Sunday, March 10, 2013

How Aunt Sophronia thinks industry benefits the home

I am fond of reading, and spend several hours each day with my books. Helen laughs at my library, and says she does not understand how I can like such old-fashioned books as I have; perhaps the very reason that they suit me is that they are old-fashioned. At all events, there is sound, good sense in the volumes. There is Franklin, for instance: what a mine of valuable thoughts in his works! I was reading in my Franklin only this morning, and I paused over this passage: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” Shortly after, as I sat with my sewing, the second Miss Black called.
She cried out: “Always busy, Miss Sophronia! Here is your work-basket full, and I see your book is open on the table. What in the world do you find to do? I never find anything.”
“Then, my dear,” I replied, “you must be living with your eyes shut, for I never yet saw any one to whom the world did not offer plenty to do. When God created Adam, he created also a business for Adam; he did not make him a gentleman of leisure, with the first years of Creation hanging heavily upon his hands; and so, ever since, when God sends a reasonable soul into the world, he sends with it its especial work and round of duties, which belong to no other soul: believe me, God investigates our doings here, and will make inquiry whether or not we performed this work which he intends for our doing.”
“You look so seriously at things, Miss Sophronia; but do tell me what you find to do. You have your nice house, your good servant, your income: you might sit with folded hands.”
“So I might, but I should hear a voice in my ears: ‘What doest thou here?’ And by-and-by God would call upon me: ‘Give an account of thy stewardship;’ and being compelled to speak the truth, suppose that I must say: ‘O, I was in easy circumstances, and I sat with my hands folded.’ But you ask what I do. I have my housekeeping to look to, my friends to make comfortable when they visit me, and my sewing to do. Next I have my social duties: I am at leisure, and the experience of several tens of years is in my keeping; therefore I feel an especial call to visit the sick. When a family is down with measles, or scarlet fever, or some other epidemic, why should they be neglected, or the mother be over-taxed, when I am at leisure to help? So, in accidents, I am often sent for: thus my work among the sick fills up a good many hours. 
"Then there are aged people who cannot go abroad, and chronic invalids who get very lonely in their rooms, and feel as if they were forgotten: I visit them. The poor are Christ’s legacy to all those of his people who are able to help them, and I have my rounds among the poor, helping them with gifts, securing work for them, advising them, getting them into church and Sunday-school. I have also my church work: having leisure, good health and a few dollars to spare, I ought to help in the benevolent schemes of my church, and I do that. But, while helping others, I must not forget my own; and my nieces have young families. I can be a great help to them by taking home part of their sewing and mending, taking a child home here for a week if the mother is sick, knitting the little mittens and stockings: these are trifles, but they lighten domestic cares for busy mothers. Then once a year Christmas comes, and I want to make presents to my nieces and their servants, to my servants and poor friends. 
"So, my dear Miss Black, I find work for all my time, and I have given you this sketch of it, because you asked me, and because, as you say you have nothing to do, I hoped it might be useful to you in suggesting lines of work. But, as one of a large family, I should suppose you would find work in abundance.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” replied Miss Black. “Mother keeps the house, and then there are the servants to do the work.”
“Did you never see your mother over-worked? Is she not toiling sometimes until greatly fatigued, or when she has a headache? Pardon me: does not your mother look too old for her years? Could not her daughters have saved her some of that extra work which wears her out?”
“Why don’t she ask help, then? She never does,” cried Miss Black.
“Some mothers have a false idea of increasing their children’s happiness by not asking them to work; and then, help freely offered is better than help demanded, or asked for half a dozen times, or argued over. I have seen girls scowl at being asked to help for an hour a mother who had been toiling exhaustingly for eight hours. I have seen other girls who, with quick eye, sought out every place where they could help, and when finally bidden by the busy mother to go dress, walk, read or visit, begged to be allowed some other share of work until they might both be done together. But, Miss Black, as we are on this subject, and you have introduced it, do you never see your servants over-worked? the kitchen-servant ready to drop with fatigue, when you might cheer and relieve her by making a cake, a few pies, a pan of biscuits or setting a table? Could you not find a time when the other maid, who does up-stairs’ work and sewing, would be saved from really too severe driving, if you swept and dusted a room or two, or lent the aid of your needle in the sewing-room?”
