Woman's College Of The Future
( Originally Published 1907 )
"DR. STUDEVAN," said Mr. O'Brien, "we are waiting for you to appoint the evening for our parlor lecture."
"Any time will suit me. How will next Friday evening do?"
"Are there any objections to next Friday evening?" asked Mr. O'Brien. "If not, the motion is carried. Remember, each of you is to bring any of your friends who may be looking for an opportunity to do something of permanent value for the cause of Catholic education."
"There are some phases of coeducation that I would like to have cleared up before your lecture, Doctor," said Professor Shannon. "That is, unless you intend to deal with them in your lecture.
"Even if we grant the contention that woman needs training in needle work, domestic science, the care of babies and several other subjects that find no place in a man's education, still I do not see why, with the elective system that now generally obtains in our universities, this may not be accomplished, even though the institution be coeducational. Our young women need training in literature, physics, chemistry, biology, and in many other branches which are universally recognized as necessary parts of man's education. Why, therefore, should the boys and girls not meet in these classes and separate when it comes to a question of the studies which are peculiarly adapted to the needs of each sex?"
"In looking over the files of the Independent the other day," said Dr. Studevan, "I found in the issue of February 12, 1903, an article by Henry Finck on 'Why Coeducation is Losing Ground.' In this article he touches your question and incidentally lends confirmation to much of what I have been saying. Let me read a page for you.
" 'when women began, some decades ago, to seek the higher education in considerable numbers, nearly all of them intended to become teachers or to compete with men other-wise. Therefore, it seemed a matter of course that they should receive the same training. But at Bryn Mawr two-thirds of the students have no expectation of supporting themselves. In schools in general, especially the coeducational institutions which monopolize the West, the proportion of girls who expect to be supported by husbands is much greater still. Indeed, the census figures show that the country through ninety of every hundred women get married and this brings us to the principal reason why belief in coeducation is losing ground. Parents are asking themselves more and more frequently, "Shall our educational system continue to be adapted to the ten per cent. of the women who do not marry, or should it be adapted to the ninety per cent. who do marry?" This growing feeling against mixed schools would have swept many of them out of existence long ago were it not for the unfortunate fact that the separate colleges for women have not done their full duty. They have so far failed to adapt their courses to the special needs of women who are destined to be wives, mothers, homemakers. We may go further and say that in most of our educational institutions all the students are trained for fatherhood the girls as well as the boys!' "
"Apart from his startling climax, Mr. Finck seems to support my contention," said Professor Shannon. "If women's colleges have not adapted their courses to meet the special needs of women, they are open to all the objections which you have urged against coeducational institutions, while they lack the undoubted advantages that are offered by them."
"That is always the way with you, Shan-non, you run off with half-baked conclusions. Women's colleges are comparatively new institutions, they are frequently hampered by want of financial support, particularly in the West, where they are wholly private, whereas the coeducational institutions of the West are part of the State system.
"But because women's colleges have not reached their full development up to the present is a very poor reason for supposing that they shall not do so in the near future. All the logic of the situation is on their side, and they have in themselves large possibilities of adjustment to woman's needs, which are not to be found in coeducational institutions, how-ever powerful these latter may be from a financial point of view."
"Mr. Finck was evidently not thinking of the colleges for women conducted by our sisterhoods," said Miss Ruth. "Our convent schools have always aimed at fitting their pupils for domestic life. On a recent visit to one of our convent libraries I found a copy of the first edition of the 'Ursuline Rule.' The book was published in France something over two hundred years ago, and I was not a little surprised to find in it explicit directions for the training of their pupils in domestic science; needlework, cooking, housekeeping, were all included in the course.
"Conditions have changed radically since that time, but there is every reason to hope that the institutions that were able to adjust their courses of instruction to the needs of the time in the past will be able to meet the new conditions with equal success. In the zeal and devotion of their members the sisterhoods have resources which far outweigh the superior financial backing of coeducational institutions.
"No one who reads the paper on motor and manual training in the July Bulletin will have any misgivings about the adjustment of such colleges as St. Clara's to the needs of the hour. Let me read a brief passage from it.
" 'Manual training cannot be neglected if the whole child is to be educated. This is an accepted conclusion among educators, and one, too, which has been established beyond doubt both by argument and experiment. A general education in this line will have an important bearing on the pupil's future vocation and success in life. The mind and hand are trained together, and there is thus begun a connecting link between the world of thought and that of action. By its means energies which might always have remained latent are roused, interested and held. Through it result or should result aesthetic products of handicraft which satisfy even the spiritual wants of mankind. In the school kitchen are learned lessons regarding hygiene and nutrition, and in the sewing room, lessons in care, thrift, economy, and neatness. . . In fact, it dignifies manual labor, and makes education democratic rather than aristocratic, for it attends to the needs of the many rather than to the culture of the few. If this branch were properly taught everywhere, the schools would no longer be blamed for increasing discontent and for merely cultivating capacity to feel wants, without providing means for satisfying them.'
