Изображения страниц

The principal duty of woman, as well as the peculiar sphere of her efforts, has been much more distinctly defined by nature than that of men, whose sphere of activity is out of all comparison wider and more various.

Man needs to develop all the infinite endowments of his nature; to gradually bring into activity all the perfections whose germs slumber within him; and to make use of all these powers in all the relations and changes of life.

But how much more limited is the sphere of the activity of the other sex!

The destiny of the young girl is, to be a wife and a mother.

The wife must live for her family; must watch over its property; must thus have special charge of the ordering and management of all little mat. ters as they come up; and above all, must nurse, or at least watch over and take care of the children to whom she has given birth, until they can take care of themselves, and have become so far educated and independent by her example and her teaching, as not to need her protection. This period is earlier reached by sons, who receive their education from the world, than by girls, who usually go from their mother's care into the charge of a husband.

The bodily organization of women in part prepares them for this sphere of duty ; as do also the mental endowments and powers of that sex; the perfectibility of which clearly shows that woman as well as man belongs to a higher race of beings.

The cultivation of their understanding, judgment and reason, in part by studies of a generally useful character, in part adapted especially to the needs of the sex, should be the main purpose of their education.

Learning, properly so called, is useless to them, and commonly injurious. The education of the sense of beauty—of the taste—is only harmful when it is made the principal object.

As the cultivation of the taste is closely connected with that of the fancy and of the feelings, it must be conducted with the extremest care; and the materials for it must be chosen with the utmost caution.

Most of our novels and plays, and very many poems, can be used in education only with the greatest risk.

The languages, the native language in particular, are a valuable means for educating the mind, and this the more because the study of them will act as a preservative against an unhappy tendency to read indiscriminately all manner of German books; and because only the best foreign books will be read.

Geography and history should be not mere lists of names, but should be shown to be rich in great deeds and great men, the knowledge of whom will elevate the soul, and will prevent from seeking after foolish novelties.

Music, singing, drawing, rightly studied, will excellently occupy many hours; will keep the student at home, and are capable of being brought into a useful harmony with the moral feelings.

Intercourse with intelligent men is a far more certain and effectual means of cultivating the mind, than reading books. The latter is of but little use in cultivating the understanding; and we often find persons of extensive reading, who are quite destitute of comprehensive ideas, and are unable to carry on an intelligent and connected conversation.

That all this may be accomplished—at least among the educated classes -without derogating from the most faithful fulfillment of all the womanly duties, has been so often proved by experience, that it can no longer be pretended that girls must devote all their lives to sewing, washing, cooking and nursing children. All these things should be understood and done; but it is degrading the female sex to set it down as fit for these things only



There is a good deal of discussion at the present day on the subject of Wo men's Rights and her education. No one would be willing to allow that he wished to deprive them of their rights, and the only difficulty seems to be to settle what their rights are. The citizens of Boston, acting by their municipal representatives, have long since undertaken to answer this question in a practical way, as far as a city government can do it, by admitting the right of the girls to have, at the public expense, as good an education as the boys. It is not in the power of the city to amend our constitutions, so as to extend political privileges to the gentler sex, nor to alter the legislation which regulates the rights of property. But it was in the power of the city to withhold or to grant equal privileges of education ; and it has decided that the free grammar schools of Boston should be open alike to boys and girls. This seems to me not only a recognition at the outset of the most important of Women's Rights, viz., equal participation in these institutions, but the best guaranty that if in any thing else the sex is unjustly or unfairly dealt with, the remedy will come in due tinie. With the acknowledged equality of woman in general intellectual endowments, though tending in either sex to an appropriate development, with her admitted superiority to man in tact, sensibility, physical and moral endurance, quickness of perception, and power of accommodation to circumstances, give her for two or three generations equal advantages of mental culture, and the lords of creation will have to carry more guns than they do at present, to keep her out of the enjoyment of any thing which sound reasoning and fair experiment shall show to be of her rights.

