Recreation For The Country Girl
If the country is to be made attractive enough so that the country people will care to live there, this must come through a new emphasis on the home and social life, in less thought of pigs and corn, and more thought of children and living. The country has suffered because it has been dominated by the materialistic point of view of the farmer, who has estimated success too largely in terms of acres, rather than in joy and love and worthy thoughts and purposes, which alone can make life worth living. If this change is to come, it must come mainly through the education of the farm girls to lead in strengthening the home and the social life of the community.
NEITHER THE WORK NOR THE PLAY OF GIRLS AS EDUCATIONAL AS THAT OF Boys
The farm girl has thus far been very much neglected. It is to be feared that the country has not been as good a place for her as it has been for the boy. I can scarcely imagine a boyhood potentially more educative than that of my brothers and myself on a Michigan farm. During the spring we speared suckers by daylight and torchlight in the creek ; in the summer we went swimming from one to three times a day ; in the fall we pursued the fleeing pickerel along the banks of the same stream and often came home with a goodly string, We trapped for mink and muskrat and coon, and we hunted rabbits with dog and gun and ferret. From the time we were small children we had our own log houses in the woods, where we lived much of our leisure time. We had our own little farms, which we fenced with fallen limbs and plowed with a crooked stick in true primitive fashion. We robbed the nests of the bumblebees and became familiar with the habits of all the local birds. There was scarcely a woods or a swamp within a range of three or four miles that we did not know more or less well by the time we were twelve years old. In this life we were almost exactly repeating racial history and following the most fundamental interests of the barbaric age to which we belonged. We passed through this into the age of the nomad caring for the cattle and the pigs and the chickens. We drove the horses and tilled the crops. We were savages, nomads, agriculturists, as the race has been. All of these processes were educative in my case because none of them was carried on to the exclusion of the others, but each in a well-balanced ration entered into the week and the month. As these experiences stand out in memory as no later experiences do, I judge that they made a deeper impression, that they were more effective in developing the imagination, the sympathy, the judgment than any later experiences. They furnished the rugged strength and insight of the Goth on which to build the civilization of the Anglo-Saxon.
As I have observed country girls, it has not seemed to me that their play was similarly educative. t is all right to play at keeping house, but it is not as exciting or stimulating to the imagination as hunting and fishing. To dress dolls is admirable, but the doll is not very energetic in the matter, and as sport it seems a trifle tame. The girl as a rule cannot go swimming or roam the woods with that freedom that her brother exercises. Her work is mostly in the house, away from the nature world which is naturally so wonderful to children. Her duties are monotonous and uninteresting. There is not much adventure in washing the dishes or sweeping the floor today, and the consciousness that it will have to be done over again for some three hundred and sixty-four other days during the year does not add to the zest.
GIRLS PLAY NOT ENCOURAGED
The boy is constantly encouraged to vigorous play, which is probably the most educative thing in the life of children, but the girl receives no such encouragement. Most children's games are derived from the occupations of our savage fathers, coming largely from the chase and war. The boy inherits an interest in these activities that is less fully felt by the girl. Boys are more interested in running, jumping, and all forms of competition. Throwing and striking are elements in many games, and girls find these coordinations more difficult to acquire. The community encourages the boy to excel, but it calls the girl a tomboy if she runs and jumps and climbs trees and does the other things that she ought to do for her own development. The girl's dress is always unsuitable. When she is small and wears a short dress she cannot climb on a fence or into a tree, run where she is likely to fall down, or even sit on a door-step and seem modest. She is usually dressed better than her brother and required to keep her clothes cleaner. The girl who is clad in a white dress and told to keep it clean is practically forbidden to play. When puberty comes, and the girl puts on her long dress, she is still more hampered by her clothing. The results of these conditions are easily discovered. The girl at puberty has only three quarters of the lung capacity of the boy of the same age. Her blood is almost never in as good a condition. Her activity is going to be restricted by her long dress and custom in the years that follow, and these conditions ought to be reversed. I have given courses in twenty-two different normal schools, where many of the young women were country girls, and I always find that there are many of them who cannot run without waddling ; that they have little play spirit ; that they will seldom keep track of the score in a game of volley ball or indoor baseball, and will often be hit by the ball before they realize where it is. This can only mean that through the years that have gone before most of these young women have not played as much as they should.
THE ADOLESCENT GIRL REQUIRES SOME ROMANCE AND ADVENTURE
I do not plan to write at this time of recreation for the little girls, but rather of recreation for that most critical time that lies between the dawn of puberty and marriage, the period in the country that, as a rule lies between fourteen and about twenty. This is the age of romance, of beauty and dreams. t is a period of hope, when all things seem possible, a time of religious fervor, of the love of music and art and poetry, when all the more delicate charms of women make their appearance and when each demands time for its development. The natural idealism and romance of the period is one of the most delicate and beautiful things in life. t is a time when life should have its duties, its sense of service to others, for this is the inner meaning of the ripening functions of sex which are fitting the girl to become a mother. It should not be a time of idleness, but there must be some leisure for dreams and pleasure and idealism. The natural altruism of the period often leads the girl to immolate herself on the altar of home drudgery ; but to do this is to sacrifice the charm of later years. t is from living in the castles of Spain that we are often fitted to live in the real palaces of life. Drudgery that is borne to save the overworked mother at home may be ennobling to the spirit, but it is a March wind upon the bloom of youth. t is the lack of adventure and romance that leads many of the young people to leave the farm. The country life problem " cannot be solved without restoring to the country some of the adventure and romance that it had in pioneer days. " Man shall not live by bread alone." Life demands its thrills and inspirations to be worth living. t is these that must furnish the purpose, the insight, and the motive for what the long hours of work must accomplish ; and work without a purpose is generally drudgery, as a life without a purpose is the flotsam and jetsam of the sea of humanity.