“Dear me, it never entered my head,” replied the young lady. “I do as much as my sisters, and we all do nothing. I fix up little trimmings, fancy collars and cuffs, or such things, now and then, as I need them. I put the flowers in the parlor, and help my sister make our bed. I read a book now and then if it is interesting, and I practice some, and get ready my dress, if I am going to a party, and I sit and look out of the window, or I take an afternoon nap: we sit up so late, having evening callers; and I go shopping, and I walk around the streets, or make a few calls, and — there, that is all I do.”
“But, my dear girl, what of all this is useful to yourself or to others? With what of all this is God pleased? What of all this is the work which he sent into the world for your doing?”
“I’m sure I don’t know! You quite frighten me asking that.”
“Consider it is a question that must meet you some day, as it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after that comes the judgment. Reason would say, have an answer ready.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The importance of beauty in the home

In my opinion the Beauty of the Home is a very important matter. There are a few people who pass it by as “nonsense,” say they “have no time for it,” and that they must “spend their efforts on what has a cash value;” being narrow-minded, or near-sighted, they do not perceive that Beauty in a home has a very decided cash value. I say this, first, because if we cultivate Beauty in the Home, we produce there greater care and better and more cheerful spirits, consequently better health, and therefore less outlay for sickness, besides having more effective working-force.
Again, a Home, in village or country, where Beauty is created, possesses a higher market value. A Home where an outlay of care, a little labor and forethought has created beauty in the shape of garden, shade trees, rows of fruit trees, grapes, flowering vines, a post or two draped in roses and honeysuckles, with a bird-house a-top, a little arbor or summer house — these things, created in summer evenings after working hours, in winter leisure time, in early mornings, noon-rests, or on holidays, lend an air of refinement to the whole establishment, directly and indirectly tend toward the good order of the whole, give it a higher market value and would secure a purchaser more quickly if it were for sale.
In another regard the culture of Beauty in a Home is of immense value. A growing family will be much more likely to remain cheerfully in a Beautiful Home, even if that beauty is extremely simple and inexpensive. A family who are home-keepers are an inexpensive family. Sons and daughters do not waste their money at home: they are tempted into rash outlays when they are in the company of strangers, hanging about public places and striving to vie with those who have either no need of saving, or no honest desire to do so.
I hear so much complaint that farmers’ sons and daughters do not want to stay at home — they “hate the farm” — want other business; the girls had rather be mantua-makers or store-clerks, than be at home helping their mothers, making butter, and raising fruits and vegetables; the sons want to try their fortunes in the city; the parents find themselves, when their children are old enough to be efficient help, left to hired servants, who have little care to aid them in making and saving money, who are no company indoors, and, meanwhile, the parental heart is burdened with fears and anxieties for the absent children, and possibly the parental purse is burdened with their business failures.
I was at tea at Mrs. Winton’s the other day, with Mr. and Mrs. Burr and some others, and Mr. Winton said:
“We shall have constantly recurring ‘panics’ and ‘crashes’ and ‘hard times’ until our people learn that the tilling of the soil is the true source of wealth; that golden corn above the ground is really of more value to the country than the gold in the earth; that the soil of our country has abundance for all her children; it is a mother who never for bread offers a stone. When the immigrants who come to us shall be agriculturists; when our emigrants and our moving Eastern population seek the West for farms, and not for gold or silver claims; when instead of our rural population crowding to the cities in a mad zeal for speculation and hasty fortunes, which, in ninety-nine cases out of an hundred, are fortunes as quickly lost as made; when every acre of land in our farming districts is made to produce to its fullest capacity, and not left lying in marsh, or barren, or scrub for years, then we shall be a solidly wealthy people — these great financial convulsions and crises which have kept us in a state of fever and excitement will be unknown.”
“Undoubtedly,” said Mr. Burr, “our farming and arable lands are capable of producing a far greater amount than they do at present; diligent cultivation, rotation of crops, and care not to exhaust the land for the sake of a hasty cash return, would bring our crops up to a value thus far quite unknown in this country. Consider what a population the small country of Palestine once supported: over nine millions of people in an extent of less than ten thousand square miles — that is, about the size of the State of New Hampshire. Egypt was the grain-house of the world, besides supporting over twenty thousand towns and villages, ten very great cities, of which one was twenty miles in circumference. The valley of the Euphrates around Babylon formerly produced two hundred-fold for seed sown.
“I believe if land is well tilled and cropped according to its nature, there is absolutely no limit to its power of production. If the population, which is now swarming in our cities and towns, fretting in poverty and idleness, nursing communism and breeding disease, would pour out as workers into the country, filling it so that swamps must be drained, and dry wastes irrigated, and hills terraced for grapes, and that barrens must be cleared off, in behalf of crops of corn, melons and sweet-potatoes, and the woods must be cleared of underbrush, and set to growing large timber — then we should find a reign of plenty, and all our present beggars might be on horseback, at least while they were tilling their fields and driving their market-wagons.”
