Womanhood And Marriage
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE perfect woman has never been revealed. For this reason, perfection in womanhood must ever remain a theme of absorbing interest.
Perfection does not necessarily mean completeness. With the continued development of the human spirit, there must come increasing power to perceive beauties of mind and heart, and these will be expressed through a body of greater beauty. Perfection, then, should be looked upon as being rather a matter of proportion. The woman who is well developed on all sides of her nature—physically, mentally and spiritually—may be looked upon as having attained to a degree of perfection. From this point she may advance to greater realization of that ultimate beauty which all women were intended to embody.
To form for ourselves, however, an idea of womanhood we must have some understanding of the place which woman is intended to fill in the universe. The meaning of womanhood, the wonderful capacities that lie hidden within it, form an inspiring subject of study for every woman, young or old.
Woman holds a distinct place in the universal life. She is not meant to be merely an echo of man. She is meant to be herself, a distinctive being, with her own place to fill and her own work to accomplish. Neither is she necessarily what man has pictured her as being. Male poets, painters, sculptors, novelists, all have endeavored to portray the ideal woman as she appeared to them, or as it seemed to them she should be. Yet it would hardly be safe for her to model herself upon these portrayals ; she must discover for her-self the ideal she was intended to realize.
We have heard many discussions in the past as to whether woman is inferior or superior to man. Discussions on this theme are futile. The two can never be compared, because they are absolutely distinct. The only question we have a right to ask is whether the destiny of each has been successfully fulfilled.
The study of self is indeed a fascinating one. The endeavor to discover just what she was sent into this world for, what are the characteristics that belong most distinctively to her, and just what attributes she is best fitted to express in the highest degree, must be of interest to every thoughful woman.
When we look about us for the form of self-expression which belongs distinctively to woman, we find that it is motherhood which belongs to her alone. She is the mother of the race, and in this function we shall find embodied her supreme power.
This does not mean that every woman was necessarily intended to be a physical mother. It does mean, however, that through a study of motherhood-we can come to an understanding of woman's distinctive capacities and powers.
The mother nourishes the life of her offspring. Woman, therefore, is the nourishes of the race. This means that she not alone provides the health and the strength of those dependent upon her in a physical sense, but that she is also a source of inspiration to them mentally. She gives encouragement to those struggling to express the thoughts that are born within them; many times by her presence she inspires to greater mental activity. The great personalities of the past have borne witness to the inspiration they have de-rived from the women with whom they have come in contact.
It is not only her own children whose better impulses are nourished by the sunshine of her smile; all who come near her feel the heartening effect of her personality, and are better because they have come within the sphere of her influence.
This is the ideal of womanhood which springs from a study of her individual place in the plan of life. But fully to realize this wonderful ideal, the woman must first of all find herself. She must take time to think about herself and what she was intended to be. She must find out her shortcomings and set herself resolutely to work to master her weaknesses. She cannot afford to be weak, because she must be the source of strength for others.
She must do more, however, than find herself. She must learn to glory in her womanly nature, and through this to make the most of what has lain deeply hidden within her. It is only by making the most of herself that she can give the most to the world, and this must ever be her aim.
In these times of deep trouble woman is being revealed to herself. Now, as never before, the obligation rests upon her to arouse herself, and in the full consciousness of her strength and of the responsibilities which are hers, to rise to heights of world service such as she has never known before.