I have, however, strong doubts whether, tried by this test, the result would be a participation in the performance of the political duties which the experience of the human race, in all ages, has nearly confined to the coarser sex. I do not rest this opinion solely on the fact that these duties do not seem congenial with the superior delicacy of woman, or compatible with the occupations which nature assigns to her in the domestic sphere. I think it would be found, on trial, that nothing would be gained—nothing changed for the better-by putting the sexes on the same footing, with respect, for instance, to the right of suffrage. Whether the wives and sisters agreed with the husbands and brothers, or differed from them-as this agreement or difference would, in the long run, exist equally in all parties the result would be the same as at present. So, too, whether the wife or the husband had the stronger will, and so dictated the other's vote, as this, also, would be the same on all sides, the result would not be affected. So that it would be likely to turn out that the present arrangement, by which the men do the electioneering and the voting for both sexes, is a species of representation which promotes the convenience of all and does injustice to none.

Meantime for all the great desirable objects of life, the possession of equal advantages for the improvement of the mind, is of vastly greater importance than the participation of political power. There are three great objects of pursuit on earth-well-being, or happiness for ourselves and families; influence and control over others; and a good name with our fellow-men, while we live and when we are gone. Who needs be told, that, in the present state of the world, a good education is not indeed a sure, but by far the most likely means of obtaining all the ends which constitute material prosperity, competence, position, establishment in life; and that it also opens the purest sources of enjoyment. The happiest condition of human existence is unquestionably to be found in the domestic circle of what may be called the middle condition of society, in a family harmoniously united in the cultivation and enjoyment of the innocent and rational pleasure's of literature, art and refined intercourse, equally removed from the grandeurs and the straits of society. These innocent and rational pleasures, and this solid happiness, are made equally accessible to both sexes by our admirable school system.

Then for influence over others, as it depends much more on personal qualities than on official prerogative, equality of education furnishes the amplest means of equal ascendency. It is the mental and moral forces, not political power, which mainly govern the world. It is but a few years since the three greatest powers in Europe, two on one side and one on the other, engaged in a deadly struggle with each other to decide the fate of the Turkish empire; three Christian powers straining every nerve, the one to overthrow, the two others to uphold the once great and formidable, but now decaying and effete Mohammedan despotism of Western Asia. Not less than half a million of men were concentrated in the Crimea, and all the military talent of the age was called forih in the contest ? And who bore off the acknowledged palm of energy, usefulness and real power in that tremendous contest. Not emperors and kings, not generals, admirals or engineers, launching from impregnable fortresses and blazing intrenchments, the three-bolted thunders of war. No, but an English girl, bred up in the privacy of domestic life, and appearing on that dread stage of human action and suttering, in no higher character than that of a nurse. And then for fame, to which, by a natural instinct, the ingenuous soul aspires :

"— The spur which the clear spirit doth raise,

(The last infirmity of noble mind)

To scorn delights and live luborious days"need I say, that the surest path to a reputation for the mass of mankind is by intel. lectual improvement; and that in this respect, therefore, our school system places the sexes on an equality. Consider for a moment the spectacle presented by the reign of Louis XIV., the Augustan age of France, rich in the brightest numes of her literature, philosophy, politics and war-Pascal, Descartes, Corneille, Racine, Lafontaine, Moliere, Bossuet, Fenelon, Bourdaloue, Massillon, Colbert, Conde, Turenne, Catinat. Among all these illustrious names there is not one that shines with a brighter or purer ray than Madame de Sevigne ; not one whose writings are more extensively read by posterity; not one in whose domestic life and personal character all future ages will probably take a deeper interest. The other distinguished individuals whom I have mentioned, we regard with cold admiration, as personages in the great drama of history. We feel as if Madame de Sevigne belonged to our own families. The familiar letters principally to her daughter, written by this virtuous and accomplished woman, who preserved her purity in a licentious court, who thought with vigor and wrote with simplicity, earnestness, and true wit in a pedantic and affected age, have given her a place among the celebrities of France, which the most distinguished of them might envy.