“Instead of that rush to the country,” said I, “the rush is away from it; the young folks think they must go to town as soon as they are grown. Every one wonders why and how Cousin Ann’s three boys have stayed on farms.”
“I think,” said Mrs. Burr, “that one reason of that restless haste to leave the farm is owing to a neglect of making the farm and the farm-house attractive. So many of these homesteads have a lonely, desolate look. No trees, no flowers, a neglect of a little ingenuity in making a pretty porch and fence for the house-front, an over-carefulness which refuses to open the front rooms for the use of the family, a neglect of making the bed-rooms neat and pretty — things get a sameness and shabbiness, and young eyes pine for something more attractive.”

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Aunt Sophronia on how to preserve good health

It seems to me that the ancients very appropriately had a goddess as well as a god of health and the healing art, inasmuch as the care and preservation of health comes so largely within the natural sphere of woman. Vigorous constitutions can be built up in well-conducted homes, and this even when the natural constitution is feeble. I have done in my time a great deal of talking on the subject of healthful homes. At Mrs. Black’s some one is sick half or more than half the time; I visited Mrs. Black once to offer any service in my power, when two of her daughters were ill. Mrs. Black said: “It is impossible to keep well in this world where there are so many things to induce disease.” I replied: “We must not blame the world too rashly, Mrs. Black, for we shall find that while there are many things to induce disease, there are just as many to produce good health.”
“Look at our changeful climates: hot one day, cold the next.”
“True; but if, summer and winter, we would wear a flannel garment next to the skin, varying the thickness of the garment with the change of season, we should, provided we kept the feet in sufficiently thick shoes, very seldom be affected by the changes in the temperature.”
“As for flannel,” said Mrs. Black, “my girls won’t wear it; it makes them look so stout and full about the chest and waist.”
“I hope the day will come,” I replied, “when a wasp-waist and a pair of thin shoulders will not be esteemed beauty: we have had our ideas ruined by trash novels, praising ‘fragile forms’ and ‘delicate beauty,’ ‘dainty waists,’ ‘snow-drop faces,’ and a lot of other nonsense. What prospect have such beauties of seeing three-score, or what physique are their sons likely to possess? Indeed, Mrs. Black, I think you should have made it a matter of course, from infancy, that your children wore flannel under-garments. Really, there is nothing cheaper, safer, or more comfortable. I knew a young girl whose two elder sisters had died with consumption; symptoms of the disease appeared in her: a friend took her to a famous physician. He said: ‘She had better be sent to the south of France.’ The lady replied: ‘Doctor, her parents are absolutely unable to take her away from home; they have not the means.’ The doctor meditated: it was November: ‘Has she flannel on?’ No, the young lady did not like flannel. ‘Take her home,’ said the doctor, ‘and put her in heavy flannel from her neck to her toes, and see that she wears it, with some variation as to quality, twelve months in the year.’ The order was obeyed, and for ten years she has been in good health.”
“And there is another means of health-preserving, Mrs. Black, which we greatly neglect — sunshine. Plenty of sunshine is a very wine of life. We should let it fall broadly into our rooms, especially where we eat, sit and sleep. Nine months in the year our windows should daily stand broadly open for a sun-bath. In our hot summers, our homes seem to get saturated with sunshine, unless our houses are very thickly shaded by vines and trees, and possibly then two hours of early morning sunshine will be enough.”
“But, my dear Miss Sophronia, it ruins the carpets.”
“Better sacrifice the carpets than the health: we are too much the slaves of carpets; if I could not have the carpet and the sun, I would give up the carpet. The sunbeams hold no spores of disease: carpets frequently do; sunbeams have no dust, dangerous to weak lungs: carpets do. But, Mrs. Black, a drugget, or a carpet-cover, or even a coarse sheet can be flung over the carpet if it needs protecting; and then let in those invigorating rays, which God meant should counteract disease. I believe many diseases can be cured by merely plenty of fresh air and sunshine.”
Mrs. Black was dwelling on my heterodoxy as to carpets.
“Dear Miss Sophronia! banish carpets! bare floors! What would you do? How would you live?”