This is also the most dangerous period of life morally. The beginning of puberty is a period of storm and stress, a period of curiosity, of temptation, of a new sense of independence. The girl feels that she has become a woman and that she should no longer be kept in leading strings. Freedom is apt to mean license in the beginning, whether the freedom be of peoples or individuals. About the beginning of this period the girl finishes her course in the district school. So far as she herself is concerned she probably has no purpose for the years that lie between her graduation and her marriage. Of course a few country girls go on to high school and college, but the vast majority do not. If she comes from a well-to-do home she scorns to work out. She probably expects to have the time of her life during the next few years, to make conquests of all the young men of the neighborhood and finally marry some billionaire from the city. t is the hopeful, joyous, romantic outlook on life that is the charm of these young girls. t is well for them to have these joys in anticipation if they cannot have them in fact, for they are thereby gaining experience vicariously and a sympathetic contact with a larger life than the neighborhood affords. There are too many country girls who have all of this romance, and hope, and sweet idealism crushed out of them within a year or two by a too materialistic home, which looks upon all of these dreams as foolishness. The woman who loses the ideals and dreams of this period may be a good servant or housewife or even a good woman of business, but she can never have the delicate charm which is woman's right. Country life must not be too tame and common. To kill the romance of youth is to blight the future. This is one of the large problems for the Country Life Movement to solve.
GIRL'S SCHOOL TRAINING UNSATISFACTORY
The school from which the girl has graduated at the beginning of the period probably has given her almost no preparation for the years that are coming on. The problems of the arithmetic, the grammar, the geography, and even the history have nothing of importance to offer toward the problems she has to solve. Her studies have left her ignorant of the things that are most vital to both her welfare and the welfare of the community.
The one kind of knowledge that is of paramount importance to a girl of fourteen is knowledge of herself, to know the laws of sex and its hygiene. Country girls are not ignorant of sex functions, but of the saving knowledge of its laws and dangers they are almost entirely ignorant. This ignorance leaves them a prey to many needless and morbid fears which repress without cause their natural joyousness. The next most important knowledge for a maturing young woman is the art and craft of the home maker, the ability to sew, cook, and make the house attractive. As a prospective mother she needs to know about the care of children, and the chief causes of infant mortality. She needs to know how to turn the house into a home by organizing its social life. For the charm and largeness of her daily life, she must have learned to know and love the nature world around her, and must have formed a taste for good reading. All of these things are essential to the welfare of the years to come, while cube root and European cities and the laws of syntax can never have more than a casual or accidental relation to this welfare.
NEED OF EXTENSION SCHOOLS
Country girls very often used to attend the rural school in the wintertime until they were twenty years of age, whereas now they are usually ready to graduate by the time they are fourteen or fifteen. The very natural suggestion is, why not have them go on in the winter season as they once did, and in these years learn something that will be helpful to them in the life that they are called to lead ? The work is not usually very pressing in the country from the middle of October to the middle of April. This is a short high-school year, but if our schools had a five-year course, like those of Denmark, which also have a term of six months, it would be possible to give the farm boys and girls the definite knowledge which they need in their daily lives, and that sort of training which would help them to build up the community as well. These winter schools for the older boys and girls of the farm are already well under way for the state of Iowa. A series of extension schools has just been established by state law in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, and I know not what other states, and we may hope that the other states will soon see the light. There should be such a school in every township in the United States.
NEED OF PLAY
Country girls do not play games, as a rule, after they are thirteen or fourteen years old. This is the time that the boys drop the old individualistic and personally competitive games and take up the team games, such as baseball and basketball.
But the girls have never played team games until the last two or three decades, and even to-day there are comparatively few who are playing. The life of country girls is rather tame and prosaic at best; the girl is always in danger of losing her play spirit, which is the charm of girlhood. The country girl, despite the fact that she is living in the country, often gets very little of the open air, or exercise of a vigorous sort. She is often stooped and round-shouldered from her work. She needs the exercise and the society that would come from belonging to an athletic club. There is land in plenty, there are girls enough, and if only some one can be found to take the initiative, it is possible, as a rule, to secure the equipment.
Croquet hardly deserves to be ranked as athletics, but it is a game that should be played at every country home. The equipment costs little ; the ground is easily laid out. t is social, — nearly as good as a pipe or a cup of tea to get acquainted over,— and older people will play with pleasure as well as the younger ones. t does not take long, and serves well to fill in the chinks of time. t is the only outdoor game that is now being generally played at country homes.
I do not know that I ever heard of a tennis tournament in the country. But why should not such tournaments be played ? The country is in every way adapted to tennis. t takes much room for the number of players, and the country has plenty of room. t needs only two players, and the country lacks numbers. A game can be played on the lawn with no equipment except a couple of posts, a net, racket, and balls. If a dirt court is to be made, the farm has the scrapers and other implements needed, and it probably can be made in the spare time, so that the cost will be very little. Country girls should play tennis in order to develop grace and activity, alertness of mind and the spirit of play. Tennis also has the great advantage of being a game in which girls and boys can play together. t is a good wholesome social occasion for the meeting of the sexes, such as the country badly needs. The rivalry of play is likely to turn the mind away from sentimental thoughts of the wrong type and to breed, instead, a wholesome emulation and respect. The great trouble with this, as with all recreation in the country, is the lack of some one to get it started. If there is a leader, either from the Y.W.C.A., the Camp Fire Girls, or from the community, it should not be difficult. About once a month the girls might play doubles with young men partners. If there are grounds at a township school, the tournament games might well be played there on Saturday afternoons.
