we are.
Our Education is not all got in our organized schools. Our hired teachers and printed books are not all that act on our powers to develop them. Life is one grand school, and its every circumstance a teacher. Society pours in its influences upon us like the thousand streams that flood the ocean. Scholastic men and women may speak of book Education; it is mine to speak of life Education. Life is my field and my theme; that great common arena where men and women do battle with the forces about them.
We are educating all the time, and the question with us should be, How do we educate ourselves? What manner of men and women do we make of ourselves? The great question of life is an educational one. We all get an Education; but the kind is the point for us to determine. Some are educated in vice, some in folly, some in selfishness, some in deception, some in sensuality, some in nothing in particular and every thing in general, some in goodness, some in truth and right, some in theology, and some in religion. Our kinds of Education are legion. We can not live without being educated some way. Every day gives us many lessons in life. Every thought leaves its impression on the mind. Every feeling weaves a garment for the spirit. Every passion plows a furrow into the soul. All is motion in that mysterious, wonder-working house in which we ourselves live—the mind.
Every hour of life has solemn, fearful results. The question should hang all the time written in blazing capitals in the firmament of each soul, "How am I educating?" It is wicked to let the crazy world educate us as it will. It is awfully hazardous to yield ourselves up, as most people do, to the circumstances of society about us. It is a fearful risk to plunge into the stream of popular custom and float on like a dead sponge drinking in its turbid water. Most people are like mocking-birds and monkeys, repeating all they hear and mimicking all they see. Our duty is to educate ourselves as we should.
Having hinted these general principles of Education, we may now address ourselves especially to young women, and apply them to their life. The daily life-education of the mass of young women is not what it should be. It is much like the life-education of the mass of young men. It is the Education of circumstances, custom, society, etc. Young women live, think, and act just as society dictates. They wear what fashion says shall be worn; they say what etiquette say is proper; they do what custom dictates; their ideas of gracefulness, propriety, and life are molded in the common mint of popular sentiment. They float on the stream of society mere automatons in the great hand of the world. They do not direct their own Education as though they had any object in life. They seem to lay helpless in the hands of the world, the pets or playthings of the day. These remarks are not very inapplicable to young men also. There is a great body of young men who float on the stream of life with no self-direction. Ask one of them what he lives for, and he will tell you, "to chew tobacco, swear, be a man;" and his idea of being a man is to be able to do these things with grace and dignity. To ask any one of the mass of young women what she lives for, and if you can get her to say it out, she will tell you, "to get married." Now it is certainly right to get married, and to live with this object in view. But there is a grand educational preparation needed for this. And this preparation is the very thing most neglected. Every young woman should have some noble purpose in life, some grand aim, grand in its character. She should, in the first place, know what she is, what powers she possesses, what influences are to go out from her, what position in life she was designed to fill, what duties are resting upon her, what is she capable of being, what fields of profit and pleasure are open to her, how much joy and satisfaction she may find in a true life of womanly activity. When she has duly considered these things, she should then form the high purpose of being a true woman, and of making every circumstance bend to her will for the accomplishment of this noble purpose. There is no higher thing beneath the bending heavens than a true woman. There is no nobler attainment this side of the spirit-land than lofty womanhood. There is no purer ambition than that which craves this crown for her mortal brow. To be a genuine woman, full of womanly instincts and power, possessing the intuitive genius of her penetrating soul and the subduing authority of her gentle, yet resolute will, is to be a peer of earth's highest intelligence. All young women have this noble prize before them. They may all put on the glorious crown of womanhood. They may make their lives grand in womanly virtue. There is in every woman-child the seed of womanhood. She may water and nourish that seed till it shall blossom in her soul and make her spiritually beautiful. Woman has a power, a woman-power, something peculiarly her own in her moral influences, which, when duly developed, makes her queen over a wide realm of spirit. This she can not exert only as her powers are cultivated. It is cultivated woman that wields the scepter of authority among men. Wherever cultivated woman dwells, there is refinement, intellectual and moral power, life in its highest form. To be a cultivated woman, one must commence early and make this the grand aim of her life. Whether she work or play, travel or remain at home, converse with friends or study books, gaze at flowers or toil in the kitchen, visit the pleasure party or the sanctuary of God, she should keep her object before her mind and tax all her powers for its attainment. She must learn to make the most of opportunities. One fault with our young women is, that opportunities avail them but little. They see much and perceive but little, talk much and think but little, hear much and learn but little, read much and acquire but little.
I suppose almost every young woman has seen many steamboats, yet it may be doubtful whether one understands the mechanical principle by which they are propelled and directed. They have seen the flowers and vegetation, birds and beasts, of our region of country, and yet they doubtless are about as ignorant of them as of the products of the torrid zone. They live under our form of government, yet how many know wherein it differs from other governments! They have heard or read of almost every science, yet how little acquainted are they with the commonest principles of science! They have all had their countenances daguerreotyped, yet who knows how it is done? They all wear silk, cotton, linen, yet who knows the history of either one of these articles of apparel? They have bodies "fearfully and wonderfully made," yet how little they know of their structure, laws, and uses! They have minds, beautiful and immortal gifts of divine wisdom and goodness, yet how little attention have they given to learn their principles of action! All around them are little worlds of every-day things upon which they have never bestowed a passing thought, things which are full of interest; yet the common habit of seeing much and thinking little has led them into this same superficial habit. It is like the young man of whom I was told a few days since, who had traveled all over the world, rode on every sea and ocean, and visited every principal seaport, and yet knew nothing of any of them. It is a sad fault with us all, and especially with women—we don't think enough. The mass of young women trifle a great portion of their life away on the smallest imaginable things. They chatter like birds and gabble like geese, without the trouble of thinking. The things they see and hear every day awaken no consecutive thought. The stars shine above them, and they call them pretty things, but never ask the astronomic story of their magnificence. The world beats its great march of life around them, but they seek not to know the rich lessons of human activity therein. I know that society does not hold out so great inducements for woman to think and educate herself as it ought. I know woman is oppressed with legal and customic disabilities. I know she is shut out from many fields of activity and industry for which she is eminently fitted by her natural endowments. I know that her labor is not half rewarded, that her ambition is cramped into a narrow field. I know that by custom and law she is the slave of man, who holds her person, children, and property in his custody. I know that men think they must be silly and simpering in woman's presence, because they suppose she can appreciate and enjoy nothing higher. I know that many men have an awful horror of "strong-minded women," really educated women. I know that any thing beyond housewifery or parlor gracefulness by many is considered unwomanly; yet woman may overcome all the obstacles in her way if she will educate herself to think, and think soundly and forcibly. She must be her own deliverer from these barbaric customs and laws, and her own thought must be the instrument of delivery. Let women everywhere become solid thinkers so far as their capacities will admit, instead of triflers; let their life-education be deep, useful, and practical, instead of superficial and theoretical; let them be as well acquainted with the principles of society as they are with those of fashion; let them be as much interested in human progress as they are in dress and gossip; let them take into their hands the keys of knowledge and unlock the storehouses of practical wisdom all about them, and go in and lay hold of the treasures, and human society would soon blossom as the rose. The great thing needed now by our society is more woman-influence—more woman-thought, character, and power. Our female Education is too superficial, trifling, babyish. Our girls are not half developed. Our young women do not exhibit one half their real strength and beauty. Their minds are robbed of much of their natural vigor. They are dwarfed by their delicate nutriment.