"But to return to Mr. Finck's article, what kind of specific training does he advocate for girls ?"
"There is more of the spirit of true progress," said Dr. Studevan, "in the little paper which you have just been reading than in anything that is contained in Mr. Finck's article. Nevertheless, his thoughts are worth attending to and his suggestions are along practical lines. He would have the teachers taught the kindergarten system; he would have all our girls trained in the duties of a nurse, in hygiene, and sanitation in general, in cookery with all its kindred branches, in marketing, food adulterants, and gastronomy in general.
"Whether or not we agree with Mr. Finck's ideas as to what should constitute the training of a woman who is destined to be a home-maker, it seems evident to me that even in such branches as literature, geography, chemistry, and biology, which should form part of the education of both boys and girls, the point of departure and the source of interest are different for the two sexes, and hence they can be taught more effectively to each sex separately.
"I have expressed my views on this subject several times, but it occurs to me that Miss Ruth has been asking questions and pro-posing difficulties instead of giving us her ideas concerning the education that is best fitted to meet the needs of our young women."
"Now you've said it," said Mr. O'Brien. "She has been diligently gleaning the field, and it is about time she paid her tribute."
"I am not quite clear on the subject," re-plied Miss Ruth. "I have been trying very hard to get my ideas straightened out. I am responsible for the education of my little niece, who is now twelve years old, and I must soon come to a practical conclusion. I don't yet know where to educate her.
"I want her when she leaves school to have certain ideals. I want her to have a woman's heart that will impel her to help a brother or a sister in need without too much counting of the cost. I want her to have a sufficiently level head to keep her heart from leading her into anything very imprudent. I want her to have a wholesome self-respect. I want her to know that others are not necessarily wrong and fit subjects for unkind criticism just because they do not think and speak and act just as she and her set do. I want her always to speak the truth. I want her to be able to speak and write her mother tongue, at least, correctly and easily, and then know when to keep still, and when to talk. I want her to enjoy good literature and beauty in all its forms. I want her to take an interest in affairs outside of her immediate duties. I would want her to be a good housekeeper. I want her to know the foundation principles governing the physical, mental, and moral up-bringing of children. I want her to have a cheerful disposition, a strong sense of humor, gracious manners, and the fear of the Lord, that is the beginning of wisdom.
"As I think of it, her ideals should be in three particulars, at least, those of Chaucer's 'very parfait, gentle knight;' she should love 'truthe and honour, freedom and courteisye.' Freedom is a magnificent word, there is a large fascination about it, perhaps because the state it expresses is unattainable; but I reckon my little girl would better be taught from the beginning to call it service. And so, you see, her characteristics are to conform in three parts to the ideal masculine. Where shall she be educated? I don't know. I should want to keep her at home until her ideals were formed — well sprouted anyway. What would you do with her, Mrs. O'Brien?"
"Mary is attending the Sisters' school, and Miles and I are delighted with her progress. When she graduates from the academy we hope to send her to a woman's college con-ducted by the Sisters. I would be afraid to trust my little girl anywhere else. I want her to spend all her school days in an atmosphere that is permeated with Catholic thought and feeling. Whether she becomes a Sister or not I want the sweet, devoted lives of the Sisters to exert the fullest possible influence on the formation of her character.
"We have not yet decided on the college to which we will send her; there are many things to be considered. We want her to receive a thorough training in domestic science and in all those subjects which will help to make her future home happy, and we would like to place her in a college where she would enjoy some social advantages. A girl during her college years should learn to meet men and to adjust herself to their point of view."
"But aren't women's colleges," said Professor Shannon, "doing what President Harper set out to do in Chicago University? Aren't they teaching women the same things that are taught to men and teaching them in the same way?"
"At the State University which I attended," said Miss Geddes, "there was practical segregation, because the men and women seldom selected the same subjects; yet there was enough mingling of the sexes to give the girls something of the broader, more impersonal view of a question that a manly man takes. As far as my observation goes, I like the product of coeducation better than that of the woman's college."
"I brought along Munsey's Magazine for February, 1906, containing the article by G. Stanley Hall on coeducation that was referred to the other night," said Dr. Studevan. "That the presidents of two great universities, such as Clark and Leland Stanford, should make coeducation the subject of magazine articles is in. itself sufficiently indicative of the present widespread interest in the subject. Some passages in President Hall's article cover ground that has already been gone over in our discussion. Let me read a few extracts for you.