Probably the best game for the country boys and girls alike is volley ball (for description of game see Part II, Chapter VI). Social morality is probably at quite as low an ebb in the country as it is in the city. The reason for it is largely the lack of wholesome social occasions. There are few social gatherings, and the young people meet for solitary rides and walks at a time when sex temptations are sure to be strong, and they have not much to talk about. Anything which will enable the young people to see each other in a more whole-some way will be good. If four or five couples would play volley ball together one afternoon a week, the wholesome rivalry and cooperation of play would do more to overcome the sentimental giggling relationship that is apt to exist than anything else I know. Here again the trouble is in getting started ; this serves to emphasize once more that the real weakness of the country is a lack of leadership. Volley ball is not much fun until you know the game and have acquired some skill. t is possible for an energetic girl to get it started herself from a mere book of rules, but she must be a real leader.
Indoor baseball, which is played out of doors almost altogether at present, is an excellent game for girls ; but it re-quires eighteen players, which is too large a number for most country communities to furnish easily. t is an excellent game for both young men and women, and it has the advantage that the young men at least will know the game. It is also a good game for the young men and women to play together.
GIRLS CANNING AND COOKING CLUBS
In some sections the girls' canning and cooking contests are adding a great deal to the interest in country life, and in not a few localities the goods that are put up become the source of a considerable income. The training is a part of the regular trade of the housewife, and the social opportunities are wholesome and valuable. If it is possible for the corn clubs and the canning clubs to meet together at times, this will add to the interest. The canning club may also meet at certain. times as an athletic club and have games and folk dances or a Camp Fire meeting. Undoubtedly the play movement in the country would receive a more hearty support from the farmers if it were in some way connected with the general industrial movement that is bringing in the new agriculture and the new home. This also puts the movement where it belongs as a part of country life. I do not know that any canning clubs have thus far done this ; but, again, why not ? No club can be successful as a club and devote all its energies to business. The grange has its literary and social occasions. A large part of all the boys' and girls' clubs in the city, for whatever purpose organized, have athletics and games as one of their regular activities.
THE LOVE OF NATURE
Farm people have not learned to appreciate nature. Children are interested in all natural objects ; but this usually receives little encouragement, as it is apt not to occur to the parents that to know and love the flowers that grow in the meadow and the birds that sing by the roadside may be the source of as much pleasure and profit as to locate the cities of Asia or to conjugate the verb amo.
The education that country children require cannot be given largely indoors. t must be given in part, at least, in the playground, the garden, the fields, and by the roadside.
If the farmer loves nature, he finds himself constantly surrounded by a hundred things that speak to his spirit. If he gets no pleasure from the song of the robin or the bluebird, from the rustle of the leaves, the waving of the grain, the thousand blended colors of a distant landscape, or the glories of the autumn foliage, he is missing most of those peculiar joys that the country can offer.
There is no better way to cultivate a love for nature than through walking. The man who drives, or rides, or autos has his attention too much distracted. He usually goes too fast. He cannot notice the song of the bird, the color of the flower, the gentle gurgle of the brook. He does not attend to the thousand delicate tones of color and feeling in the air and the face of nature. Walking is peculiarly applicable for people living in small villages, because as a rule they do not own horses, and a short trip takes them off the pavement. The farmer usually has plenty of exercise and fresh air also, while the villager often does not.
We have imported most of our education from Germany, but thus far we have not imported walking. There is a national walkers' association in Germany, and a local walkers' club in nearly every town and city ; but walking is not regarded as either recreation or exercise in America. Walking is the only way that one can ever come really to know a country, its products, and its people. The best books of travel that have ever been written have been views afoot. t is almost the only way to cultivate a love for nature in her varied moods. In Germany they are getting up a series of guides for walking parties that cover every section of the country. There are few, if any, parts of this country that do not have many points of interest within a radius of ten miles, yet few of them are known by the dwellers of the countryside. Country people are apt to regard travel as the one great opportunity of life, but they do not realize that the best preparation and equivalent for travel is the intensive study of the locality. If one has not learned to know that and has not acquired the power of observation, a trip through Europe will not teach him much, for, as Emerson says, that person who has learned to observe the significant things will see more that is worth seeing in a trip to the country town than another would in a trip through Europe.
Walking is the most fundamental means of overcoming country isolation. t requires no expensive equipment or preparation. t is within the possibilities of all who are not crippled. It is healthful and productive of intimate knowledge and inspiration. The ability to walk gives a great sense of independence, because with it one can go and come as one pleases. t is not really much of a task for one who is leading a vigorous life to walk twenty miles a day. The farmer follows the plow and the drag at least as far during a considerable part of the year. The well-developed country girl would not mind the walk if she once had the idea of taking it.
In most sections of the country there will be within five miles an interesting lake and grove, a stone quarry, a mine, a stock farm, a cave, or other object of interest. What could be more interesting or appropriate than to get up a small party of girls and boys, young men and women, walk over to the place of interest, have a camp fire, a picnic dinner, play games, or go swimming, and come home ? I should like to see, for the future of the race, some requirement that no young woman would be granted a marriage license unless she could walk fifteen miles straight off without undue weariness. I should not put this into the statutes to prevent people from getting married, but because, if such a thing were even suggested as desirable and girls understood that this was a standard that they were supposed to come up to, they would soon surpass the standard of their own accord.