As soon as a little girl begins to be a young lady she must be shut up in the house; talked to as though she did not know much; read novels; be dressed up; go to parties; have suitors; take lessons in music; have a dancing master; visit the theater; go a term or two to the young ladies' seminary to practice calisthenics; study Botany without seeing a flower, Astronomy without looking at a star or planet, Geology without stepping into the dirt or putting her hand upon a rock; write a half-dozen compositions on friendship, mother, and home; daub a little in water-paints; receive a diploma, and then set up for matrimony. This is female Education—without an object, without ambition, without point or force, without strength, depth, or breadth. It is simply a little outside polish. It does not teach how to think; it does not develop mind; it does not confer power; it does not form character; it does not fix the will, direct the life, establish opinion, deepen sentiment, or do any thing to make a true woman.
Our young women want a more vigorous, practical, and useful Education, one that shall develop strength, character and resolution; one that shall give growth to the mind, power to the will, and efficiency to the life; one that shall enable any woman to be independent, true to herself, to entertain and maintain her own opinions, to get her own living, to mark out her own course in life, to count one in any position she may choose to occupy, to be all that may belong to a free, independent, accountable, intelligent creature. They want to be educated so they will know their own powers, understand their own duties, and comprehend the value of life too well to waste it on trifles. They want to be able to know the world in which they move, to take an active part in all life's duties, to converse intelligently upon all ordinary subjects, and make a useful figure in the circles in which they move.
Woman's powers are eminently practical. She has a strong judgment, a rich store of practical good sense, an ample fund of tact, skill, shrewdness, inventiveness, and management. Women are the best managers in the world so far as they have had experience and a field of action. Not one whit behind are they in every department of life to which they have had access.
Now if our girls were reared to the practical duties of life, trained to some great and good end, taught to live for something, have some grand and noble purpose in life, and live to that purpose, how much richer in all that embellishes life and magnifies humanity would be our world!
Our boys have something to live for. Each one says, "I'll be this or that; I'll do so and so when I'm a man. The world must know that I live. I must hew out my way, make me a mark, tell a story that my fellows shall hear." And so each one educates himself into his purpose. But how is it with our girls? What do they live for? What do they expect to be and do when they are women? They have powers equal to the boys—can play as well, run as fast, learn as readily, manage as skillfully, perceive as quickly, are as dutiful, useful, and efficient. Why should the boys grow up with a great and good purpose before them, while the girls grow up for nothing? See what a woman has to do, and what mighty springs of action and influence she holds in her hands. She sits on a throne of power at the very fountain of life. She is goddess of all the springs and little rivulets of humanity. She makes men and trains them. As mother, wife, and friend she wields a triune scepter of vast power. She rears the twigs that grow into the oaks of the world. She may bend them at her will. If woman was rightly educated, who could tell what a race of men would grow up to people the coming ages? How can the woman-mind, undeveloped, untrained, uninspired with great aims, grand and brave resolutions and actions, impress the minds of the generation to come with strength, power, activity, intellectual and moral vigor? It can not. Oh, it is a burning shame that our women are not educated to a greater vigor of body and mind! They should be strong in will thought, action, love, resolution. They should be stout-hearted, high-souled, brave-purposed, yet always womanly. If the world were mine, and I could educate but one sex, it should be the girls. I could make a greater and better world of the next generation by educating the girls of this. It is not half so important that our legislators be wise, as that our mothers be so. It is not half so important that our men be brave, as that our women be so. Strengthen the women-heart, and you strengthen the world. Give me a nation of noble women, and I will give you a noble nation. Cultivate the woman-mind if you would cultivate the race.
PHYSICAL AND INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT.
Natural Position of Woman—Relations of Body and Mind—Sound Minds only in Sound Bodies—To be Healthy is a Duty—Physical Laws Obligatory—Penalties for Violation—Girls and their Grandmothers—Causes of Difference—Physiological Studies Advised—Women the 'Weaker Vessel;' Why?—Intelligence and Beauty—Woman's Sound Judgment—Woman's Mind not Powerless—Finished Educations—Education at Home—Schools only Helps to Education—Woman's Thought Wanted.
We have treated the subject of education in its widest and most general sense. We propose now to treat the same general subject more definitely in relation to Physical and Intellectual Development.
Such is the natural position of woman in human society, that the welfare and progress of that society depends in no small degree upon her culture. She presides over the fountains of life, all life—both male and female. She impregnates every human being with the qualities of her soul. She images herself in all men's being. Into the very woof of existence she weaves the shreds of her own being. Woman's soul colors, forms, molds, modifies, endows the soul of humanity. It is so. It must be so. The infant-mind sleeps in the mother-mind till all its powers are set and their tendencies established. The child-being is subject to every mood of mind and state of body which exists in the mother-being. Then the early twig is nurtured and the early blossom unfolded on woman's bosom. Woman performs the first work of culture, imparts the first ideas, awakens the first thoughts, aspirations, and emotions, stirs the first tides of feeling, and wields the first scepter in the minds of all men. In a secondary sense, she is the maker of all men. This being the primary fact of human existence, her education is the first work in human progress. To cultivate her is to cultivate the race. To elevate and dignify her is to elevate and dignify the world. As she goes up she bears every thing human with her. Depress her, and the world sinks. If you would ennoble and dignify the world, do this for its women, and the work is done. If you legislate for the world, legislate for woman. If you would educate the world, educate woman. If you would give freedom to the world, give it to woman. If you would redeem the world, redeem woman. The world lies in her arms. She nurtures it on her bosom; she rocks it in her cradle; she breathes into it the breath of its mental life. Above her it can not rise. She is the fountain, and the stream rises not above it. What woman is in any nation or age, the people of that nation or age will be. Noble women give nobility to the sphere of action and influence in which they move. Genius, worth, mental and moral power, owe more to woman than to all things else. If I wished to bless the world, I should bless woman. If I wished to sweeten a stream, I should mingle the sweet in its fountain. If I wished to make an oak strong, I would put water and nourishment at its roots. If I wished to rear me a noble horse, I should take care that its mother possessed the strength and qualities I wished in the animal. It is clear to my mind, if we would do a good thing for mankind, we must do it for woman. Woman should be unshackled, her soul set free, her ambition awakened, her nobility developed, her strength nurtured, her mind educated, her normal sense quickened, her consciences sanctified, her affections taught to wind their tendrils about all that is noble.
