Training Our Daughters
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IS there a woman here who feels that when she assumed the duties and responsibilities of wife and mother she knew all she needed to know in order to fulfill those duties properly?
Do we not feel that with our education something might have been given us that would have been of practical value in the home and the care of children? Broad culture is helpful, but specific training is necessary for all professions, and for none more so than for the rearing of children and the judicious care of a home. Yet this necessary training forms no part of the education of our daughters. By far the majority of girls marry and have the care of home, husband and children, yet we ignore all preparation for such duties. Why this strange reticence and reluctance to mention such important subjects?
Why not teach our daughters, at the proper time, the essentials of a happy marriage ? Teach them that wealth and social position count for nothing, unless united with purity of thought and life, honesty of purpose and high ideals. For genuine happiness and a union which will deepen in strength and beauty, a character which will command respect is essential. If such standards were required by young women in choosing a husband, marriage and parenthood would mean the highest happiness, and only when such standards prevail can the marriage relation be what God intended. In such a union purity, high ideals and noble purpose are of far more consequence than wealth or position. We neglect this training, and the choice is made blindly, and the duties of wives and mothers are assumed without the knowledge which is necessary to perfect the lives of husband and children. To attempt to make a home and care for a family in sickness and in health without preparation, is parallel to a physician attempting the practice of medicine without study and with the expectation of gaining knowledge from experiments on his first patients. We would be horrified at the temerity of such a physician, but we complacently leave our girls without such instruction as will make them thrifty wives and capable mothers.
Girls are not to blame. We direct their education, and we ignore the necessity for the study of such things as cooking, nursing and laundry-work, and we would not dream of teaching them how to care for a babe physically or spiritually. Thus the highest, holiest duty of womanhood is left to be performed with-out previous preparation or knowledge. Under these circumstances, can we wonder that many homes are failures; many men and women depraved and distorted in character? A false conception of the nobility of work has given to many mothers the feeling that work is menial and not desirable for our daughters. No task, however lowly, is menial, if the proper spirit is put into it, and knowledge of practical things on the part of the home-maker will remove much discomfort and unhappiness in the marital life. Even with wealth, the administration of a home will be wiser if the wife knows when a thing is properly done, or can teach an ignorant servant how to do it properly. Unless a woman has a practical knowledge of work herself, she cannot tell what she ought to require of others. Half of the difficulties with servants come from ignorance on the part of the mistress.
The most successful business men have all been trained in the practical details of the business in which they are engaged, and this practical knowledge is the basis of their success, making them better prepared to manage such business and more just to their employés. A woman to be well equipped for the work she undertakes needs the same practical training. Woman always will be the home-maker, wife and mother, and while the highest culture should be hers, the study for this culture should not exclude that knowledge which she will need the most. If a girl can receive this training from her mother, there can be no better teacher, but how many of us are capable of giving it? Then there are many mothers who would not value this training, and in order to reach the certain benefits it should be taught in the public schools, and both common-school education and domestic training should be made compulsory. The well-being and health of another generation demand that the study of the child and the care of the home should be taught in the schools all over our land, and no girl should be given a diploma until she can pass an examination in the proper methods of bathing, clothing and nourishing infants, as well as in physiology, cookery, hygiene and all the details of home life.
If she cannot have both, better far omit some other studies and lay firmly the foundation stones of proper preparation for the life the majority of women live. . .
It is to the girls of today, to their earnest thought on child culture, that we must look for the greatest good. But it rests with you, the mothers of today, to see that this is made possible. If you will give your children the light which has come to you from life's experience, if you will encourage them to reverently investigate the mysteries of life, and to use the knowledge gained for the good of the race, you will have performed a duty to posterity greater than you can realize, for its benefits will grow, in ever-widening circles, long after you have passed on to the life beyond.