Horseback riding is an accomplishment of unequal value in different parts of the country. t is almost necessary in the South and parts of the West. t can be pursued to a considerable extent in most country villages and more or less in every section of the open country. Horseback riding is excellent exercise for women. t is generally regarded as a real accomplishment. t is good sport, and it is one of the most wholesome ways for the boys and girls to have their social times together. It makes possible the visit to picnic groves and the neighboring towns. It extends the possible range of acquaintance and experience. t brings in a new form of recreation and makes possible a wider choice of friends. t overcomes to no small degree the isolation of the country home. t is one of the most popular and expensive forms of recreation in the city, which only the rich can afford. t is never as attractive in the city, as there is not much pleasure in riding over the hard pavements and dodging the automobiles and carriages that throng the city streets. Horseback riding enables one to visit a distant picnic grove, to bathe in the lake, or to go fishing. One of the greatest lacks of the countryside is that every one knows every one else so well that all the romance is gone. t is around the strange and the unfamiliar that all the legends and wonderful tales and imaginations grow up. The country girl is apt to fall in love with the city youth, because she can weave all sorts of imaginations about his life, which she cannot well spin about the neighbor's son whom she has known from childhood. He may be a good fellow and a good friend, but he is commonplace because an everyday acquaintance. It is difficult to make him the subject of a romance. It is an ad-vantage to have acquaintances in this outer circle whom daily contact has not made commonplace. There are also doubtless dangers in such relationships, but they are almost necessary to the idealism of love.
Driving is the principal form of recreation in the country at present. Nearly every young man who aspires to go with a young lady feels that a carriage is a necessary prerequisite. The family carriage seems to be disappearing, and the almost universal conveyance is what is known as the covered buggy. t is a vehicle built for two, and it is evidently intended for the two to sit close together, for it has a very narrow seat. The buggy, after the shades begin to fall, admits of as much privacy as may be desired. Nearly every hired man is in possession of one. The buggy does not carry a chaperon. Even if the girl may resent a familiarity, she cannot move farther away, and we may well question the custom of allowing young people to go out riding so freely at all hours of the night in such a conveyance.
Every country girl should learn to harness a horse and to drive, because this makes her independent and helps to break the isolation of the country home. t enables the girl to belong to a club, to attend church, the social center, parties, or any other occasion that may interest her. Driving is a luxury in the city, which few can afford, but it lies within the reach of most of the people of the countryside. t is more attractive in the country because there is not the strain of dodging the endless traffic of the streets. The single buggy does not promote a wholesome social relationship between the country boys and girls. t is much overworked in this particular, but for pleasure driving in the daytime and as an aid in overcoming rural isolation it may add much to country life.
ROWING AND PADDLING
It is not a great accomplishment to row a boat or paddle a canoe. If one has the strength, it can be learned in an after-noon ; not so that one will be a champion, but so that he can get along. The ability to row and paddle often affords a pleasant afternoon that would not otherwise be possible, and in some places it may be a constant means of recreation. Both of these are excellent exercise. To take a boatload of friends across the lake or the river to spend a half holiday on an island or on some high bank is one of the pleasantest of occasions. It is often possible to put a tent and some provisions into a boat and drift down a river for a hundred miles or so, camping out at night on the banks, and replenishing the larder with fresh fish from the river and game from the waterside. The river often gives one an unobstructed view into the heart of the forest, and one drifts down among the wild things so noiselessly that they are not even aware of one's presence. There is a sort of romance and sense of adventure in drifting thus with a river, and beholding its constant change of scene ; but, if the river is not too swift, it is still more vigorous and charming to row or paddle up-stream, as it is always more interesting to go up a narrowing river where the fields and the forests are constantly closing in upon us than it is to go down a stream that is getting wider and more sluggish and civilized as we proceed. The one draw-back to the idealism of such a life is apt to be the mosquitoes, but if one camps early and builds a good fire, he should not suffer much. Thick gloves and veils may be necessary. It will usually be possible to select a time when mosquitoes will not bother.
Young people are leaving the country for the town for three principal reasons : lack of society and amusements, the lack of adventure, and the lack of romance. The rural delivery, the telephone, and the interurban trolley are each doing something to break the isolation ; but probably the telephone and the rural delivery do as much to prevent sociability as to promote it, and the interurban is very limited in its application. Walking, riding, driving, and canoeing are all wholesome ways of overcoming isolation and adding to life something of poetry and romance and nature-love at the same time. Perhaps the automobile is the most effective means of overcoming all of these objections at once. The person who is the possessor of a car in a country of fairly good roads cannot well be isolated, for there are usually half a dozen towns within a drive of an hour or two. The autoist enlarges his range, and becomes a member of a larger neighborhood. it is only a short and delightful trip to attend church or the theater in a town twenty miles distant.
The auto is rather rare in the country in general thus far, except in the Middle West, where it has become common in some sections. It is a good deal of a nuisance on country roads to every one except the autoists. It does not promote the contemplative sort of appreciation of nature, but it seems to offer certain experiences which the country needs. The young man who dashes out upon the highway in a modern car on a pleasant spring or summer day is following in the steps of the knight errant of old. He is mounted on a far swifter and more powerful charger, and the world lies before him. He can go where he will, and everywhere there is the possibility of an adventure or a romance. To him the country need not be tame or isolated.
There are social advantages also in the size of the conveyance for the young people. The auto is seldom built to carry two. It can take the family, or it may carry a party of young people. Almost any kind of a party of young people is better than the perpetual driving in the single buggy. There is, however, the social danger that the auto soon brings a party into a section where they are unknown and do not feel responsible. People are always more reckless under such conditions.
In some Catholic countries there is a religious holiday in nearly every week, and there are processions and pageants and other features that furnish recreation to the people. We have no religious holidays in this country and only four or five of any kind that are generally observed by adults. Christmas and the Fourth of July are great events in the child world, and are looked forward to for a long time. There were once several other festivals which were common in country sections, such as the corn huskings, logrollings, barn raisings, and quiltings of pioneer days. These have disappeared, and there should be a persistent effort to develop others. There should be at least one occasion a month when the whole community would meet together for a social time and merry-making. If there is no suggestion of the season that these occasions should be organized, the time goes by and nothing is done. t would be rash to make up offhand such a calendar,. which must necessarily be the growth of years and of much experiment. I shall not attempt here to suggest such a series for the neighborhood, but it would seem that the following occasions might be put down on the calendar for the young people to begin with, and the Social Center, the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A., the Camp Fire Girls, and other rural organizations should undertake to organize them.