" 'The thirty years' war which women have conducted for educational opportunities equal to those of men has now, for the most part, been won, or is sure soon to be won, all along the line. It was a holy war, and will forever mark an epoch not only in the history of woman, but of civilization. There are few men now living so conservative as to wish to take any backward step. The educational movement has been accompanied by a great social movement that has freed women from many gross limitations and opened a new world of opportunities and influences. It has had its great leaders, and even its specialists, as well as its literature, its epochs, and its dramatic incidents. Measured by about all the pedagogic standards that can be named, women have abundantly proven their intellectual equality with men, whom, in most high schools and colleges, and in many if not most subjects, they actually outrank. In all this I both believe and rejoice.
" `It is not yet so well recognized that we have reached a new educational stage, and that the time is now ripe for important new departures. First, equality of opportunity had to be attained, and ability to utilize it practically demonstrated; but now that this has been done, the next step of differentiation is in order. No less momentous changes impend, but all the problems are of a different order and in a very different field, and their solution will require the labors of new leaders working by new and far more special methods.
'The old war assumed equality, if not identity, of abilities between the two sexes, and this was genetically and strategically wise. The new movement is based upon sexual differences, not identities.'
"The whole article is well worth our study, but his statement, quoted here the other evening, that ten years after graduation fifty per cent. of our college women remain unmarried, is sufficient proof of his main thesis that the college education of men and women must in the future be conducted along different lines and with special reference to the needs of each sex and to their special functions in society. After pointing out the menace to the public welfare in the feminization of education, he goes on to say:
" 'The bottom facts, however, from which we can never get away, are that men and women differ in their bodily constitution, their organs, their biological and their physiological functions. This divergence is most marked and sudden in the pubescent period, when by almost world-wide consent boys and girls separate more or less, and, during this most critical period of inception, lead lives more or less apart for a few years, until the ferment of body and mind, which results in the maturity of the functions then born and culminating in nubility, has done its work. At twelve or fourteen, brothers and sisters develop interests more independent of each other than before; their home occupations, plays, games, tastes differ. We should respect this law, and not forget that motherhood is a very different thing from fatherhood, so that neither sex should copy or set patterns for the other, but each should play its part in the great harmony.
" 'So, too, civilization differentiates. In savagery, men and women are more alike in their physical structure, and often in their occupations. But with real progress the sexes diverge. Among primitive races there is sometimes very little difference in the habits of industry or the form of the body to distinguish the sexes; but, as Professor Hyatt used to urge, differentiation and civilization are practically synonymous, and equalization means retrogression. Education should push sex distinctions to their uttermost, make boys more manly and girls more womanly. . . . Sex tension is one of the subtlest and most potent of all psychological agencies. Each ought to find the presence of the other the tonic and stimulus to its very highest and best achievements, but incessant and prolonged familiarity wears down this idealizing influence to the dull monotony of the daily routine.'
"Stanley Hall is the best known authority in the country on the psychology of adolescence, and on this account alone his view will necessarily carry great weight, but he does not rely on his psychological preeminence ; he backs up his statements with an array of facts gleamed from the experiment in coeducation that we are making on so large a scale."
"Other college men do not think as poorly of woman as Stanley Hall seems to," said Miss Geddes. "I have clipped out this news-paper account of Mr. Meekins' address to the alumnae of the College of Notre Dame, of Maryland. Let me read it for you.
" 'Mr. Lynn R. Meekins, who delivered the address of the day, said that the one thing shown most forcibly by literature, past and present, is man's failure to recognize the possibilities of woman. That is to be changed.
Man has written the books, and they tell of man. There is not a real history of the world. There is lacking particularly a good history of America. We are sadly in need of some-thing that will approach a historical sketch of our own State.
" 'It is impossible to get from what we call history even a fairly good account of woman's work and her relation to human advancement. She simply hasn't received the credit for what she has done. That paragon of modesty, man, has taken it all. Occasionally, conscious of his sins, he has burst forth in eulogy upon the glory of womanhood. But eulogies do not count, except as epitaphs and at funerals. What is needed is clear acknowledgment of woman's part in human affairs.
" 'The future woman will marry and she will not be the sweet silent partner who will believe in an eight-hour day for her husband and a sixteen-hour day for herself. She will not consider the highest joy of life the cooking of a Sunday dinner for a large number of her husband's friends and relatives. The future woman is going to make more of her time, to fill it with effort along intelligent lines. She is going to systematize the home and solve the problems of the home.
" 'Behind every one of the moral uplifts which we have known in recent years has been the moral power of the women. Whatever woman has done, whatever she is doing, what-ever she may do, there is no service greater or better or more beautiful than the help which she gives and which compels from such a writer as Rudyard Kipling the confession that "when a man does good work out of all proportion to his pay, in seven cases out of nine there is a woman at the back of his virtue."'
"Nevertheless, we should not forget," said the Professor, "that David Starr Jordan, President of Leland Stanford University, and ex-President of the National Teachers' Association, defends the opposite view in Munsey's for March, 1906. He claims that coeducation has been tried and that it has proved an unqualified success in the West."
"That depends on what he understands as success," replied Dr. Studevan. "In his own university the number of women was limited by its constitution to five hundred, and it is said by many who are in a position to know that this constitutional provision saved Leland Stanford from becoming practically a woman's college. If the number of women attending 'Western universities is a proof of the success of coeducation, then President Jordan is correct. The whole question of Coeducation versus the Higher Education of Women resolves itself, therefore, into the question of what constitutes the proper ideal for a college woman. This theme formed the subject of Dr. Pace's address to the graduates of Trinity College in June, 1904, and it was published in part in Vol. II. of the Report of the Commissioner of Education for that year (page 2426). I can not do better than read a short extract for you to close this discussion.
" 'The ideal of the college woman, as we understand it, is threefold. In the first place, the college woman is one who has received much, she is one who during her collegiate experience has come to know the greatest minds of the past, who has dwelt with the thoughts and the deeds and the aims of the greatest minds of antiquity; she is one who, perhaps, may not know by direct experience the world for which she is preparing, but she is one who has learned of a greater world, the world from which we draw our culture, our refinement, our civilization, and our religion, and because during these four years the college woman has been associated spiritually with the great minds of that past, she looks out upon the world of the present from a higher point of view, from a point of view that is more spiritual, that is deeper, and in a certain sense more filled with the practical ideas of solid wisdom.
'The college woman, moreover, is one who has kept much, one who in dealing with the treasures of the past has not merely handled them and set them aside, but who has stored up in her own mind wisdom, in her own heart strength, so that there within her being there is created a sanctuary to which in her thoughts she may retire, she may withdraw from the clamor and distractions and disturbance of the world and find within herself the source of her strength. The college woman who has been really educated along the right lines does not go beyond herself, beyond the sphere of her own activities to find her pleasures, to find her consolations, to find her strength for education, if it means anything, means that there has been created within the mind the source of genuine pleasure, of best consolation, and of greatest strength.
" 'The college woman is one who has not only received much and kept much, but who is able to give and who gives much. It is a false idea to think that the woman educated in college is one who has learned to live among books alone, is one who treasures her culture, her refinement, for herself alone; but at the proper time and in the proper circumstances, guided by that inner instinct which comes from culture and education, the college woman is able to go forth as through the gates of the sanctuary to dispense upon others the blessings which she herself has received. The college woman, because she is cultured, does not thereby look down upon those who have not had the same advantages; on the contrary, culture means a broadening out of her sympathies, she is ready to enter into every good work and help those who strive to uplift others ; consequently wherever we find a' genuine college woman we find that she is the medium, the channel of communication, between all the culture, all the spiritual inheritance of the race, and the entire race as it exists at present.
" 'Now, if that be, in a general way, the idea of the college woman, what shall we say of the college woman in our country? Are there not here conditions which define in a special way the sphere and the work of the educated woman? We have only to glance back, I will not say over our political history, but over our educational history, to see that by the very growth of our institutions there has been prepared a special task for those who receive collegiate education, and why? Because in this country, by the very fact that there is a larger liberty, by the very fact that it is a democracy, there is greater call for that restraint, that self-control, that balance of thought and action, which is implied in college education, and because in our democratic country women have a larger opportunity than in any other country to exercise those powers which are peculiarly their own. It is true with this democratic spirit America has progressed as no other country has during these last two or three centuries. We were accustomed to say, and educators even up to the last few years have been accustomed to regard, that in the American life there were too many tendencies of a material sort, that progress for us meant simply advance in wealth and in the development of material resources; but to-day it is fairly recognized that alongside of this material progress, nay, more, that by dint of this material progress, there is also progress of a higher kind. The intellectual progress of this country is much more conspicuous to-day than it was a hundred years ago, and hence the woman who is to take part in the national life must be a woman prepared to recognize what is good in American life, and at the same time to distinguish it from any tendencies that might make for evil.' "