Character Building - Womanliness
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WOMANLINESS is a long word, but not a difficult word to understand. It means the character of being womanly, not girlish. A little girl will instinctively think that it means being like mother. She will imitate mother, but unfortunately will not limit the imitation to that which is best in mother. Faults rather than virtues are often readily seen and imitated. In training her daughter in womanliness the mother should therefore begin to train herself before the child is born, or as soon after as possible.
The child needs an ideal. A beautiful statue once stood in the market-place of an Italian city. It was the statue of a Greek slave-girl. It represented the slave as tidy, well dressed, and handsome. A ragged, unkempt, forlorn street child, coming across the statue in her play, stopped and gazed at it with admiration. She was entranced and captivated by it. She gazed long and admiringly. Moved by a sudden impulse, she went home and washed her face and combed her hair. Another day she stopped again before the statue and admired it, and received a new inspiration. Next day her tattered clothes were washed and mended. Each time she looked at the statue she found something new to imitate in its beauties, until she was a transformed child. Womanliness was unconsciously developed. Such a statue as this is a constant blessing; but an ideal mother is better than an ideal statue.
As the girl journeys from six to twelve the mother should walk with her and keep constantly in mind that she is walking on holy ground. In a short time the girl is to pass a border-line into a new world. The girlish, romping, tomboy child is to be physically and mentally born again. She wants to be womanly but does not know why nor how. She shrinks rather than thinks, blushes rather than blossoms, and mother too often fears to tell her of the fruitage God expects from her woman-function.
How is mother to reach the heart and mind of the timid child? Is there a bridge over which mother can walk with her child as she passes from girlishness to womanliness?
In teaching womanliness and learning to be womanly the doll is a bridge, or, to change the figure, is the best point of contact between mother and daughter. It awakens and satisfies the child's maternal instincts and opens the door for the mother to enter the holy of holies in girl life. The doll could appropriately be called the maker of mothers. It is the outward expression of an inward hope.
In a royal tomb in Egypt was found the mummy of a little princess seven years old. In her arms was found a doll nearly three thousand years old. It told more of the history of the child than was conveyed by a long inscription. The doll was so tightly clasped in the arms of the mummy that it was evident that the child had died with her beloved doll in her arms. The joys of a "little mother" had come to the child, and womanliness had been developed.
One day a woman came across a very small specimen of femininity who was filling the air with shrill scoldings. The object of her wrath was a dilapidated doll that lay back in a rickety carriage. The shrill cries of the child proceeded something like this: "How many times am I to tell you that you must not sit in that fashion? Now, don't loll; straighten your back and hold your head up. No, not like that. Oh dear! will this child ever do what I want it to do? I 'm so tired of telling you. In a minute I shall lose patience and give you a good whipping. You deserve it, too !"
If this is the way little girls mother their dolls, it is the way they will mother their children in life, unless steps are taken to prevent it.
Instead of being regarded merely as a plaything, the doll should be used as a means of imparting practical lessons of love and sympathy that will never be forgotten in after life. The mother may find a better point of contact, but the doll illustrates the principle by which a mother can teach womanliness to her daughter.
Read "The Dead Doll" and "The Fairies of Caldon Low," in Volume I. "Dorigen," in Volume III, is a type of beautiful womanliness. In Volume VII are several ideal women for a girl to know about-Grace Darling, Clara Barton, and the subject of the poem "The Conqueror's Grave." Volume IX is rich in womanly women: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Florence Nightingale, Louisa May Alcott among others. Plenty of fine poems in Volume XI bear on the subject, as instanced by "A Portrait," " Girlhood Days," and "Maidenhood."