Such being the natural position of woman, we hold it as a self-evident truth, that she should be educated deeply, thoroughly, solidly; that the first work of every reformer, every philanthropist, every statesman, every Christian, is to help and urge onward the education of woman.
I. The dwelling-place of the human mind, the instrument of its actions in its world-sphere, is the body. Between the mind and body there is an intimate, mysterious, and wonderful relation. They act and react upon each other. The condition of each one affects the condition of the other: a diseased body tends to produce a diseased condition of mind; a disturbed mind wears upon the body; a nervous hot-blooded body is a constant irritation and flame to the mind; a passionate, restless mind gives no peace to the body.
Thus they act and react upon each other in all their multiform movements, conditions, and activities. No action or condition of the one is negative to the other. The state of the body, then, is important to the mind, to its free and easy action, to its natural growth and ready culture. This is a fact criminally overlooked by the great mass of mankind, and especially by women. It is overlooked by many teachers, and in our general system of mental education.
To train the body is our first care. To develop its strength, to secure and preserve proper tone, to make it harmonious, active, and beautiful, to plant in its vitality the roses of health and sow in its blood the seeds of enduring life and activity, is our first and imperious duty. To neglect the body is to neglect the mind. To abuse the body is to abuse the mind. To enervate, irritate, or corrupt the body is to produce a like effect upon the mind. To beat, bruise, and shatter the house in which we live is to do violence to the dweller therein. Every pain in the body, every weakness, every injury done to it, does a harm to the mind. In ordinary life we do not receive this as true; yet in all severe cases we know it is so. But there can be no doubt that it is true the world over and life through. The mind is our principal care. And we are to nurture our bodies as the present instrument of mental action. If the instrument is shattered and diseased, the action of the mind will be correspondingly imperfect and weak. The body is the instrument on which the mind makes the music of life; and if we would have that music harmonious and sweet, we must have a good instrument and keep it in good tune. The wonderful genius of Ole Bull, whose strains seem almost divine, and full of the mysterious and infinite depths of meaning that belong to music in its highest power, could never make the notes of woe or joy dance at his will like things of life, from the strings of a broke and rickety instrument. He must have an instrument alive in every nerve, sound in every limb, perfect in every part, sensitive to the touch of the sounding bow, before his genius can revel in the melody of music and charm the souls of others in the ecstasies of musical delight. So it is with our bodies. They must be perfect in all their wonderfully and fearfully made parts before the minds which use them can make harmonious the music of life. This is no idle dream. It is the language of philosophy, the utterings of experience, the voice of reason. A sickly body will never do well the biddings of the mind.
It is so; it must be so; virtue can never be all she may be and ought to be, in a sickly and fevered body. Reason can never wield her grandest scepter of power on a shattered and trembling throne. Love can never be that pure, constant, heavenly flame which is a proper symbol of divine affection in a bosom racked with pain or oppressed with weakness. The divine energies of humanity can never urge the soul to a realization of its highest ideals of excellency in a frame overcome with disease, relaxed with dissipation, or oppressed with unnatural burdens. Yes, the body must be sound, healthy, perfect, to realize the highest mental states of which we are capable. Feeble and sickly is the best culture we can give to a mind locked in a feeble and tormented body. No proposition is clearer then, than that we should nurture, cherish, and invigorate our bodies with the most watchful care and rigid and healthful discipline. It is wicked to neglect or abuse them. We violate the most sacred principles of duty when we harm the dwelling-places of our souls. To carelessly expose ourselves to any physical danger, to engage in any species of dissipation or intemperance, to ruthlessly waste in any way the physical energies which God has given us, to recklessly weaken, sicken, mar, or injure our bodies is as much a sin as to violate the commands of the Decalogue, or deny in practice the principles of the moral law. God will not hold such an offender guiltless. The visitation of His retribution is and will be upon such transgressors. It is our duty to be healthy, to obey the physical laws of our being, to possess sound and active bodies. Every pain, fever, sickness, is a retributive evidence of a violation of these laws; and for every such violation we not only suffer physical evil, but we suffer mentally, morally, socially, and spiritually. We belittle ourselves in the sight of God and men, bemean ourselves in the presence of the moral law, and stay more or less our progress in the great educational work of life. If we would be eminently pious, benevolent, and good, we must be healthy. If we would be endowed with wisdom, virtue, and love, we must be healthy. If we would win men's deepest confidence and God's highest approval, we must be healthy. If we would develop most vigorously all our powers of mind and heart, and give the richest possible culture to our souls, we must be sound in body. If we would impart the greatest possible intellectual and moral vigor to the generation to come, we must obey the laws of health. If we would progress most rapidly in the divine life, and win the brightest laurels for our spiritual brows, we must cultivate well our physical powers. Life's attainments and heaven's joys are not a little affected by our physical conditions. We are of those who believe that we have no right to abuse our bodies, no right to be the puny, feeble, sickly things the most of us are; no right to carry about consuming disease and cankering maladies that eat out our joys and waste our powers. We have no right to make our bodies pestiferous hospitals to bear about the seeds of disease, weakness, and misery. Our physical education is the very first thing to be attended to. In childhood and youth it is a matter of great moment. Every child should be thoroughly instructed in his physical duties, and every youth should make himself wise in all matters pertaining to life and health. I deem this subject of vast importance to young women. Their usefulness and happiness depend in no small degree upon it. Their progress in the arts of life, their influence on the generations to come, their degree of culture and power, depend much upon their obedience to the laws of health. If they would be the women they ought to be, noble, high-minded, matronly women, impressed with a lofty sense of their duty and high and generous conceptions of womanhood, it is imperatively important that they cultivate judiciously the greatest possible strength and activity of body. What a sickly womanhood grows up in a nervous, feeble, neuralgic, splenetic female body!