A COASTING PARTY
The party should be held on a moonlight night at a house that is adjacent to the coasting place. Young people may drive over and put up their horses or blanket them for the evening. The party may take the form of snowshoeing, skiing, or coasting with a bobsled. After an hour or two out of doors the company should come in, crack nuts, pop corn, and have general social games. Coasting is more or less dangerous, but there is a romance about the flying sled and the moon-light and the laughter that the country cannot afford to lose. t is one of the brightest bits of poetry that life affords. t is also a social occasion for the meeting of boys and girls that is wholly wholesome. In a level country this might be merely a sleigh ride, or in the South a drive.
A SUGAR PARTY
The making of maple sirup is not an industry of every locality. It is one of the early experiences that has often gone with the pioneer and the forests, but a sugar party is still possible in many sections. At the time of the sap boiling, arrangements should be made for a party at the sap house. A moonlight night should be chosen if possible, and two or three of the young men should collect the young people in sleighs, so that the going and coming may be as pleasant as the party itself. The impressions of such a night are worth more than days or even weeks of the commonplace. The gaunt tree tops, the dark shadows, and the gleaming snow are engraved on the memory in enduring lines. The back-ward glance still sees the sap house stand under its sheltering trees as though it were yesterday. The glow of the fire, the smell of the sweetened steam, all these go into the picture, to which youth and joy and love and romance lend their own brilliant colors. To make the occasion perfect the girls should make the biscuits on the spot. The wax that is made on the snow with the right partner is not to be compared with any other confection made by human hands. Surely such a feast the Greeks must have had in mind when they spoke of the ambrosia of the gods. Such an evening is apt to be a maximal experience in the lives of the young people who take part. It stirs the nature to its inner depths, arouses dormant sympathies and interests, and brings into action faculties that otherwise might have slumbered on to the end. It is beyond price in human values, and all life is richer for it.
A CORN ROAST
In some places something more exciting than a corn roast can doubtless be planned for the early autumn, but it may be made the occasion anywhere for a picnic, a boat trip, or a pleasant ride or gallop to some neighboring lake or stream. The corn roast might be either an afternoon or an evening occasion, according to the desire of the company. Probably in most cases it will be more attractive to make the roast a feature of an afternoon picnic. In that case it is well to put the supper pretty late, so as to get the effect of the camp fire while roasting the corn. There is nothing unusual or wonderful about it, but it makes a good social occasion.
Almost the only form of community recreation in the open country is the picnic. The picnic, as it now exists, is mostly a Sunday-school affair intended chiefly for the little children, but it is well adapted to promote the social life of the young men and women. The great evil of society in the country in general is that so far as the young people are concerned it is a society of two and two, and there are very few occasions when a whole neighborhood meets. A society of two and two is always dangerous, because it lacks the restraint of public opinion. t needs a vigorous group-sociability back of individual " sparking." The picnic grove should have facilities for boating and swimming and all sorts of games and tournaments. The lunch is an advantage, as it draws the group together. If young men more frequently had a chance to sample the cooking of the ladies of their choice, it would doubtless lead to a considerable improvement in cooking, wiser choices, and greater domestic happiness. It is a good thing if there can be a bonfire, so that corn and potatoes or marshmallows may be roasted on the spot. At times the wagons of the consolidated school or a hayrack may be used to collect and distribute the young people, so as to make a social occasion of the going and coming as well as the picnic itself. In many localities there are numerous places where a delightful time might be had, which would have the charm of novelty and wildness in addition to all of the natural advantages of the location. The picnic already exists in the country, and it can easily be developed to be the center of the social life for four or five months of the year. If the picnic grove may be at the consolidated school, and the picnic may become a regular occasion for Saturday afternoons from April to November, it will be ideal. This would give an opportunity for all the tournaments and matched games that there seems to be no opportunity for at present. In the colder months the meetings may take place in the consolidated school, and thus a real social center for the country may be built up. Such picnics and meetings would do much to introduce the spirit of play and joy and sociability into the open country and to keep the boys and girls on the farm. It is a practical solution of the isolation of the open country.
A number of school districts are making use of a tree claim and an adjoining school yard in this way in Barnes County, North Dakota.
Camping out is an experience that every girl and every boy should have. It is one of the movements that is coming in through a number of new organizations and through a new appreciation of its value. The Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A., the Boy Scouts, the Camp Fire Girls, the settlements, the institutional churches, and a number of private schools now either have a permanent camp or else camp out in different places each year. In nearly every case the campers are city boys and girls. They have to pay their railroad fares from and to the city and purchase all of the equipment and provisions that are needed. The boys and girls in the country have a peculiar advantage in regard to camping. There is usually a place not far away to which they can drive in two or three hours' time. All of the implements that are necessary in order to make a camp and establish themselves are at hand. If tents are available, the cost of a week's camping out need not be any greater than a week at home.
Country girls need the experience as much or more than city girls. There have been long aeons of human history in which our ancestors have gathered around the camp fire at night, when they have led lives by the streams and in the forest. The brain has been developed through such experiences, and it responds to them as it can to no others. There are certain sides of our nature that will be undeveloped if we have not had the camp fire for our teacher. The experience that softens the heart and kindles friendship and the imagination is no less educative than the knowledge that instructs the head. Camping intensifies friendship, and friendship furnishes the motive and the reward of the most of our efforts.
