Thursday, March 14, 2013

Discussion. Ought the Education of Woman to be as Extended and Comprehensive as that of Man?

Last month we shared with you a piece written by students at Fort Wayne High School and published in a pamphlet of Essays and Addresses for the Vth Annual Commencement on June 17, 1869. This month we bring you a second essay from this booklet, appropriate to Women’s History Month.

By Malvina R. Mahurin.

It is not our intention, to-night, to discuss the subject of Woman’s Rights, but simply to state why her education should be equal to that of man. And as there are many valid arguments in favor of the affirmative of this question, we will only mention two or three.

Then why ought woman to receive an education as extended and comprehensive as that of man?
First. Because her influence and work are of equal importance, and because men are to so great an extent what their mothers make them.

Will any one claim that the formation of character, which is the chief work of woman, is less intricate and important than the formation of states, the enactment of laws, and the settlement of political difficulties, which seem to be the chief work of man? Besides, all men take their leading characteristics from their mothers. ‘T is they who determine, to a great degree, the manners, taste, feeling, disposition, and genius of men in all times.

“Of Washington, it is said, that he inherited from his mother a high temper and spirit of command, but her early precepts and example taught him to restrain and govern that temper, and to square his conduct by the exact principles of equity and justice.”

“The mother of Lord Bacon was an accomplished linguist, and had studied thoroughly all the philosophic and religious questions of her age. All her talent and acquirements were employed in the education of her son. From the education thus imparted, we find the origin of Lord Bacon’s greatness.”

Secondly. The moral and intellectual progress of a nation depends as much upon the extent and thoroughness of the education of woman as upon that of man.

Look back through the history of the several barbarous nations, more particularly those of the East, and you will find, that from the earliest period to the present day, their progress in education has been slow and labored. But why this non-progression in these nations, while that of others has been onward? It is on account of the degrading position which has been given to women, and the low estimate placed upon them by their countrymen. Instead of being looked upon as companions and helpmates, they are treated with contempt and distrust, thus crushing all the gentler feelings of their nature. Ye sons and daughters of a Christian land, on whom heaven has showered its choicest benedictions, how little do ye know of the sighs and tears, the loneliness and desolation of these benighted daughters of the East.

Turning again to the pages of history, and viewing those nations upon which the light of education shines clear and full, we see each fresh blossom and fruit of literature, each improvement in art, and each new link in the chain of science, as so many proofs that the moral worth and advancement of a nation depends largely upon the position and excellence of woman.

Then in the third place, we claim that the education of men and women should be equal, because the Creator has endowed women with faculties as suceptible (sic) of development as those of men. Do not Margaret Fuller, George Eliot, Mrs. Browning and Jean Ingelow deserve as much praise for the untiring efforts with which they have pursued their literary career, as the most celebrated of poets? And woman, also, has waved high her standard in art. ‘T is true she has produced no Raphael. Yet France glories in the renown of Rosa Bonheur, the most celebrated of female painters; for none other has won so wide a fame: none other built a reputation on so firm and broad a basis. While France glories in the renown of the great artist, America exults in the fame of Harriet Hosmer, the sculptress, of whom it has been said that her productions would do credit to many a sculptor of Rome. Science, too, has its honored representatives in Mrs. Herschel, Mrs. Blackwell, and Mrs. Somerville. And, allow me to ask, to whom was all Denmark proud to award the golden medal, for the discovery of the comet of 1847? It was to Maria Mitchell, one of America’s fairest daughters.

Then, lastly, we say that women need an extended education for their own sake. They know not what is before them, and if thoroughly educated, they will have something on which to depend, when the dark days of adversity come, and can meet life’s trials and disasters with new energy and cheerfulness.

“The excellent woman,” says a German writer, “is she who, if the husband dies, can be a father to the children.” For then devolves upon her the necessity of caring for and protecting her own. My opponent may say if woman has an extended an education as man, she will be so absorbed in her own thoughts and studies, that she will neglect her household duties, become austere and morose, and instead of throwing around the family circle that magic charm, which is always associated with home and mother, it will become repulsive to its members, causing them to seek pleasures elsewhere. But we beg leave to differ. “For as it is the mother who gives lessons before other instructors, who preoccupies the unwritten pages of being, who produces impressions which death only can obliterate, and mingles with cradle dreams that which shall be read in eternity,” will she not implant in the young mind those thoughts from which she derived so much pleasure, which have made home pleasant when no earthly companion was near, and self-communion no solitude.