How is it with our young women? Are they vigorous and healthy? Can they eat well, sleep well, work well, walk well, bear well the changes of climate, endure heat and cold, toil and fatigue, trial and study? Are their forms full of life and health, their muscles full of strength and activity, their chests well expanded, their lungs full and free, their hearts large and strong, sending out the currents of life ladened with their stores of well-formed nutriment? Ah, would it were so! But we know it is not. Our young women are sickly house-plants, that a chill wind will shake or an untimely frost nip and wither. They are pet-birds, with no strength of wing to bear life's long, brave flight. Colds and coughs, aches and pains, weaknesses and diseases innumerable prey upon them. They faint at the sight of a spider and scream at the far-off hiss of a serpent. They are full of weaknesses and pains that wear out life and enervate all their mental and spiritual powers. The women of our day grow old in their youth. They often have all the marks of fifty years of age at twenty-five—decayed teeth, sallow skins, sunken cheeks, wrinkled faces, nervous debility, and a whole crowd of female ailments. Our grandmothers at sixty years were stouter and more capable of endurance than our young women at twenty-five. Why is it so? Simply because our girls and their mothers have neglected to cultivate their physical powers. They have been shut up in tight rooms, bound up in bandages, fed on sweetmeats and spices, doctored with poisons, dressed in whalebones and death-cords, petted like house-plants, steeped in tea and coffee, till they are nothing but bundles of shattered nerves and diseased muscles. There may be noble exceptions, but this is the general rule. Our men and women are all too weak and sickly. But we know that our men are by far the most healthy. And well it may be so. Our boys are turned out to stretch their limbs and try their muscles, while the girls are compelled to look at them through the windows. It is a burning shame to imprison all the little girls in the country, to shut them in from the fresh air and the life-giving sun, from the green fields and the flowing water-brooks, from the woods and hills where health is breathing in every gale and strength is made at every bounding step. All the girls should wear good, tight boots, loose, flowing short-dresses, open sun-bonnets, and then run, and shout, and laugh in natural out-of-doors glee. They should sleep in cool, well-ventilated rooms; eat simple, coarse, plain food; exercise much in health-giving work and play; drink pure, cold water, and bathe in it daily; be taught to practice temperate, prudent, and regular habits; learn the laws of health and how to obey them, the physiology of their own bodies, and what is demanded for health and strength. Such a course of early physical training will impart beauty, vivacity, cheerfulness, amiability, strength of mind, warmth of heart, and moral stability, more surely and rapidly than can otherwise be done. Girls thus trained will possess a higher and nobler womanhood, exert a wider and deeper influence in their families and spheres, impart firmer bodies and richer minds to their children than those who are rocked through girlhood in luxury and dress and shut up in confined air and more confined dresses. We are pampering our women to death. We are killing them with tenderness, not with enlightened moral and affectionate tenderness, but with the tenderness of folly, fashion, luxury, idleness, with the tenderness of vicious habits of life.
My advice to all young women is, that they learn the laws of health and strength as soon as possible, and obey them to the very best of their ability; that they study the physiology of their own systems, and know how fearfully and wonderfully they are made, and what conditions of life are necessary to the fullest and most perfect physical development; that they live with the resolute determination that they will be well, and that not a pain or weakness shall be felt without tracing it immediately to its real cause and applying the proper remedy at once; that health shall be deemed a condition of happiness and its maintenance a religious duty; that sickness shall be considered a sin and pain, a just chastisement of God for it. When our young women are thus physically trained, they will be prepared to bless the world as it never has been blessed; they will usher in a period of moral and intellectual grandeur such as the world has never witnessed; they will exert a strong woman-influence in every sphere of thought and action which will be at once refining, ennobling, and redeeming; they will so establish correct habits of living, so sanctify the altars of home, so adorn the walks of social life, that the very heart of the great body of society will throb anew with fresh impulse of life and send out its currents of health and strength to the remotest parts.
II. With such a physical preparation, we are ready for intellectual action, for the education of mind.
Woman has not had a fair chance for the culture of her mind. She has been continually anathematized and tormented with the idea that she is the "weaker vessel." Her father, her brother, and her husband have always told her that her mind was weak and small, and that it could not comprehend great things nor do great works. Sometimes her mother and sister are joined in this wholesale slander of the female mind. When a little girl she has been paralyzed with the thought of her inferiority. All through her youth it has been a dead weight on her mental activity. Through her life it has ever muffled the harp of her heart and weighed down the wings of her aspirations. It has been an incubus of discouragement in all intellectual pursuits. How could woman be any thing with the whole world against her? with even those she loved best, and in whose judgment she most confided, all the time reminding her of her mental weakness and inferiority? And as it has been, so it is. Woman is still believed intellectually inferior to man, by ninety-nine one hundredths of mankind. Poor, weak, silly, drunken, half-idiotic men, whose wives have to support them, will tell you in conscious pride of sex of woman's weakness of mind. I have heard little Lilliputian men, whose minds were as small as a baby's rattle-box, always harping on this worn-out string of woman's weakness of mind. It is an idea not peculiar to enlightened people. The savages believe it, and many of them believe that she is only a pretty beast without a soul that is given to man to bear his burdens. Among savage, barbarous, and half-civilized people, woman's inferiority is never questioned. The idea is entertained in its bald usurpation and black injustice without a questioning thought. Among us it is covered over a little with cotton beauty and rolled up in sugar-plum sweetness so the woman will bear it a little better. Our women are tickled with the idea that they are the beauty. Our public speakers, lecturers, papers, speak of the audiences of intelligence and beauty, meaning by intelligence the men and by beauty the women; a deep insult to the woman-mind.
I freely admit that the mass of men in our country do possess more intelligence than the women; but the reason is not because of woman's inferiority, but because of her oppression and want of opportunity. She has not had half a chance. She has been shut out from almost every field of intellectual labor, barred from every position of trust and profit, laughed at by baby men and silly women if she attempted to devote her life to intellectual pursuits, opposed with the most barbarous legal disabilities and the still more barbarous incubus of public opinion. Yet notwithstanding all this oppression and want of opportunity, she has shown a quickness of perception, an intuitive acumen, a sharpness of forecast and solidity of judgment that among nearly all married men has made her opinion a matter of great importance. Few are the married men that are willing to risk a disrespect of their wives' judgment in any important matter. An eminent lawyer of Virginia once told me that but twice in his married life had he acted counter to his wife's advice, and in both instances his judgment failed and hers was right. Many men have found their wives' intuitive judgment so correct that they dare not resist it, as though it were the utterings of an oracle. It is well known that such men as Bonaparte and Jackson have relied with great confidence upon their wives' opinions. So universal is this opinion among men, that all our best moralists and most sage philosophers advise all married men to consult their wives on all important matters, and to be very cautious about resisting the settled convictions of woman, not as a matter of courtesy or policy, but because of the accurate perceptions and sound judgments of woman's mind.
This is not all fustian for the flattery of women; it is the deliberate conviction of our best and wisest minds. And yet a great majority of these same minds can not get rid of the idea that woman's intellect is inferior.
Though the mass of women of all countries have been intellectually undeveloped, we have instances enough to show that the woman-mind is as powerful, close-sighted, and active as man's. Women have ruled the mightiest nations, mastered the abstruse sciences, led vigorous armies to victory, written powerful books, made vigorous and brilliant achievements in eloquence, commanded vessels, conducted complicated commercial relations, edited influential journals and papers, sat in chairs of learning and done every thing necessary to show that the female mind is not wanting in power. Yet if the female mind were weaker, it is not an argument against its education. Mind should be educated, whether little or much, weak or strong. And woman's natural position is such, that all the mind she has should be developed and richly cultivated.