It doubles our strength for achievement. t gives us most of the joy of life. t is the riches of the spirit and quite as worthy of effort as wealth or learning. A group that have camped out together for a week will be better friends for the rest of their lives. Camping tends especially to bring up the memory of pioneer days. It is a valuable experience for one who has always slept in the house merely to sleep in a tent. The new surroundings call up new thoughts and rouse one to new possibilities. The girl who has never been away from home is apt to be very dependent. Camping is one of the best ways in the world to teach self-reliance. Country life tends to be tame and monotonous, altogether too much so for high-spirited young people. Camping brings in a touch of romance and adventure such as rural life once had, but which it has largely lost.
Perhaps the farm wife needs a vacation more than any other person in the country, yet thus far she has never had one. It is difficult for her to get the time, and the expense of summer resorts seems prohibitive to a class who are accustomed to very meager expenditures in money. So far as the farm wife ever has a vacation it is almost invariably in the form of a visit to a relative. A vacation is usually thought to be impossible for her. t is impossible, if she thinks it is ; but most impossibilities lie in the imagination. There are times when it would be difficult for her to get away, and there are also times after the corn is planted in the spring, after the wheat is harvested, and toward the end of August when farm work is not very pressing and when it would be quite possible to leave the house in the care of an older daughter or a hired girl or a neighbor, and for the most of the family to go off for a vacation of a week or two. If the farm wife has camped out as a girl, this will be apt to appeal to her. t will not be a life without work, but the work need not be strenuous, and there is the change of scene and the out-of-door life. A mere change of scene often suffices to dispel our worries.
Extensive equipment is not needed. The simpler the furnishings of a tent the more comfortable everybody always is. Every farm home ought to own a tent, as it serves as a playhouse for the children and aids in many of their dramatic games. t gives an opportunity for the boys at least to sleep out during the warmer parts of the year, and there are almost limitless possibilities in the way of camping, hunting, fishing, picnicking, and inexpensive travel if one has a tent that are scarcely possible without one. A tent is a real safeguard against tuberculosis and a developer of courage, hardihood, and imagination. Besides tents, the camping party will need bedding, cooking utensils, matches, an ax, a toilet set, a change of clothes, hammocks, and a few books and games for rainy days. For the sake of courage and peace of mind it will be well to have a gun or two also, and a big dog to guard the camp against mischief and prowlers. Guns will also be useful for target practice, and a dog is often an advantage, as some one may get lost.
A camping party ought always to be a group of friends or at least people who only lack intimacy in order to become so. t would be best that the girls should belong to the same club or Sunday-school class or Camp Fire. There ought to be ten or twelve of an average age of not less than fifteen, and some girls of eighteen or so if possible. There should be a chaperon or leader, of course. Here is likely to be the greatest difficulty, as chaperons do not grow on farms. If there is a county Y.W.C.A. or an organization of the Camp Fire Girls or the leader of a girls' Sunday-school class who is not too busy, the leaders of these groups would be the natural chaperons of such a camp ; but even if these organizations do not exist, it is probable that a diligent search will still reveal available material of some sort in the neighborhood.
It would be well, perhaps necessary, for the girls to bring some of their older brothers or fathers along to help lay out the camp and get things started. A site should be selected with good drainage. t should overlook, if possible, some pleasant body of water where there will be an opportunity for swimming, fishing, and boating. t should be located in the woods for the sake of the shade and the fire wood. It should be on high ground away from any swamp or marsh, so as to avoid the mosquitoes. t should be near a spring or some other source of good drinking water. t is well to pitch the three or four tents that are needed around a hollow square or in a semicircle, so as to have the camp fire in the center at night. It adds to the charm if the fire shines up on the branches and trunks of great forest trees. If it is in the land of the hemlock and balsam, the best bed in the world can be made of the smaller branches, or one can make a real spring mattress by laying light saplings across logs and putting the boughs on top of them. There should be about four girls to a tent.
The days may well be spent in swimming, rowing, games, and making collections of flowers, etc. But the nights ought to be the most attractive times in camp. t is then that the camp fire draws its circle together, and experiences are related and plans made for the morrow. It is the time for confidences and songs and stories. Sometimes during the encampment it would be well for the girls to give a party and invite their friends. Such a camp in prospect and in memory will keep the days a long time before and after from being dull.
THE SOCIAL CENTER
In order to carry out the social program that has been outlined thus far it is necessary that there should be some organization of the social life. This cannot well take place unless there is some common meeting ground or social center,, for the reason that the young people as a whole in country communities now meet together so seldom that organization is practically impossible. It is necessary either that there shall be some place where they can meet at certain times or that there shall be an organizer in the community of more than usual ability. At the social center there should be some section if possible that is especially reserved for the young people, or at any rate some opportunity should be provided for them to get together by themselves occasionally, though they should also meet at times with the others. This would make possible the organization of clubs, camps, athletic contests, camp fires, or any other groups that seemed desirable.
