“The Reading of Young Ladies” (from the American Magazine of Useful Knowledge, December 1836; p. 91)
Every one must rejoice that the education of females is considered more important than formerly, and that expense is more willingly incurred for their intellectual improvement. Female children are now generally as well educated as boys; and many parents provide generously for their instruction. But this is chiefly true of the rich; and it is also the fact, that their education is designed as much to polish as to inform. Those in the middling classes of society are also better educated than in the last generation; but their education is more superficial, as they cannot devote so much time as the more opulent. To such we would suggest the importance of improving their time, after the common season of study has passed. What they have learnt at school, or at the academy, is but a foundation. They will be very deficient, if they do not read and study after their school time is over; and much depends on the kind of reading which they shall choose.
This class of young persons are necessarily or usually occupied, a portion of time, in domestic concerns. And yet they can find a few hours almost every day, for reading. If disposed, they may fill up much time in this profitable pursuit. It is rather the taste than the opportunity that prevents most young persons from this occupation. But a still greater fault with man is, the reading of works which impart no important knowledge, nor tend to moral improvement; but serve only to gratify the imagination. Too much time is spent on novels, few of which are calculated to instruct or to improve. The writings of Scott and some others may be an exception. But generally, they are trash and chaff. More useful and solid works should engage the attention of the female mind. And of this description of books there is no want. Many have been written within a few years, by learned and religious persons, expressly designed for the improvement of females. Some histories cannot fail to be useful. The study of botany, chemistry, astronomy and biography will be sure to enlarge and elevate the mind. Essays on moral and religious subjects, and on the personal, social and relative duties, will also leave good impressions, and furnish motives for uniform propriety of conduct.