We talk much about female education; we have female schools and colleges; and one might think, to read of them, that we educated the female mind. But it is a sad mistake. The greater part of our female seminaries and colleges are mere shams. They do not develop mind. They do not train its muscles to hard work; they do not discipline its nerves to close application and vigorous research; they do not harden its hands to the toil of thinking, nor strengthen its arms to battle with the intricacies of science nor the problems of metaphysics. They are mere gilding shops, whitewashing establishments, paint factories, where girls are polished to order with the etiquette of boarding-school finish.
We send our girls to these schools to be educated; but educated for what? Why, nothing in particular; but to be educated because it is fashionable; to go home and sit in the parlor educated ladies; to talk about novels and poetry with the gentlemen that come in; to go into ecstasies over some boy's last; to set up for a professional husband. It is to go over, not through, some of the sciences, but do it because it is fashionable; recite and write and go through all the forms of school training, just because it sounds well and will give a lady social position, not literary standing or scientific character, intellectual influence, or dignity of thought and life; and go through it all and graduate with diploma in hand at fourteen or sixteen years of age. Here again women are cheated with a bauble. Little girls are told that they are educated at this tender age, and to prove it are referred to their diplomas, announcing to the world that they have been through a regular course of study at such an institution. Only think of it—a finished education at sixteen! Why, the majority of our young men can not get ready for college till they are twenty or twenty-five. There they spend four years in hard study and the most vigorous mental discipline, delving in the deep mines of science and untombing the rich archives of history and human thought; then study three years the masters of their professions. And even then they are but boys in thought and action, and must meet the hard discipline of active life before we award to them intellectual manhood. We compare these educated girls with these educated young men, and wonder at the weakness of the female mind! The girls went to school because it was fashionable; the boys at the call of an honorable ambition. The girls studied to appear well in society; the boys to tread life's highway with honor and win laurels from the hand of the world in the duties of useful professions. The girls were stimulated by nothing that was great and noble in action; the boys were fired by all that can stir up human ambition. True, the innate glory of cultivated minds was before them both, but that alone in our present sensuous life has seldom been found a sufficient stimulus to vigorous intellectual discipline. I should be glad to see a class of our strongest young women go through Dartmouth, Yale, and Cambridge colleges with the same preparation and stimulants that our young men possess. If I mistake not, they would graduate with honors, and be heard from in the high field of intellectual life.
But as this can not be at present, our young women must make the best of the opportunities they have. What education they do get should be thorough, practical, and from proper motives. They must fill woman's place, and they ought to prepare for it as thoroughly as possible. They have an intellectual life to live and intellectual duties to perform. How poorly they will live that life and perform those duties without a preparation. Many young women can not attend school and enjoy the common routine of mental discipline; but they may read and study at home; they may cultivate their minds by the fireside; in the lecture-room, in the church, and in the intellectual circle. The midnight hour may impart strength to their minds, and the morning dawn may find them storing them with useful knowledge. The world is full of good books, and from them they may glean invaluable treasures. Every young woman spends time enough in idle gossip and foolish flirtation to educate herself well. Schools are not necessary—they are only helps to education. Many great minds have been educated without them. To educate is to learn to think. The way to learn to think is to practice thinking; "Practice makes perfect." The archer practices with his bow; the artist with his brush or chisel; the writer with his pen; the mechanic with his tool; the lawyer with his brief. So the student should practice with his mind—practice thinking, reasoning, investigating, analyzing, comparing, and illustrating. This is the practice our young female minds want. They do not think enough. They do not dig for thought, search for ideas, investigate for truth. They are too light, frivolous, and giddy. They will run by a great thought to trifle with a silly whim. They will leave a rich intellectual lecture for a giddy party. They will turn away from a mental feast to enjoy an idle gossip; I mean too many of them will.
How beautiful, how truly captivating, is an intellectual woman! We have many such among us, and their number is increasing. The female mind is awakening from its long slumber. In ten years we shall have many more. Our present female education will soon be too superficial. These surface students will soon be left in the shade. Woman is hearing the voice of God which commands her to use well her talents. Soon He will call for them, and she must answer for their use. It is an omen of good that woman is rising and putting on her strength. She has a rich mind, and I am glad that she is becoming aware of it.
Young women, heed the voice which asks you to educate. If you heed it not, you may look meagre and antiquated by-and-by. In that "good time coming" how sad a thing will be an uneducated woman, one whose mind is barren of thought! You are to live, or ought to live, through two generations. If you live only for to-day, you will be minus to-morrow. If you live for to-morrow, you will be bright lights in your day and generation. There is a work for you to do. You must sanctify the thought of the world. Our men are too worldly and sensual in their intellectuality. You are to redeem their minds from this baseness. We want more pure thought, more sanctified mind, more looking upward toward goodness, heaven, and God. And with your assistance we may be redeemed from this downward tendency. I have often said it: the world wants more woman's thought. It is too masculine, hard, inflexible. Our men think too much by rules of logic. Educated women would be more intuitive, spontaneous, religious. You may remedy this evil. Much responsibility rests upon the young women of to-day. Let them know it, and lay aside their folly and lightness and put on the garments of wisdom and truth.
MORAL AND SOCIAL CULTURE.
Woman Judges by Impressions—Mental Powers should Harmonize—Effects of Different Culture—Male and Female Minds Differ—The Female Mind Analyzed—Feminine Purity—Woman's Benevolence—The Sentiment of Duty—Integrity in Woman—Cultivate Regard for Truth—Piety the Crown of Moral Virtues—Cultivation of Piety Urged—Development of Social Nature—Friendship and Love.
