“Female Education” (from The Mother's Magazine, July 1848; pp. 226-227)
Much has been said and written upon Female Education—much, too, has been accomplished, in preparing females to act their part upon the stage of life. Much has been done to cultivate their minds, their understandings, their hearts, and their tempers. But there is yet great room for improvement in the system of their education.
Such accomplishments as usually become obsolete soon after their marriage, have engrossed too much of the time and instructions of their parents and teachers. Poetry, painting, and music, have, we know, a chastening and ennobling influence upon the mind and heart; and we would that some of our daughters were more than mere novitiates in these branches of knowledge; but we believe that many females waste hours—nay, almost their whole time—in mastering the mere rudiments of these arts and sciences; and that, too, without the hope or expectation of becoming proficients in them.
It is generally true, that that which cannot be well done, should not be attempted. We would never advise a young lady, who cannot afford the time and the means to completely master these arts and sciences, to attempt their acquisition. Rather let her seek a thorough practical understanding of those principles of which she may as a wife, mother, and housekeeper, be called to make daily use.
We rejoice that “there is no longer any dread, lest the culture of science by our daughters should foster masculine boldness, or selfish independence; that it is no longer the fashion to treat their literary acquirements as starched pedantry, or vain pretension, or to stigmatize them as inconsistent with those domestic affections and virtues which constitute the charm of society;” but at the same time, we fear that there is not sufficient effort made to give them more than a scientific education. We are advocates for a thorough scientific education; but at the same time, for an education for the ordinary, every-day duties of life—for those duties which
females, as wives, daughters, and mothers, will be called upon to perform. The piano, the pencil, and the brush, should never take the place of the needle—nay, even of the broom or the rolling-pin.
Cobbett somewhere relates a story of a young man, who some years ago was paying his attentions to one of three sisters, and who, hearing her say to the others, “I wonder where our needle is?” resolved never to think more of a girl who possessed a needle only in partnership; and who, it appeared, was not too well informed as to the place where even that share was deposited. We should not wonder if that resolution was taken by many an Coelebs in search of a wife; nor if he should require, too, a homespun knowledge of bread making, and its kindred accomplishments.
Death often snatches away the father of a family, and the widowed mother is called to manage alone her family affairs—often to transact important business operations. We believe that our daughters are too little prepared by education for such emergencies. They need resources within themselves, to be able to manage an affair of business understandingly. We do not propose, that they should as a class be given a mechanical, or a mercantile education; but we do contend, that to a certain extent they should be instructed in the mysteries of keeping accounts—in some of the principles of bargain and sale, that they may look well to the ways of their households.