An old English writer says that upon the cultivation of the minds of women, depends the wisdom of man. If, then, so great is the responsibility resting upon her, how is she to be fitted for the high and holy office? Only through education, the handmaid of religion. Inadequate and incomplete will all efforts of man be to accomplish this high, this great end, until education shall descend from her lofty abode, take from her girdle the key of the storehouse of knowledge, unlock the hitherto impassable doors, and summon women, as well as men, to follow her footsteps.

By Emma Eckels.

In taking the negative of this question, we are aware that we may seem opposed to what is apparently a benefit to our sex; but if you will listen to the few arguments which we may advance, we will endeavor to convince you that this is not the fact.

The great and paramount object of all education, whether for males or females, should always be to make them intelligent and useful, virtuous and happy. We admit, then at the outset, that to be highly educated in the different branches is mentally a great advantage to woman. This, however, is only one phase of the subject. The inquiry naturally arises, does it enable her any the better to perform the duties that devolve upon her? Does it teach her how to make her home attractive? Does it make her more lovable? Nay, does it not rather cause her to become so wrapped up in self, that she neglects to make the happiness of those around her the foundation of her own comfort and well being? Does it not enfeeble her physical system and unfit her for duty? Does it not cause her to become discontented with her lot, and desirous of public life; longing to fill those places that are more conspicuous, in order that she may the better satisfy her vanity?

In the next place, we would infer from her more delicate constitution and the more sensitive nature with which she is endowed, that God has not designed woman to engage in the sterner warfare of life, and that she was intended to perform the higher duties which are consistent with her organization. If, then, she is not destined to perform the same labor as man, why educate her equally with man? But, admitting that woman is physically, and in every respect, capable of filling public offices, those of the contrary opinion may say that in order to hold those positions one should be educated, and hence the reason why woman should be so well versed in the higher branches. We admit that a person holding any responsible trust, should have a thorough knowledge of such things as will the better enable him to perform his duty. But, notwithstanding this, there are men, such as George Washington, Patrick Henry, Henry Clay, Thomas Corwin, Abraham Lincoln, and others, who have held the highest and most honorable posts of public duty, and whose education has been very limited. Then, if man can hold responsible positions without being thoroughly educated, why may not woman, when all accord her more natural tact. Again, the argument may be addressed that woman is the great instructor and educator of man, and hence her own education should be thorough and comprehensive. We admit this is a very forcible argument if considered in one light, but where is the mother that has ever taught her children the higher mathematics, or the classics? Rather does she not discipline the attributes of their moral nature—their hearts, their souls, all that pertains to the immortal? It is the mother’s place to teach her little ones to love the ways of truth, and to venerate their Maker, not to teach them the sines and cosines of trigonometry, or to tell them of the gloomy, far-fetched legends of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

It is frequently the case that educated persons require quiet, and their minds are so occupied with the rendering of dead languages and the investigation of scientific subjects, that interruptions make them cross and impatient; and if a mother were to spend her time attending to the studies which are agreeable to her taste, and should experience this peevishness and evince it towards her children, will they not be driven from the home circle to find solace among street companions? And will not the household duties and practical training of the young (since that department has been allotted to her) be almost, if not entirely, neglected, and her children be left to learn lessons of disobedience; to practice arts of deception, and to build, upon the foundation of contempt for a mother, a character of insubordination and iniquity? What a sad report will that mother have to submit to her Creator in the great day, and will not the shadowy form of neglected duty rise up in judgment against her? Then, too, different persons are called to fill various positions in life, and the numerous employments which must necessarily be performed require different branches of education, and so man, occupying a different station in life from woman, should have a different education.

Could every one be versed in all the branches of learning, both theoretical and practical, it would then be reasonable to talk of woman having as extended and comprehensive an education as man; but this not being the case, we think that a woman’s education, in order to be a good one, should be such as will fit her for the noble mission which she ought to fulfill in this world.

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