Few subjects can be more interesting to high-minded young women than those which are the theme of this Lecture—MORAL and SOCIAL Culture. Concerning the moral and social deportment of women's nature there can be no difference of opinion. I am happy in knowing that although men differ about woman's intellectual capacities, they agree in ascribing to her the highest order of moral and social qualities. All admit that woman is the morality and religion, the love and sociality, of humanity. In these developments of human attainments, she is the queen without a peer. These are at present woman's peculiar fields of power. Society has measurably shut her out from the intellectual arena of life. But if it has cut short her operations in this, it has extended them in the field of social life. Wide and grand are her opportunities here. Man is not so deficient in gallantry as he is in generosity and judgment. In what man has oppressed woman, it is more the fault of his head than his heart; it is more a weakness of conscience than of affection. He is prouder of his judgment than he ought to be. His judgment often fails because it is not sanctified by conscience. His intellect is often deceived because its vision is not extended and widened by a deep affection and a broad benevolence. In this, woman has the advantage of him in the present relations of the sexes. Her moral sense consecrates her intellect, and her heart quickens it, thus making her judgment more intuitive and ready, more comprehensive and sure. She feels that a thing is so; he reasons that it is so. She judges by impression when facts are stated; he by logic. Her impressions she can not always explain, because her intellect has not been sufficiently cultivated; his logic often fails him, because it is not sufficiently imbued with the moral element. The light of the conscience and the heart does not shine upon it with sufficient strength. This we understand to be the present difference between the male and female mind. It is more than a difference in growth and culture, in inherent constitution. We do not believe that the relation between the different departments of the human mind naturally differ in men and women; that is, we do not believe that man is more intelligent and less moral, and women more moral and less intellectual. A perfect male mind is an equal strength of the several departments of mind; that is, an equal strength of the intellectual, moral, social, and energetic portions of the mind, a balance among its several powers. The same is true of the female mind.
So far as this relation of the parts is concerned, it is the same in the perfect male and female mind. In just so much as this relation is changed, is the judgment corrupted and the mental strength impaired. In the present male mind this relation is changed by giving the greater cultivation to the intellect, and less to the moral sense and the heart. So his judgment is impaired and the moral dignity of his soul debased. He is a less man than he ought to be; is deformed in his mental growth, like a tree grown in a shady place where the light could reach it from only one quarter. He has less power of mind than he would have with the same amount of cultivation properly and equally distributed among the several departments of his mind. Strength lies in balance of power. Our men are not too intellectual, but too intellectual for their moral and affectionate strength. They are like an apple grown on all one side, or a horse with disproportioned body, or any animal with some of its limbs too short for the rest. Mentally they are deformed and lame by their one-sided culture. In the present female mind there is a disproportion in another direction. In this the intellect has been neglected, while the moral and social mind has had a better degree of cultivation. Thus our women have been mentally deformed and weakened. They are less woman than they ought to have been. Their characters and judgments have lacked harmony, and their lives have been marked by the same deficiencies. Their minds are one-sided, and marked with sad irregularities. They are not too moral and affectionate, but are not sufficiently intellectual. The same amount of culture which they have received would have conferred more beauty and dignity to the character and life had it been more general, or equally applied to the several powers of mind. Sound judgment, pure life, dignity of character are the results of a balance of power and culture in the several departments of mind. This difference in the culture of the male and female mind has made a breach between the sexes. The present male mind can not comprehend the female, nor the female the male. Instead of growing up in similarity and harmony, they have grown up into wide differences.
Our present men and women are not in harmony with each other. There are cultivated antagonisms of mind between them. They can not see, feel, nor think alike. Their lives are impregnated with a different spirit. And this is one of the primary and fruitful sources of unhappiness in the marriage relation. Men and women are so different in their cultivation that they are not in their natural harmony. Our men are not natural men, nor our women natural women. The nature of each is warped by culture, and warped in different directions.
The male and female mind are not alike by nature, by any means. There is a wide difference between them; but the difference is in the nature, texture, and quality of the mind, and not in the relation of parts. The female mind has an inherent constitution peculiar to itself that makes it female; so with the male. This difference is beyond the fathoming line of human thought. We know it exists, but wherefore and how we know not. It is the secret of the Divine Constructor of mentality. In our mental structure we are to seek for harmony, a consistent rhythmic development of parts. The opportunities offered to woman for the cultivation of her moral and religious nature are eminently favorable. If her intellectual opportunities are not so good, her moral and religious are better. She is not so pressed with temptation. The world does not bear with such an Atlas burden on her conscience. The almighty dollar does not eclipse so large a field of her mental vision. Material pursuits do not check so much her spiritual progress. God is nearer to her heart, more in her thoughts, sweeter in her soul, brighter in her visions, because she is less compassed about by the snares of vice and the hostile pursuits of the false and flattering world. It is a blessed thing for humanity that woman is more religious and morally upright; because man is too irreverent and base. He lacks the sanctity of high morality and the consecration of religion. I speak of man in the mass. Woman is the conservation of morality and religion. Her moral worth holds man in some restraint and preserves his ways from becoming inhumanly corrupt. Mighty is the power of woman in this respect. Every virtue in woman's heart has its influence on the world. Some men feel it. A brother, husband, friend, or son is touched by its sunshine. Its mild beneficence is not lost. A virtuous woman in the seclusion of her home, breathing the sweet influence of virtue into the hearts and lives of its beloved ones, is an evangel of goodness to the world. She is one of the pillars of the eternal kingdom of right. She is a star shining in the moral firmament. She is a princess administering at the fountains of life. Every prayer she breathes is answered to a greater or less extent in the hearts and lives of those she loves. Her piety is an altar-fire where religion acquires strength to go out on its merciful mission. We can not over-estimate the utility and power of woman's moral and religious character. The world would go to ruin without it. With all our ministers and churches, and bibles and sermons, man would be a prodigal without the restraint of woman's virtue and the consecration of her religion. Woman first lays her hand on our young powers. She plants the first seeds. She makes the first impressions; and all along through life she scatters the good seed of the kingdom, and sprinkles the dews of her piety. But woman does not do enough. Her power is not yet equal to its need. Her virtue is not mighty enough. Her religion comes short in its work. Look out and see the world—a grand Pandora's box of wickedness—a great battle-field of clashing passions and warring interests—a far-spread scene of sensualism and selfishness, in which woman herself acts a conspicuous part. Look at society—the rich eating up the poor; the poor stabbing at the rich; fashion playing in the halls of gilded sensualism; folly dancing to the tune of ignorant mirth; intemperance gloating over its roast beef, or whisky-jug, brandy punch, champagne bottle, bearing thousands upon thousands down to the grave of ignominy, sensualism, and drunkenness. Is there not a need of more vigorous virtue in woman? Is there not a call for a more active religion, a more powerful impulse in behalf of morality? Who shall heed this cry of wicked, wasting humanity, if young woman does not? To youthful woman we must look for a powerful leader in the cause of morality and religion. The girls of to-day are to be greatly instrumental in giving a moral complexion to the society of to-morrow. It is important that they should fix high this standard of virtue. They ought to lay well their foundations of religion. They ought early to baptize their souls in the consecrated waters of truth and right.