Apart then, girls, from a preparation for the pursuits, duties, and enjoyments of life, which more especially pertain to your sex, in the present organization of society, you possess in these advantages of education the means of usefulness and (if that be an object) of reputation, which, without these, would be, in a great degree, monopolized by the stronger sex. The keys of knowledge are placed in your hands, from its elemental principles up to the higher branches of useful learning. These, however, are topics too familiar on these occasions to be dwelt upon, and I will conclude by offering you my best wishes, that the reputation already acquired by the Dwight School for girls may be maintained under the new organization ; that your improvement may be proportioned to your advantagos; that your progress may equal the warmest wishes of your teachers, parents, and friends; and that you may grow up to the enjoyment of the best blessings of this world, and the brightest and highest hopes of the world to come.





The invitation extended to me by your Executive Committee, to share in your deliberations upon this question, was based


the fact of my connection with a school in which the system of education under discussion has been in operation for many years; and it was intended that I should present the subject in the light of that experience. It seems more fitting to confine myself to arrangements and results at Oberlin, stated descriptively and historically, than to attempt any general discussion of the subject—a work more appropriate to the members of the Association.

That I may speak without restraint upon these matters, it is proper for me to say that I entered the College as a boy at its opening, and served seven years as a pupil before entering upon

the responsibilities of a member of its board of instruction. Thus I appear before you as one of the children of the school, and not one of the fathers, and shall not seem to speak of the work of my own hands, as I claim no personal responsibility for the wisdom or folly of the arrangement.

Oberlin College is now in the thirty-fourth year of its life, and from the beginning has embraced among its pupils both young men and young women. The first year it was a high school, with something over a hundred pupils, more than one-third of whom were ladies: not a local school, for the enterprise started in the woods, and one-half of the students at least were from New England and New York. The second year the numbers increased to nearly 300, with theological and college classes in full operation, the ladies being about one-fourth of the whole. In two or three years the numbers reached 500, and maintained that annual average until 1852, when the number was suddenly doubled, and has averaged more than a thousand yearly for the last fifteen years. The proportion of young ladies has not for many years fallen below one-third, nor risen above one-half, except during the war, when the ladies predominated in the ratio of five to four. The Jast Annual Catalogue gives 655 gentlemen and 490 ladies, and this is about the normal proportion. These are young men and women of such ages as the advanced schools of the land generally present.

The town began with the school and has kept pace with it, containing at present from 3,000 to 4,000 inhabitants. At first, almost. all the accommodations for the students in room and board were furnished by the College. The dormitory system was adopted for both young men and young women, separate halls or buildings being assigned to each—the ladies' hall being also a boarding-ball

, in which seats at table were provided for

young men.

As the num bers increased and the dwellings in the village were improved and multiplied, the students were to a greater extent provided for among the families, until at present far the greater number are thus furnished with homes. Our present ladies' ball affords rooms for about 100 young ladies, and sittings at table for about 220 boarders. Large boarding houses are not found; but a majority of families that have room receive a few students. The young ladies find their homes under this arrangement as well as the young men. Some families receive young ladies only; but families are permitted, with suitable arrangements, to receive both classes. The entire female department is under the immediate charge of a lady Principal, and her assistant; and these are occupied, not with teaching, to any considerable extent, but with the care and supervision of the young ladies, their classification and general culture. These principals communicate, as occasion may require, with the matrons of the families where the young ladies board. The special discipline of the young ladies is committed to the lady Principal, assisted by a Ladies' Board of Managers,' composed in general of wives of professors in the college. The advice of the College Faculty is some times taken, but the young ladies do not come before them for special discipline. The regulations of the school, for both ladies and gentlemen, are intended to be addressed to the good sense and personal responsibility of the pupil. We have no monitors, but each one makes a weekly report of success or failure in the performance of prescribed duties: young ladies boarding in families have their report countersigned by the matron of the house, who is in a degree responsible for the conduct of her charge. The ladies' hall is the headquarters of the female department, where the Principal receives all the ladies for general instruction and for personal advice.

Throughout the literary departments the classes consist of young men and young women, taken indiscriminately, as their studies correspond. The larger numbers of both sexes are found in our Pre

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »