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Homemakers Of The Future

( Originally Published 1907 )

"LADIES and gentlemen," said Mr. O'Brien, "Mrs. O'Brien insists that an introduction of the speaker of the evening is de rigeur, and, being a product of modern education, I never question my wife's judgment on matters of this kind; nevertheless, I find myself at an utter loss for an appropriate speech on this occasion. I remember hearing some one say the other evening that the college-bred woman of to-day has a delightful habit of writing her husband's speeches for him, and so, in my sore need, I appealed to my wife for help, and she informed me that an introduction should always tell who the speaker is and what he is going to talk about.

"I believe you all know Dr. Studevan quite as well as I do I was going to say that you admired him more, but, on second thought, I believe that is not possible. However, were he not present, I might be able to tell you a few things about him which you do not know, but his well-known modesty deprives me of this opportunity of arousing the envy of his many friends who have honored us with their presence here tonight.

"At dinner, a little while ago, I asked him what he was going to talk about this evening, and he answered by relating an incident that occurred at the rectory the other day. The assistant, who is a modest young man with a good deal of common sense, came to the Doctor for advice. 'Doctor,' said he, 'how is it; you don't seem to give any time to the preparation of your sermons and yet every-body comes to hear you, and they remember everything you say. Now, I write out my sermons and work hard over them all week, and yet I don't seem to make any impression on the congregation.' 'That's just it,' said the Doctor. 'When you are writing your sermon Monday morning the devil is looking over your shoulder and, when he has learned what you are going to say, he goes around through the parish preparing the people against you. But when I appear in the pulpit on Sunday morning the devil himself doesn't know what I'm going to say.' So, you see, there is nothing for me to do but to present Dr. Studevan to you, and he himself will tell you what he is going to talk about."

"My dear friends," said Dr. Studevan, "it is, indeed, a great pleasure for me to meet you here to-night. The task before me, how-ever, is much more difficult than the preaching of one of those impromptu sermons to which our genial host has just referred. It is one thing to move along with the sublime truths of religion and morality in the unchanging currents of the Church's teaching, and quite another to hold an even keel in addressing an audience like this on so tentative a subject as coeducation and the higher education of woman, where there are so many uncertain currents of thought and when one knows not from what quarter of the heavens he may encounter a sudden gust of feeling.

"We are entering into a phase of civilization in which everything is new and strange. It is a world filled with wonders. It is a world where the impossible happens every hour. Invention has driven man and woman forth from the home of the old days, where, animated with a common interest, they labored together and spent their lives in loving companionship. In this new world man and woman have been enticed away from the bosom of nature, where they had so long enjoyed freedom and peace, protection and uninterrupted companionship, and they are caught up in the vast wheels of modern industry, where they eat the bread of discontent. Husband is separated from wife, child from parent, sister from brother, and each and all fill out the weary hours of toil beneath the eye of a taskmaster who has no power to minister to their needs, who has no heart of mercy, who has no care for their soul's salvation.

"In the social confusion resulting from the industrial revolution through which we are passing, men and women sometimes become bewildered and are found fighting against their own best interests, regarding themselves as competitors and losing sight of the fact that their interests must forever remain inseparable.

"Older than modern civilization, more ancient even than the law which compels man to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, is the decree of the Author of life which placed woman by man's side and made her flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, which made the twain no longer two, but two in one flesh.

"The industrial progress of the present generation has destroyed the industrial home of the past, where husband and wife labored and loved and lived their own childhood and youth over again in the children that grew up about them. The young woman of to-day too frequently graduates from the college designed to meet man's needs with a defeminized ideal of home. The home of her dreams throbs with intellectual life and is filled with masculine ambitions; it is free from domestic cares and it is undisturbed by the voices of children. But it is not good for man to be alone, nor for woman either; the life of each is incomplete without the other. They are complements of each other, not duplicates. They can not be separated and live. The deepest law of their natures makes their interests identical and renders it forever impossible for them to be rivals or competitors.

"Man and woman must labor together in building a new home to meet the conditions of the strange new world in which they find themselves. The home of the past was industrial; the home of the future must be cultural. The new organization of industry has resulted in lengthened hours of leisure that should be spent at home in the pursuit of the things of the mind. The companionship in the work of their hands that husband and wife have lost they must find again in the cultivation of their minds and hearts. In the past children grew up beneath the sheltering roof of the home; their conduct was governed throughout life by local custom and family tradition.

"The home of the future must develop high ideals in the minds of the children ; it must form their characters in such strength that, at an early age, they will be able to face alone all the wild storms of temptation and passion. The home of the future must breathe a charm so potent that it will gather to its bosom each evening the dispersed and weary toilers of the day. The home of the future must be the sanctuary of life and the dwelling-place of love; the mind must find in it room to grow in all the realms of truth and beauty; its atmosphere must be that of refinement and culture; beauty must cover it with her mantle and courage must protect it with his shield.

"Man is tunneling the mountain and bridging the ocean; he is ransacking the bowels of the earth for its treasures; he is converting the inaccessible wildernesses into busy marts of trade; he is banishing the thorn from the cactus and the seed from the grape and the orange. But woman must create the home of the future. She must preserve in it the sacred fires of religion and culture. Through it she must save man from materialism and from the worship of the golden calf. She must build a home in which he will find rest from his toil, consolation in his sorrow, strength to battle with temptations, courage in the midst of disaster, and companionship in the highest aspirations of his soul.

"If she fails in this, all her other achievements are valueless. It will profit nothing that she should explore the hitherto undiscovered regions of natural truth, that she should write books or paint pictures, that she should help man to build more bridges, or to construct more high buildings, to reclaim desert places, or to accumulate more millions.