I. The first element in their moral character which they should seek to establish firmly is purity. A pure heart is the fountain of life. "The pure in heart shall see God." Not only is purity of life needed to make a young woman beautiful and useful, but purity in thought, feeling, emotion, and motive. All within us that lies open to the gaze of God should be pure. A young woman should be in heart what she seems to be in life. Her words should correspond with her thoughts. The smile of her face should be the smile of her heart. The light of her eye should be the light of her soul. She should abhor deception; she should loathe intrigue; she should have a deep disgust of duplicity. Her life should be the outspoken language of her mind, the eloquent poem of her soul speaking in rhythmic beauties the intrinsic merit of inward purity. Purity antecedes all spiritual attainments and progress. It is the first and fundamental virtue in a good character; it is the letter A in the moral alphabet; it is the first step in the spiritual life; it is the Alpha of the eternal state of soul which has no Omega. Whatever may be our mental attainments or social qualities, we are nothing without purity; only "tinkling cymbals." Our love is stained, our benevolence corrupted, our piety a pretense which God will not accept. An impure young woman is an awful sight. She outrages all just ideas of womankind, all proper conceptions of spiritual beauty. To have evil imaginings, corrupt longings, or deceitful propensities ought to startle any young woman. To feel a disposition to sensuality, a craving for the glitter of a worldly life, or a selfish ambition for unmerited distinction is dangerous in the extreme. It is the exuding of impure waters from the heart. Who feels such utterings within should beware. They are the whisperings of an evil spirit, the temptations to sin and crime. If I could speak to all the young women in the world, I would strive to utter the intrinsic beauties and essential qualities of purity; I would seek to illustrate it as the fountain of all that is great and good, all that is spiritually grand and redeeming. There is no virtue, no spiritual life, no moral beauty, no glory of soul, nor dignity of character without purity.
To be pure is to be truthful, child-hearted, innocent of criminal desire or thought, averse to wrong, in love with right, in harmony with whatsoever is beautiful, good, and true. This state of the soul is subject to cultivation. It may be made strong and active. By personal effort, by constant watchfulness and striving, every young woman may be pure; but she need not expect to be without. She must watch, and strive, and pray if she would be pure. If she does not, she will become corrupt before she is aware of it. The world will send into her heart its putrid streams of influence to corrupt and debase it.
The second virtue she should cultivate is benevolence. Queen of virtues, lovely star in the crown of life, bright and glorious image of Him who is love, how beautiful is it in woman's heart! A woman without benevolence is not a woman; she is only a deformed personality of womanhood. In every heart there are many tendencies to selfishness, but the spirit of benevolence counteracts them all. A hollow, cold, graceless, ungodly thing is a heart without benevolence. In a world like this, where we are all so needy and dependent, where our interests are so interlocked, where our lives and hearts overlap each other, and often grow together, we can not live without a good degree of benevolence. Our true earth-life is a benevolent one. Our highest interests are in the path of benevolence. We do most for ourselves when we do most for others. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Good deeds double in the doing, and the larger half comes back to the doer. The most benevolent soul lives nearest to God. A large heart of charity is a noble thing. Selfishness is the root of evil; benevolence is its cure. In no heart is benevolence more beautiful than in youthful woman's. In no heart is selfishness more ugly. To do good is noble; to be good is nobler. This should be the aim of all young women. The poor and needy should occupy a large place in their hearts. The sick and suffering should move upon their sympathies. The sinful and criminal should awaken their deepest pity. The oppressed and down-trodden should find a large place in their compassion. How blessed is woman on errands of mercy! How sweet are her soothing words to the disconsolate! How consoling her tears of sympathy to the mourning! How fresh her spirit of hope to the discouraged! How soft her hand to the sick! How balmy the breath of her love to the oppressed! Woman appears in one of her loveliest aspects when she appears as the practical follower of Him who "went about doing good." The young woman who does these works of practical benevolence is educating her moral powers in the school of earnest and glorious life. She is laying the foundations for a noble and useful womanhood. She is planting the seeds of a charity that will grow to bless and save the suffering of our fellow-men. In no other way can she so successfully cultivate the virtue of benevolence. It is not enough that she pity the sorrows of the poor and suffering. Her hand must be taught to heed the pleadings of her pitying heart. What she feels, she must do. What she wishes, she must make an effort to accomplish. What she prays for, she must strive to attain. Everybody predicts a beautiful life from a good-doing young woman.
Active and cheerful should be every young woman's efforts for the needy. Thus will she make to herself a large heart of benevolence, and draw around her a large circle of admiring and worthy friends.
The third virtue which the young woman should cultivate is integrity, or the sentiment of duty. A German philosopher has poetically and truthfully said, "The two most beautiful things in the universe are the starry heavens above our heads and the sentiment of duty in the human soul." Few objects are richer for the contemplation of a truly high-minded man than a young woman who lives, acts, speaks, and exerts her powers from an enlightened conviction of duty; in whose soul the voice of duty is the voice of God. In such women there is a mighty force of moral power. Though they may be gentle as the lamb, or retiring and modest in their demeanor, there is in them what commands respect, what enforces esteem. They are the strong women. The sun is not truer to his course than they to theirs. They are reliable as the everlasting rocks. Every day finds in them the same beautiful, steady, moral firmness. Men look to them with a confidence that knows no doubt. They are fearless and brave; they have but to know their duty to be ready to engage in it. Though men laugh or sneer, though the world frown or threaten, they will do it. There is no bravado in them; it is the simple power of integrity. They are true to what to them seems right. Such spirits are often the mildest and meekest we have. They are sweet as the flower, while they are firm as the rock. We know them by their lives. They are consistent, simple-hearted, uniform, and truthful. The word on the tongue is the exact speech of the heart. The expression they wear is the spirit they bear. Their parlor demeanor is their kitchen and closet manner. Their courtesy abroad is their politeness at home. Their confiding converse is such as the world may hear and respect them the more for it. Such are the women of integrity. Men love to trust their fortunes in their hands. The good love to gather around them for the blessing of their smiles; they strew their pathway with moral light. They bless without effort; they teach sentiments of duty and honesty in every act of their lives. Such is the rectitude of character which every young woman should cultivate. Nothing will more surely secure confidence and esteem. There is especial need of such cultivation, for young women are doubted in many respects more generally than any other class of people. Most people seldom think of believing many things they hear from the lips of young women, so little is genuine integrity cultivated among them. I am sorry to make such a remark. I wish truth did not compel it.
I would that young women would cultivate the strictest regard for truth in all things; in small as well as in important matters. Exaggeration or false coloring is as much a violation of integrity as a direct falsehood. Equivocation is often falsehood. Deception in all forms is opposed to integrity. Mock manners, pretended emotions, affectation, policy plans to secure attention and respect are all sheer falsehoods, and in the end injure her who is guilty of them. Respect and affection are the out-growth of confidence. She who secures the firmest confidence will secure the most respect and love. No love is lasting but that which rests in confidence. Confidence can only be secured by integrity. The young woman with a high sense of duty will always secure confidence, and having this, she will secure respect, affection, and influence.
