The warning in “The Untidy Girl” follows the usual pattern of advice for girls: be tidy, be thoughtful. Here, female untidiness leads to husbands finding “pleasure” outside the home; female tidiness was central to marital advice given by others as well. The author of this piece reprinted in Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet may be Harvey Newcomb, author of The Young Lady’s Guide to the Harmonious Development of Christian Character.
“The Untidy Girl” (from Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet, February 1847, p. 61)
From “A Gift for my Daughter,” an unpublished work, by the Author of the “Young Lady’s Guide.”

The untidy girl leaves her things scattered about her room. She never has a place for any thing; or if she has, she does not keep any thing in its place. She leaves a thing where she happens to be using it. Her room, of course, is all confusion. If she wants any thing, she never knows where it is, but must hunt till she finds it; and thus much precious time is wasted. If she goes into another’s room, whatever article she lays her hands upon is misplaced. She never thinks of putting it where she found it; but either throws it carelessly down, or puts it in the wrong place. If she goes into the library, and takes down a book, she either puts it up in a different place, and thus disarranges the shelves, or she lays it down on the shelf in front of the other books, for her father or mother to arrange; or if she puts it in the right place, it is turned the wrong end up, or the back is put inward. Her school books are torn and dirty, disfigured with pencil marks, blots of ink, grease spots, finger prints, and dog’s ears; and if she borrows a book from the library, or of a friend, it is returned with some of these her marks upon it.

If she goes into the kitchen, she will be sure to put the tidy house-keeper in a passion; for whatever she lays her hand upon is out of place. Nor does her own person appear to any better advantage. Her dress is adjusted in bad taste. It seems to hang out of shape. You would say her garments were flung upon her; and you feel an involuntary anxiety lest they should fall off. You do not perceive precisely what is the matter, but there is an evident want of neatness and taste. Her hair wears the same air of negligence; her face often discovers the lack of soap; and her finger nails and her teeth want attention.

These are only a few of the effects of untidy habits. The habit once formed, will run through every thing. And the untidy girl will make an untidy woman; the untidy woman will make an untidy house; and an untidy house will spoil a good husband. A man of taste cannot enjoy himself where every thing is out of order; and he will seek that pleasure abroad which he finds not at home.

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
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