SOCIAL MORALITY IN THE COUNTRY
There is no prostitution in the country, but there is probably no less of the social vice there than in the city. This complicates the problems, as it also furnishes the most urgent reason for organized recreation for the youths and maidens of the country districts. For the most part there is almost no society for country young people except mixed society. The work of the farm and the farm home often seems rather tame to high-spirited young people. If the girl remains in the country, there is no other business open to her except the management of some farm home, and her thoughts are naturally turned toward marriage. The young lawyer or doctor may live in a boarding house, but there are no boarding houses in the country ; a wife is a part of the necessary equipment of the farmer. Farm life is monotonous ; the romance which is craved by all youth may not find that vicarious expression in art, music, the drama, and social service as it may in the city ; it is almost entirely concentrated around the experience of love. It is difficult to weave romances about those who are so intimately known as are the country neighbors' sons, and hence the tendency for sentiment to slip down to its physical basis in sex. Country girls, as a rule, do not have chaperons, but nevertheless they are allowed to go freely with the young men without this safeguard. In the unorganized community the walks and drives are generally solitary, and there are abundant opportunities for seclusion. There is often not much to talk about or to divert the mind from fundamental impulses, and a temptation that is dwelt upon is generally yielded to in the end. The organization of society is one of the greatest safe-guards against this condition. If there is a vigorous social life among the young people of the community, there will be less of the solitary kind of two-and-two society, and universal custom requires a pretty high standard of conduct in company. The young person who has a full and satisfying social life has an abundance of things to think about, so that the mind is not so apt to dwell on instinctive desires. Perhaps the strongest restraint that can be imposed upon the individual is the restraint of public opinion, and public opinion is strong in proportion as the contact of the members of the society or community is intimate. A girl or boy who is leading a life of monotonous drudgery is apt to become reckless in his craving for excitement and adventure. Public opinion is almost ineffective if he or she has no general society. We are not much disgraced by anything that may happen to us among strangers, but we feel its sting in pretty close proportion to the intimacy of those who are aware of the facts. These well-known psychological laws seem to indicate that the organization of society in the country will be the greatest safeguard of country morality.
DANCING The sentiment of the country church and the country itself has been almost uniformly against dancing. Its contentions have probably been wise. The dances that have been held in the country have generally not been safe places for boys and girls to go. There can be no question of the social dangers inherent in dancing at its best, and dances that have no safeguards, that are held in the woods or in hotels for unchaperoned parties of young people, where the tough comes with his whisky bottle and some are sure to have taken too much are as dangerous as dances in the city dives. There is, however, a great new interest in dancing at the present time ; in many of the high schools and some of the elementary schools about the country both girls and boys are being taught to dance. The churches are changing their attitude toward dancing, and there is likely to be a great deal more dancing in the country than there has been. The dangers inherent in dancing are such that, if it is practiced, every possible safeguard should be thrown around it. Dances should not be held in the woods or country hotels, drinking should not be allowed, and careful parents should see that their girls are chaperoned. The only places where dancing is likely to be reasonably safe are the church, the school, the grange, the social center, and the private house. Of course it is difficult to safeguard the way home, and this danger should be recognized. Some dances and some methods of dancing are more dangerous than others. All kinds of dancing where the partner is drawn close to the person should be frowned upon and rigorously excluded; girls should refuse to dance with the " huggers." If the dances can be held at the social center, where the whole community is in attendance and the dancing is only one feature on the evening's program, it is as safe as dancing can be made and is one of the best ways to promote sociability. t must be remembered that a considerable part of the danger of the country dance is due to the fact that dancing is generally tabooed and has to seek out-of-the-way places for its expression. So also the taboo keeps away the better class of young people who are careful of their reputations and leaves it to those who are more or less reckless. One cannot expect much but demoralization from dancing under such conditions.
Something might be done in most communities in the way of substituting the old square dances the Virginia reel, the quadrille, and the minuet for the omnipresent waltz and two-step. There is also a great interest in folk dancing just now. Folk dancing is very vigorous, —one of the best forms of physical training we have, — so that it is now used in nearly all gymnasiums purely for its physical value. Folk dances as a rule have almost no social dangers. They offer an excellent opportunity for getting acquainted and might be promoted in a neighborhood where any other kind of dancing would be frowned upon. If the community will take the initiative in teaching the girls folk dancing, they will probably be doing as much as can be done to protect them from the dangers of the other type. A Victrola machine with ten folkdance records can be purchased for about fifty dollars, so folk dancing may be independent of the musicians.
THE COUNTY Y.W.C.A.
The great need of the social life in the country is organization and leadership. In whatever form this leadership comes, if it has wholesome ideals behind it, it should be welcome. The county Y.W.C.A. is still too new an institution for one to plan for it in any particular county with the expectation that it will be found there. It is yet in its first stages of development, and only a few counties have been organized, but it appeals to such a fundamental need that it is safe to predict for it the same rapid development that the county Y.M.C.A. has had. Its work is along much the same lines Bible study, athletics, canning and cooking clubs, camping in the summer, and an annual conference or convention. All these things are much needed by country girls, and any one who will organize them for the country community should surely be welcome. If any country community becomes interested in the welfare of its girls, it may well take the initiative in getting this work started. Miss Jessie Field of New York City is the national secretary and would be glad to cooperate with communities that wish to make a beginning.
THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS The Camp Fire Girls is an organization recently formed under the leadership of Dr. and Mrs. Luther H. Gulick. t resembles in many ways the Boy Scouts. In fact, it has been developed largely on account of the desire of some girls to become scouts. While its name speaks of the camp fire, a better name might really be Fireside Girls, as it is a method of lending a certain romance to the labors and duties of the home, to get the girl to acquire as a part of an initiation into a romantic organization the knowledge that she will need as a woman and a mother. In a way it resembles the initiation ceremonies of many primitive tribes which are given by the old women at the time of puberty. This initiation teaches the secret knowledge and mysteries of the tribe and may be regarded as a preparation for marriage.
