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The Learned Woman


THE REWARDS of genuine scholarship constitute the basis for a form of human happiness which is as profound as it is rare. The pleasure yielded by the successful pursuit of a study of special interest over a period of years, by scientific research or by the success of an attempt to achieve an insight into social organization which is of constructive value is one of life's major boons. It is thought by the generality of people that the scholar's life is dull and dry, but the life of the genuine scholar is full of excitement and suspense, and hard work and the sense of accomplishment. The "book worm" who is plodding dully with too much learning is not the scholar for he has not been able to acquire that mastery of his subject which enables him to use it in the crossing of new frontiers of intellectual advance. Strong-minded women have always prized and sought a scholar's life and some of them have been able to attain it even under the most adverse circumstances. Mediaeval women of scholarly renown and personal force set themselves up as professors in some of the leading universities and drew large numbers of scholars to hear the fruits of their learning in an age when learning was rare even for men. Women pioneers in early American life founded institutions of higher learning for women and maintained them despite ridicule and fierce opposition. Many single women, today, are making worth-while contributions to science, literature and scholar-ship, and some of them were among those whom we saw in the course of this study. The life of the scholar in our era partakes of its social characteristics. The goals of scholarship are dynamically related to social welfare, to business, to industrial organization, to the art of government. Learning for learning's sake is seldom encountered. The sciences are related to the arts in their appropriate fields and the experience accumulated by the arts becomes in turn the subject matter of science. The work of the scholar is less solitary and individualistic than in bygone eras. His segment of study is related to a whole of which there are many parts, of whose advance he must know if his own contribution is to be of worth. Research in many fields today is the project of a group of workers rather than that of a solitary worker, and success depends upon the ability to work cooperatively with others as well as upon individual ability and equipment. But some aspects of the scholar's work remain solitary even though his awareness and his loyalties must include a larger group. As in earlier times he may become so absorbed in his particular segment of study that he tends to neglect every other aspect of life and the much praised "interest in people" which is considered a mark of normality. Yet some of this solitariness is a normal condition of his work. The research worker absorbed in a study of liquid explosives in his laboratory is less interested in immediate contacts with people than is the bartender, for example. In fact, the successful pursuit of his work may require long hours of solitary work each day apart from all human contacts. Similarly some of the work of scholars in libraries who are seeking to bring to light the work of scholars of other ages is solitary in nature and those who pursue it may become so absorbed in the work on hand that they tend to neglect every other aspect of living until the immediate object of their inquiry has been achieved. During a period of intense work, which is sustained by high intellectual curiosity, the scholar may realize a capacity for sustained work and a power of concentration which he did not know he possessed. His usual limits of fatigue are passed with out notice, his heightened powers of concentration and perception enable him to achieve a clarity of view and a comprehension which are of great value in the achievement of his ends and hence of immense personal satisfaction to him. But during this period of intense work he may have ignored his social life, his friends, and even members of his own family. But he is not lonely or unhappy, as is often supposed. He has enjoyed the quest and his achievement is his reward. He has had a great hunt and he has come home with his quarry, weary but happy.

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