The College Woman
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE ideal of the college woman, as we understand it, is threefold. In the first place, the college woman is one who has received much, she is one who during her collegiate experience has come to know the greatest minds of the past, who has dwelt with the thoughts and the deeds and the aims of the greatest minds of antiquity; she is one who, perhaps, may not know by direct experience the world for which she is preparing, but she is one who has learned of a greater world, the world from which we draw our culture, our refinement, our civilization, and our religion, and because during these four years the college woman has been associated spiritually with the great minds of that past, she looks out upon the world of the present from a higher point of view, from a point of view that is more spiritual, that is deeper, and in a certain sense is more filled with the practical ideas of solid wisdom.
The college woman moreover is one who has kept much, one who in dealing with the treasures of the past has not merely handled them and set them aside, but who has stored up in her own mind wisdom, and in her own heart strength, so that within her being there is created a sanctuary to which in her thoughts she may retire, she may withdraw from the clamor and distractions and disturbance of the world and find within herself the source of her strength. The college woman who has been really educated along the right lines does not go beyond herself, beyond the sphere of her own activities to find her pleasures, to find her consolations, to find -her strength—for education, if it means anything, means that there has been created within the mind the source of genuine pleasure, of best consolation, and of greatest strength.
The college woman is one who has not only received much and kept much, but one who is able to give and who gives much. It is a false idea to think that the woman educated in college is one who has learned to live among books alone, is one who treasures her culture, her refinement, for herself alone ; but at the proper time and in the proper circumstances, guided by that inner instinct which comes from culture and education, the college woman is able to go forth as through the gates of the sanctuary to dispense upon others the blessings which she herself has received. The college woman, because she is cultured, does not thereby look down upon those who have not had the same advantages; on the contrary, culture means a broadening out of her sympathies, she is ready to enter into every good work and help those who strive to uplift others; consequently wherever we find a genuine college woman we find that she is the medium, the channel of communication, between all the culture, all the spiritual inheritance of the race, and the entire race as it exists at present.
Now, if that be, in a general way, the idea of the college woman, what shall we say of the college woman in our country? Are there not here conditions which define in a special way the sphere and the work of the educated woman? We have only to glance back, I will not say over our political history, but over our educational history, to see that by the very growth of our institutions there has been prepared a special task for those who receive collegiate education, and why? Because in this country, by the very fact that there is a larger liberty, by the very fact that it is a democracy, there is greater call for that restraint, that self-control, that balance of thought and of action, which is implied in college education, and because in our democratic country women have a larger opportunity than in any other country to exercise those powers which are peculiarly their own. It is true with this democratic spirit America has progressed as no other country has during the last two or three centuries. We were accustomed to say, and educators even up to the last few years have been accustomed to regard that in the American life there were too many tendencies of a material sort, that progress for us meant simply advance in wealth and in the development of material resources; but to-day it is fairly recognized that alongside of this material progress, nay, more, that by dint of this material progress there is also progress of a higher kind. The intellectual progress of this country is much more conspicuous to-day than it was a hundred years ago, and hence the woman who is to take part in the national life must be a woman prepared to recognize what is good in American life, and at the same time to distinguish it from any tendencies that might make for evil.