A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
The women’s-righters are so
often accused, and justly, too, of trying to disturb
the equilibrium of happiness in family life, that they
should immediately be praised when they do something
likely to establish it on a firmer basis.
In Paris they have just succeeded
in starting, under the best and happiest auspices,
schools where girls will be taught how to bring up
babies and how to keep house. When it is considered
that, out of about a million children which are born
annually, over 260,000 die before the age of five,
it calls for the utmost care in the watchfulness and
habits of parents with regard to young children.
Of all European countries, it is perhaps
in France that mortality among babies is largest.
France is being depopulated, or at least is not increasing
her population. Enough children are born, but
not enough are brought to grown-up age. This
problem, over the solution of which our legislators
are very anxious, is vital to France. It will
not be solved by laws enacted, congresses held, and
leagues founded. It will be solved by a reform
in the manners and habits of the people, by making
marriage easier, by marrying for love more often, and
by teaching French women that the first duty of a
mother is to raise her children herself, and the second
to know how to do it. This new school, just established
in France, will help in the right direction.
The teaching of household duties will
also tend to make marriages happier by enabling wives
to be more clever and economical. If we consider
that in England and France, which each has a population
of about 40,000,000, only about 100,000 men in each
country have an income of more than L500 a year, it
will soon be clear that the great problem of happiness
can only be solved by the good management of wives.
Girls will be taught family hygiene,
domestic economy, and the art of cooking, including
that of utilizing the remnants of a previous meal.
They will be taught how to ‘shop’ intelligently;
that is to say, to distinguish good material from
shoddy, and thus obtain the worth of their money.
They will, I hope, also be taught how to make a bargain,
a talent which I must say is practically inborn in
every French woman of the middle and lower classes.
No woman in the world knows as she does how to bring
down the price of things to what she wants it to be,
in Paris especially.
Perhaps they will advise her to do
what I would advise every visitor to Italy. I
take it that you do not speak Italian. Never mind
that; three words will serve your purpose perfectly.
When you are in an Italian shop and you ask the price
of an article you wish to buy, say to the man ‘Quanto?’
(how much?); as soon as he has named it, say ‘Troppo’
(too much). Then he will say something else.
Just remark ‘Mezzo’ (half that),
and then pay, and you will find that the shopkeeper
has still 40 or 50 per cent. profit.
When I consider that women’s-righters,
as a rule, complain bitterly of men for being of opinion
that the only thing which young girls should think
about is to prepare to become one day good wives and
mothers, I believe that great credit should be given
to them for having had the idea of starting schools
where young girls will be taught all the duties of
attentive mothers and economical wives.
I had the privilege of being present
at one lecture on the training of children, and among
all the good things which I heard on the occasion I
will quote the following, which may be of great use,
even to my English readers.
1. Never threaten children with
punishments you may not be able or feel inclined to
carry out. Don’t let your ‘yea’
mean ‘nay,’ nor your ‘nay’
‘yea.’ You must never be fickle or
wavering in your dealing with them, but always firm,
just, and reliable, though kind and indulgent.
Don’t punish them, and then regret it, and afterwards
fondle them as if to ask for their pardon. If
you do, you will run the risk of having your child
say to you: ’Ah, you see, mamma, you are
sorry for what you have done. Instead of scolding
me, I think you ought to thank God for giving me to
2. Don’t make mountains
of molehills, or be constantly down upon children
for little breaches of every-day discipline; don’t
be fidgety and fussy. Never offer them a piece
of candy, a bun, or an orange as a reward for virtues,
or as a bribe to cease being naughty.
Then came a few pieces of advice of
a higher order, and which I thought were sound in
their philosophy. Among these I cull the following:
1. Do not expect your children
to become a joy to you in your old age if you have
failed to be a joy to them in their early life and
training. Do not expect them to support you when
you are old. You had a fair start of them in
life, and you should be able to provide for yourselves.
They will very likely have families of their own.
Children are often sadly thrown back through having
to look after parents who, had they taken time by
the forelock, would have been able to look after themselves,
and to have given their children a nudge onward into
the bargain. For that matter, never have to be
grateful to your children, except for the happiness
they may procure you by their affection and the successes
which they meet with in life, thanks to the education,
money, advice, and what not which you may have given
2. Don’t let your vanity
cheat you into the belief that your children are wonders
and exceptional phenomena, and that Nature’s
ordinary rules are not applicable to them.
In the nursery lecture on baby culture
I retained two or three pieces of advice which seemed
to me remarkably good, although my ignorance would
not have enabled me to give them. Young mothers,
1. Don’t squeeze
your baby’s head.
2. Never allow your child
to go to bed in a bad temper.
3. Never encourage it
to gaze into the fire, and never tell it
ghost stories, at night especially.
4. Do not allow a rocking-horse
before the age of five.
5. Never startle a child
by sudden shrieks or any other noises.
6. In fact, quiet and
diet will be the making of a child strong
in mind and body.
I could fill several pages of this
book with all the good things I heard on the occasion
of my visit to that useful school.
Maybe, one day such schools will be
started in other countries. I recommend this
to the women’s-righters of the United States.