The Big Sister Role
Many single women who do not wish to assume a major responsibility for a child and who cannot do so are nevertheless able and willing to play a lesser role in being of service to a child or a young person. One single woman with whom we talked had paid the entire college expenses of three girls over the period of twenty years since she had begun to work. This woman was an executive in a business firm employing large numbers of young women. Her income was good and she had a reputation for fair dealing with the employees, many of whom came from homes in moderate or poor circumstances. This woman was of the opinion that ability and talent should be given opportunity and she had used her own resources and those of her friends who would aid her to provide special educational opportunities for young talent. Her assistance was given anonymously through an "educational fund" of the firm and the young per-sons who benefited were under no feeling of personal obligation. This woman was rather austere in her personal life, insofar as she had any, for most of her time and energy were devoted to business. She spoke of her contributions to education as an "experiment" from which she had derived much satisfaction. In a number of instances grade school teachers, music teachers, settlement workers and others had secured or provided special educational opportunities for gifted children from poor families who otherwise would have found no outlet for their abilities. The increasing difficulty of finding such forms of assistance was lamented by many teachers who had remained interested in the exceptionally gifted child despite the prevailing cult of the "normal" which has caused some parents and teachers to regard intellectual gifts above the average as an affliction.
Providing special opportunities for gifted children, providing scholarships, providing vacation funds and outings for underprivileged children, and other such types of assistance were those which most single women of our groups seemed to prefer. They preferred to help members of their own families, if there was need of it, but more than one-fourth of them stated that they had rendered such special forms of assistance to children not of their own kin at one time or another.