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For women every where.



from The American Frugal Housewife
by Mrs. Lydia Maria Child
published in 1832

In tracing evils of any kind, which exist in society, we must, after all, be brought up against the great cause of all mischief—mismanagement in education; and this remark applies with peculiar force to the leading fault of the present day, viz. [that is to say] extravagance. If young men and young women are brought up to consider frugality contemptible, and industry degrading, it is vain to expect they will at once become prudent and useful, when the cares of life press heavily upon them. Generally speaking, when misfortune comes upon those who have been accustomed to thoughtless expenditure, it sinks them to discouragement, or, what is worse, drives them to desperation.

It is true there are exceptions. There are a few, an honorable few, who, late in life, with Roman severity of resolution, learn the long-neglected lesson of economy. But how small is the number, compared with the whole mass of the population! And with what bitter agony, with what biting humiliation, is the hard lesson often learned! How easily might it have been engrafted on early habits, and naturally and gracefully ‘grown with their growth, and strengthened with their strength!’

Yet it was but lately that I visited a family, not of ‘moderate fortune,’ but of no fortune at all; one of those people who live ‘nobody knows how;’ and I found a young girl, about sixteen, practising on the piano [see note below], while an elderly lady beside her was darning her stockings. I was told (for the mother was proud of bringing up her child so genteelly) that the daughter had almost forgotten how to sew, and that a woman was hired into the house to do her mending!

‘But why,’ said I, ‘have you suffered your daughter to be ignorant of so useful an employment? If she is poor, the knowledge will be necessary to her; if she is rich, it is the easiest thing in the world to lay it aside, if she chooses; she will merely be a better judge whether her work is well done by others.’

‘That is true,’ replied the mother; ‘and I always meant she should learn; but she never has seemed to have any time. When she was eight years old, she could put a shirt together pretty well; but since that, her music [see note below], and her dancing, and her school, have taken up her whole time. I did mean she should learn some domestic habits this winter; but she has so many visiters, and is obliged to go out so much, that I suppose I must give it up. I don’t like to say too much about it; for, poor girl! she does so love company, and she does so hate anything like care and confinement! Now is her time to enjoy herself, you know. Let her take all the comfort she can, while she is single!’

‘But,’ said I, ‘you wish her to marry some time or other; and, in all probability, she will marry. When will she learn how to perform the duties, which are necessary and important to every mistress of a family?’

‘Oh, she will learn them when she is obliged to,’ answered the injudicious mother; ‘at all events, I am determined she shall enjoy herself while she is young.’

And this is the way I have often heard mothers talk!

Yet, could parents foresee the almost inevitable consequences of such a system, I believe the weakest and vainest would abandon the false and dangerous theory. What a lesson is taught a girl in that sentence, ‘Let her enjoy herself all she can, while she is single!’

Instead of representing domestic life as the gathering place of the deepest and purest affections; as the sphere of woman’s enjoyments as well as of her duties; as, indeed, the whole world to her; that one pernicious sentence teaches a girl to consider matrimony desirable because ‘a good match’ is a triumph of vanity, and it is deemed respectable to be ‘well settled in the world;’ but that it is a necessary sacrifice of her freedom and her gayety.

And then how many affectionate dispositions have been trained into heartlessness, by being taught that the indulgence of indolence and vanity were necessary to their happiness; and that to have this indulgence, they must marry money! But who that marries for money, in this land of precarious fortunes, can tell how soon they will lose the glittering temptation, to which they have been willing to sacrifice so much? And even if riches last as long as life, the evil is not remedied. Education has given a wrong end and aim to their whole existence; they have been taught to look for happiness where it never can be found, viz. in the absence of all occupation, or the unsatisfactory and ruinous excitement of fashionable competition.

NOTE: Music is haraam in Islaam. The original text referring to music and piano were not edited out; rather they were scratched through so the original wording could still be seen in order to show the point the author is making by referring to those things. Any waste of one’s time can be substituted for music (such as sports or other activities, or even spending one’s time doing nothing at all).

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to be continued insha’Allah

text source : Project Gutenberg
image source: WP Clipart