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: JULIA WARD HOWE.
A COMPREHENSIVE view of the attainments made by American women in this century, and especially during the last fifteen years, cannot but be of great importance and value. The cruel kindness of the old doctrine that women should be worked for, and should not work, that their influence should be felt, but not recognized, that they should hear and see, but neither appear nor speak,-all this belongs now to the record of things which, once measurably true, have become fabulous.
The theory that women should not be workers is a corruption of the old aristocratic system. Slaves and servants, whether male or female, always worked. Women of rank in the old world were not necessarily idle. The eastern monarch who refused an army to a queen, sent her a golden distaff. The extremes of despotism and of luxury, undermining society and state, can alone have introduced the theory that it becomes the highly born and bred to be idle. With this unnatural paralysis of woman's active nature came ennui, the bane of the so-called privileged classes. From ennui spring morbid passions, fostered by fantastic imaginations. A respect for labor lies at the very foundation of a true democracy.
The changes which our country has seen in this respect, and the great uprising of industries among women, are then not important to women alone, but of momentous import to society at large. The new activities sap the foundation of vicious and degraded life. From the factory to the palace the quickening impulse is felt, and the social level rises. To the larger intellectual outlook is added the growing sympathy of women with each other, which does more than anything else to make united action possible among them. A growing good will and esteem of women toward women makes itself happily felt and will do even more and more to refine away what is harsh and
unjust in social and class distinctions and to render all alike heirs of truth, servants of justice.
The initiative is now largely taken by women in departments in which they were formerly, if admitted at all, entirely and often unwillingly under the dictation of men. Philanthropists of both sexes, indeed, work harmoniously together, but in their joint undertakings the women now have their say and, instead of waiting to be told what men would have them think, feel obliged to think for themselves. The result is not discord but a fuller and freer harmony of action and intention. In industrial undertakings they still have far to go, but women will enter more and more into them and with happy results. The professions indeed supply the key-stone to the arch of woman's liberty. Not the intellectual training alone which fits for them, but the practical, technical knowledge which must accompany their exercise puts women in a position of sure defense against fraud and imposition.
In the volume now given to the public the progress of women in all of these departments is presented by persons who have made each of them a special study, and who have done good and helpful work in them, with, moreover, the outlook ahead which is the important element in all labor and service. The world, even the American world, is not yet wholly converted to the doctrine of the new womanhood. Men and women who prize the ease of the status quo, and the imaginary importance conferred by exemption from the necessities which prompt to active exertion, often show great ignorance of all that this book is intended to teach. They will aver, men and women of them, that women have never shown any but secondary capacities and qualities. Women who take this ground often secretly flatter themselves that what they thus say of other women does not apply to themselves. A speaker representing this class lately asked at a legislative hearing in Massachusetts why women did not enter the professions? why they did not become healers of the sick, ministers, lawyers ? One might ask how he could escape knowing that in all of these fields, so lately opened to them, women are doing laborious work and with excellent results ? A hook like the present will furnish chapter and verse to substantiate what is claimed for the attainments of women. It will not, indeed, put an end to foolish depreciative argument, based upon erroneous suppositions, but it will furnish evidence to confute calumny, to convince the doubtful.
The movement in behalf of the education of youth in America followed so closely upon the landing of the colonists on an unsettled and forbidding coast, and was continued so persistently and so successfully, under stress of poverty and peril, that it seizes upon the imagination, and justly stirs a profound sense of gratitude in succeeding generations.
That in its inception, and for a long period, it was but a partial, in fact, but a half movement, after all, appears only in the light of a later day; which, indeed, it had helped to kindle,when the words, “ children,” “youth,” and “people" began to take a wider significance.
The men who gathered in the cabin of the “Mayflower" in 1620, and framed a compact that every man in the colony should have an equal share in the government, soon assembled to promote the general welfare by encouraging industry in the young.
In 1642, the General Court of Mass. Bay Colony charged itself with “taking account, from time to time, of all parents and masters concerning the calling and employment of their children, especially of their ability to read and understand the principles of religion and the capital laws of this country.”
In 1647, says the record, “ It being one cheife piect of yt ould deluder Satan to keepe men from the knowledge of ye Scriptures .... by psuading them from ye use of tongues, that so at least ye true sense and meaning of ye originall might be clouded .... and that learning may not be buried in ye graves of our fathers. .... It is therefore ordered tht evry township in this jurisidiction, after ye Lord hath increased ym to ye number of 50 householders, shall therforthwth appoint one to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and