There are three orders of the Camp Fire Girls, as there are also of the Boy Scouts. The first is the Wood Gatherer, corresponding to the Tenderfoot Scout. Before a girl can become a Wood Gatherer she must be able to repeat the following :
It is my desire to become a Camp Fire Girl and to obey the law of the Camp Fire, which is
Hold on to health,
On becoming a Wood Gatherer the girl is given a silver ring, which is the distinctive badge of the order. The applicants must be twelve years of age to be eligible for membership. A local group, or Camp Fire, consists of from six to twenty girls. The leader, who must be an adult, is called the Guardian of the Fire or simply the Guardian. The girls come together weekly, and once a month they hold a ceremonial meeting, or council fire. At this gathering they are supposed to wear, if possible, their ceremonial dress, which is of galatea of a special pattern. This dress may be made by the girls themselves at a cost of about sixty cents. Before a girl can be advanced to the second degree, the Fire Maker, she must acquire a number of honors, which means that she shall become skillful in certain housewifely and motherly arts. These may be cooking, the making of bread of different kinds, the recognizing of different baby cries and their meaning ; she should also know the chief causes of infant mortality and how at least one city has reduced the rate. The girls are supposed to sleep with their windows open and to learn how to swim. They are encouraged to take long walks and to observe the common birds and flowers. Before a girl can be a Fire Maker she must be able to repeat :
As fuel is brought to the fire,
So I purpose to bring My strength,
My heart's desire,
And my sorrow
To the fire
Of human kind ;
For I will tend,
As my fathers have tended,
And my fathers' fathers Since time began,
The fire that is called The love of man for man,
The love of man for God.
The third degree is that of Torch Bearer. Before a girl may attain to this degree she must have mastered many things in the distinctly feminine arts, and she must also have trained at least three other girls in some of the honors of the lower degrees. The training that is given for the Camp Fire Girls is much more fundamental and important than the training that is given in most schools. It is education in the arts of living, in health and strength, in a love for nature, and in skill in doing the things that the house-wife is supposed to know — the craft of the home and the mother and, in its later honors, the craft of citizenship as well. Over all is thrown the glamor and romance of the camp fire and ceremonial. The great difficulty that faces the movement is that there are so few women who have the training or time to be Guardians of the Camp Fire, and without a leader the Camp Fire is impossible. I believe it is worthy a place on the program of the high school. I would let the girls have Friday afternoon of each week under their regular teachers for their camp fire. The training of the camp fire is the training that the country girl most needs. It is the sort of training that will help her to enjoy the open country on the one hand, and that will fit her to organize its home and community life on the other. Still it is hard to see how she can get it, at present at least. It would be very difficult indeed to find women in the country who could take the time or who would be willing and able to be Guardians of the Camp Fire. At present most country girls do not attend school much after they are old enough to be Camp Fire Girls. How-ever, the problem of the country village is almost identical with that of the farm, and the young people are often worse off from a surplus of idleness than the farm young people are from a surplus of work. The village is near to nature for the nature lore and hikes. The girls have the time, and it should not be impossible to find the leadership that is required. The village is the best place there is for the organization of the order.
One is led to wonder, in going over the ritual, if it would not have been better to have restored the old-time ritual of puberty, with its initiation into the secrets and mysteries of the tribe — to make the Camp Fire, even more than it is at present, a training for marriage. This fact is borne in upon us by the fact that marriage and the bearing of children are usually the supreme facts in a woman's life, and that the schools are doing nothing whatever in most places and little anywhere to prepare a woman either for this relationship or for the trade of the housewife. In olden times the girls were pretty adequately trained in the home for this position, but this is no longer true. We should not expect a young man to get married until he had learned some trade or profession, so that he was capable of making a living and sup-porting a family. The woman has her trade to learn no less. She needs to know the housewifely arts, to be able to keep accounts and do the marketing, to care for children, and to make her home attractive. This is as much her work as medicine or agriculture is her husband's. In Europe a girl is supposed to have mastered these housewifely arts before her début in society, but here many of the girls enter upon matrimony absolutely unprepared for nearly all its duties. Already the Camp Fire Girls are receiving much of this training ; only a little more is needed. The badge or uniform of the Torch Bearer ought to signify that this girl has mastered the arts that a woman should know and that she is eligible for marriage. If it were so understood, it would doubtless add to the popularity of the order. The Camp Fire manual can be obtained by writing to the headquarters, Grace Parker, Secretary, 118 East 28th Street, New York City.
Many are sure to say by the time they have reached this point, if they persist so long, that this is all very well, but the country girl has much work to do, and she has not time for all these things that have been enumerated. I do not think this is so. All that I have mentioned and more can easily be done in one afternoon and two evenings a week, and every girl should have at least that much for her recreation and social life. To give her less will be to make life dull and tame, to crowd out of it most of the romance and adventure which can make it seem significant and which can give it breadth and color for later years. If the country cannot afford this much time for life, it cannot keep the young people on the farm. A large and satisfying life, not dollars, is the supreme need of each individual, and no amount of prosperity can compensate one for a life that is not worth living. Let not the indulgent parent think that by working the girl twelve hours a day he can clothe her in silks and leave her an ample dower. A princess in rags is always better than a beggar in ermine. The best dower that any girl can bring to her life partner is health and wifely arts and a loving, joyous spirit. He who would choose millions in preference to these qualities is not worthy of a noble woman, because he shows by his choice that he cannot appreciate her. There is much of sordidness and meanness in life, of course ; but, despite it all, a dower of health and love and intelligence will ever bring more admirers that are worth while than a fine farm or a large inheritance. If we sacrifice the youth of our girls to the Moloch of profits, we surely sell the future for a pittance. Child labor on the farm is beyond the reach of the law, but it should not be beyond the reach of the farmer's conscience. He should realize that he has no right to rob the future home of his daughter and make her a slave instead of a princess, in order to save the washing bill or to avoid the cost of labor-saving devices in the house.
( Originally Published 1914 )
Play And Recreation:
Recreation For The Country Girl
The Boy Scouts The Salvation Of The Village Boy
Recreation For The Farm Wife
Recreation For The Farmer
The Organizers Of Rural Recreation
The Ideals And Methods Of Organizing Social Centers
The Rural Church As A Social Center
Educational Extension Through The Rural Social Center
The Social Center, The Cure Of Rural Isolation
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