The fourth virtue of inestimable value which the young woman should cultivate is piety. This may be regarded as the crown of all moral virtues. It is that which sanctifies the rest. It is a heavenly sun in the moral firmament, shedding a divine luster through the soul—a balmy, hallowing light, sweeter than earth can give. Piety is the meek-eyed maid of heaven, that holds her sister Faith in one hand and Hope in the other, and looks upward with a confiding smile, saying, "My treasure is above." Of all the influences wrought in the human soul, the work of piety is the most harmonizing and divine. It subdues the flesh and the world, and calls down Heaven to bless the happy pietist. It is the constant, ever-speaking voice of the Father uttering in sublime and beautiful impressions the holy eloquence of his everlasting love. It is the communing ground of the mortal child with the immortal Parent. In the mind of youthful woman it is as beautiful as it can be anywhere. And when she consecrates all her powers by the laying on of its heavenly hands, and sanctifies all her feelings by its hallowed influences, she exhibits a view of beauty—of physical, moral, and spiritual beauty—not elsewhere surpassed on earth. A deep, pervading, all-controlling piety is the highest attainment of man on earth. It is that reverent, humble, grateful, affectionate, and virtuous purity of spirit in which the human and divine meet and embrace each other. It is the spiritual crown which men put on when they go into the kingdom of heaven. This is what we urge as the last and finishing excellency of the youthful female character. The cultivation of this is what we press as conferring mortal perfection of character, or as great perfection as frail, sinful creatures can put on below "the mansions of the skies."
We urge it as the best and highest duty of every young woman—a duty she owes to herself, her fellows, and her God—a duty as full of joys as the heavens are of stars, and when performed, reflecting matchless grace upon her soul. We do not urge it through fear of hell or hope of heaven; we do not urge it from motives of policy; we urge it for its own intrinsic worth; for the blessedness of being pious; for the excellency and worth of character and life it confers. No character is complete till it is swayed and elevated by genuine piety. No heart is fully happy till it is imbued with the spirit of piety. No life is all it may and should be till its motives are baptized in the waters of piety. No soul is saved till it is transformed by the gracious spirit of this daughter of the skies. This divine grace of the soul should be sought by every young woman, and cultivated with the most assiduous care, for without it she is destitute of the highest beauty and divinest charm and power of womanhood.
II. Thus cultured and growing morally, the young woman should not forget to develop her social nature by the hand of prudent culture. She is made to love; not only to love one being, but all her fellows. Around kindred spirits should be linked the chain of friendship, and this chain should be kept bright by gentle and confiding usage. Nothing is more proper than that young women should learn how to choose friends wisely. Friendship and love are blind impulses. They need a guardian and guide. Discretion should be that guide. It is natural for us to love what is lovely; but as to what is lovely we often differ. What is lovely to one is not always lovely to another. But there are qualities of mind and heart that are intrinsically lovely, and about which there can be no difference of opinion. What is virtuous, good, amiable, high-minded, generous, self-sacrificing and pure, we all admire. What goes to make a perfect character, a moralist, a Christian, a wise man or woman, is agreeable to us all. Now this is what we should love. This is what we should seek in our friends. It is not a beautiful person, or bland and polite manners, or any thing that belongs to the exterior being that we should love. It is inward worth and beauty—loveliness of spirit. Around the soul should be woven the cords of friendship and love. The outward is deceitful and perishing. The inward is true and lasting. Our affections should be taught to fix themselves on the inward. Where we see inward beauty, there we should fix the seal of our friendship. And our affections should be taught to conform to this rule. No matter how attractive the outward person, if inward attractions, such as worth, wisdom, weight of character are wanting, we should not be moved to love. The one grand rule is to let worth of mind, beauty of soul, fix our affections in the social intercourse of life. Young women can not be too particular in obeying this rule. Their moral and spiritual life, their value in the world, their well-being and happiness depend upon it. If their affections are not brought to act wisely, to cling to the good and the true of soul, they will yield them untold misery. If they love the good, the high of soul and large of heart, they will be happy, inexpressibly happy in the action of their affections.
Employment a Duty—Powers Developed by Labor—All Females are not Women—Dependence usually Ignoble—Adversity gives Strength—Girls should have Trades—Self-reliance necessary to Women—Do Something and Be Something—Riches no Excuse for Idleness—Employment gives Activity and Strength—Labor considered Vulgar—Life is given for Employment—Woman was Made for Usefulness.
I take it that men and women were made for business, for activity, for employment. Activity is the life of us all. To do and to bear is the duty of life. We know that Employment makes the man in a very great measure. A man with no Employment, nothing to do, is scarcely a man. The secret of making men is to put them to work, and keep them at it. It is not study, not instruction, not careful moral training, not good parents, nor good society that makes men. These are means; but back of these lies the grand molding influence of men's life. It is Employment. A man's business does more to make him than every thing else. It hardens his muscles, strengthens his body, quickens his blood, sharpens his mind, corrects his judgment, wakes up his inventive genius, puts his wits to work, starts him on the race of life, arouses his ambition, makes him feel that he is a man and must fill a man's shoes, do a man's work, bear a man's part in life, and show himself a man in that part. No man feels himself a man who is not doing a man's business. A man without Employment is not a man. He does not prove by his works that he is a man. He can not act a man's part. A hundred and fifty pounds of bone and muscle is not a man. A good cranium full of brains is not a man. The bone and muscle and brain must know how to act a man's part, do a man's work, think a man's thoughts, mark out a man's path, and bear a man's weight of character and duty before they constitute a man. A man is a body and soul in action. A statue if well dressed may appear to be a man; so may a human being. But to be a man and appear to be are two very different things. Human beings grow; men are made. The being that grows to the stature of a man is not a man till he is made one. The grand instrumentality of man-making is Employment. The world has long since learned that men can not be made without Employment. Hence it sets its boys to work—gives them trades, callings, professions—puts the instruments of man-making into their hands and tells them to work out their manhood. And the most of them do it somehow; not always very well. The men who fail to make themselves a respectable manhood are the boys who are put to no business, the young men who have nothing to do, the male beings that have no Employment. We have them about us—walking nuisances—pestilential gas-bags—fetid air-bubbles, who burst and are gone. Our men of wealth and character, of worth and power, have been early bound to some useful Employment. Many of them were unfortunate orphan boys, whom want compelled to work for bread—the children of penury and lowly birth. In their early boyhood they buckled on the armor of labor, took upon their little shoulders heavy burdens, assumed responsibilities, met fierce circumstances, contended with sharp opposition, chose the ruggedest paths of Employment because they yielded the best remuneration, and braved the storms of toil till they won great victories for themselves and stood before the world in the beauty and majesty of noble manhood. This is the way men are made. There is no other way. Their powers are developed in the field of Employment.