"Of what value are all these things without a home in which children may grow in strength and beauty? If the race were to end with this generation, `think you we should move another hand? The ships would rot in the harbors; the grain would rot in the ground; should we paint pictures, write books, make music, hemmed in by that onward creeping sea of silence?' `What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world if he lose his own soul?'

"What education shall a woman receive to enable her to build securely a home that will meet the present social and economic conditions? The inadequacy of the training that fitted her for the home of the past is at once apparent. The lines along which her education shall be conducted must be determined by her nature and by the work that awaits her. She must be enabled to retain her place by man's side in his intellectual development.

"The progress of science that has so trans-formed the outer world must, in her hands, bring about a similar transformation in the home. Manual labor must be transformed and lifted to a higher plane by a knowledge of domestic science. The hours that are thus saved from toil must be spent in the adornment of the home, in the pursuit of literature and art, and in the wider intellectual and moral interests that are shaping the course of advancing civilization.

"Woman must understand the forces that are playing upon the unfolding lives of her children and the environment into which they must enter on reaching maturity so that she may wisely preside over their physical, mental, and moral upbringing.

"It is quite evident that no education can be too high or too good for woman. But her education must be a development of all that is best in her own nature. An attempt to mold her into the likeness of man must always fail, since their natures differ as profoundly as does their work in the world. All such attempts leave undeveloped in woman those qualities on which her real success depends.

"It is true that, owing to present economic conditions, most women must labor for some years away from the confines of home before they are permitted to build homes of their own. But even here woman's work and woman's sphere in the industrial world are beginning to be sharply defined. Those years between school days and marriage, which woman is so frequently compelled to spend in the school-room, the office, the shop, or the factory, help to give her an intimate knowledge of the outer world which will serve her well in the future by enabling her, as nothing else could do, to understand the cares and the hardships of husband and children who spend their days in the modern industrial arena.

"What schools shall undertake the education of the home-makers of the future? Surely,. not men's colleges, surely, not coeducational institutions, whose curricula, whose spirit and methods were all framed in view of man's nature and man's needs. Woman must work out her own development. Women's colleges must be developed along the lines demanded by woman's nature and woman's work in the world.

"As might be expected from her history in the past, the Catholic Church will be the guide, the counselor, and the unfailing support of woman in her struggle to adjust herself to the new demands. The attitude of the Catholic Church toward education was voiced by his Excellency, Monsignor Diomede Falconio, the Apostolic Delegate, in his address at Mount St. Agnes the other day. He said;

" 'The Catholics of the United States have recognized the important fact that if they de-sire to foster in the souls of their children love and veneration for their holy religion and sentiments of respect and obedience toward the law of the land, they must have their children educated in a religious atmosphere. Hence, they have spared no sacrifice in order to have Catholic schools in almost every parish and in every locality where the number of Catholics justified the erection and guaranteed the support of a Catholic school.

" 'Besides parochial schools, in the course of time a great number of colleges and academies have also been erected for the superior education of youth. Truly, I may say that a colossal work has been accomplished by the Catholics of the United States for the Christian education of our people; a work which calls for admiration and which deserves our gratitude and our encouragement.

" 'Permit me to observe that institutions for higher education have now become a necessity in order to complete properly and to crown, as it were, the vast system of Catholic education which was so providentially established in this country. For we must under-stand it to be of the highest importance that the system of Christian education which has been introduced in the elementary schools be progressively continued in the higher classes in the academy, the college, and finally in the university, in order that Catholic education may be productive of its beneficial influence in all its fulness.

" 'Higher education will prove profitable not only to men, but also to women. Hence, we cannot restrict superior education to either sex, since it is by its very nature destined to extend its powerful influence to all the members of the social body to each according to his capacity and condition in life. As regards the superior education of women, I beg to say that the philosophy of those who argue that no particular attention should be paid to their higher education is erroneous and unjust. For if a superior education is useful to men, why should it not be useful to women also, since they are endowed with the same nature and the same capabilites for a higher intellectual and spiritual betterment? Nay, taking into consideration the great influence which woman exerts, either directly or indirectly, in every state of life and position in society, the necessity of her education must be acknowledged by all who have at heart the welfare of the family and the good of society. A wise writer justly observes that if we wish to know the political and moral condition of a State, we must ask what rank women hold in it. Their influence embraces the whole of life.

" 'Be on your guard, therefore, that the atmosphere of the world contrasted with the atmosphere of the convent does not prove fatal. Modern society is rated by material success, seduced by sensual pleasure. We need women of strong moral character, who can withstand the seductions that flatter the senses. We need cultured women, whose culture does not divorce them from duty, whose life is a force for truth and an example for all time.'

"If our Catholic women are to retain their sweetness and refinement, they must be educated by women in schools for women and along the lines demanded by woman's nature. If they are to remain faithful children of the Church and models of civic and social virtue to the women of the nation, their education must be completed in distinctively Catholic schools. All that is finest and sweetest and noblest in woman withers and dies in coeducational universities from which Jesus Christ and the saving truths of His Gospel are banished.

"But if our sisterhoods are to develop women's colleges and help to solve the many pressing problems confronting the home-makers of the future, provision must be made for the adequate training of the Sisters. Here, under the shadow of the Catholic University, there will arise within a few years a Catholic Teachers' College for women, to which the various teaching orders will send their most gifted members to receive the highest training that the age affords and to carry back with them to their several communities a knowledge of the latest developments in science and of the most approved methods of teaching."

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