“Mrs. Black, it seems to me that we do not sufficiently value mattings, especially in bed-rooms. They are free from dust; of a good quality, they wear a long time; they are easy to sweep; they look clean; and the sun does not harm them: remember, they grew under tropic suns; they have no harmful dye-stuffs in them. Some object that they are cold, but this can be obviated by rugs laid before the bed, washstand and bureau. Let me tell you my experience: I spent a year once, while my house was being built, with my half-sister in the city. She treated me royally; my bed-room was dressed in rose and gray French chintz, rose-tinted wall-paper, and had a rose-colored velvet carpet. It was altogether too fine for the sun to shine in: the sun would ruin it. A furnace, with air-feeders from out of doors, kept the house warm and dry; but nevertheless I was a martyr to rheumatism. Cousin Ann, hearing this, sent for me to spend the next winter with her at the farm. My room had white-washed walls, white curtains, a white counterpane and white matting.”
“Goodness!” interrupted Mrs. Black, “I should think it would have made you think of a whited sepulchre!”
“Not at all,” I retorted: “its conditions were such that it was unlikely to have in it either rottenness or dead men’s bones. Color was lent it by three or four bright rugs and a colored set of toilette mats, with a few pictures. I kept wondering why that simple room looked and felt so beautiful. I perceived that the floods of sunshine, which, during the whole day, poured in at one of its three bright windows lent it its chief charm. My health was perfectly restored.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Black, “my girls would rather be sick half the time than get well by wearing flannels and stout shoes, and going out in the sun exercising and spoiling their complexions, or having their carpets and curtains faded out by having all the blinds open.”
“But as a mere matter of beauty, Mrs. Black,” I urged, “there is no beauty in a sallow, sickly complexion, and if they are sick half the time, what will result? Medicine and bad digestion will ruin their teeth; ill health will make their faces wan and faded; their color will be lost; their hair will be dry and thin; at twenty-five they will look ten years older; they will have a fretted, disappointed, troubled expression, and will always feel dispirited and uncomfortable.”
However, there is no use talking with Mrs. Black. It is no wonder that her girls are so captious, and look so feeble. Thin-soled shoes, no flannel, no exercise, very little fresh air, and almost no sunshine in their house; and this record might do for very many other families.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Aunt Sophronia's advice on teaching children to be patient

I find that people’s grandest mistakes and most unutterable failures are connected with the training of their children. Thus it has been in all time, and even in the families of holy people. Isaac seems to have had his hands more than full with son Esau; and Jacob found plenty of trouble among his thirteen. David’s sons turned out sadly, some of them. It is no wonder that Ishmael went out of the ways of Abraham so quickly, when Abraham turned him adrift so early; and while Lot’s children seem to have been a desperate set, Mrs. Lot was most likely to blame for that, especially with Lot’s going to live in a wicked place like Sodom just for gain, which no father of a family should have done. It appears to me that when there is failure, we can usually go back and put our finger on some error and say: “Here is where the wrong began.” But then it is always easier to see the beginning from the end, than the end from the beginning. We know well enough roads that we have travelled over! Then when the evil is done, it is often too late to mend it. How circumspectly then we should go over unknown ground, where a false step may be fatal!
I remember Mrs. Winton and I went to see Helen when little Tom was a fortnight old. Helen seemed to have some sense of her responsibility, and she said: “What a charge I shall have when it is time to begin to train and educate this child!”
Mrs. Winton looked up: “Helen, you should have begun to train and to educate a fortnight ago. Education should begin with the first hour of a babe’s life, and it should from that hour have a fixed end.”
“I don’t understand you,” said Helen.
“The end of our education should be to develop the child in every direction, into the very best and highest which it is capable of attaining. We must always remember that the child will live forever in another world than this; that in this world it will be a member of a social system, and will have duties to its race. It is also an individual, with its private and particular nature and emotions, which are to be regarded in its up-bringing. So, Helen, begin at once to train your babe: as an individual, with regard to its rights; and as a member of society, with regard to its duties.”
“But, Mrs. Winton, what can one teach so young a child?”
“Patience is the child’s earliest lesson. It can be taught to wait. Don’t give it what it is crying for while it cries. Calm it tenderly first, and then promptly give the food or the toy; as it grows older, whatever it is proper for it to have: it soon associates receiving with quiet and pleasant asking. So you can teach the child, as a member of society, to cry softly, and not disturb the house with wild shrieks. You can calm and soothe a very young child to mild crying, and get it habituated not to roar and bellow.”
“I always noticed, Mrs. Winton,” I said, “that your children cried quietly, and did not fill the neighborhood with shrieks.”
“I always pitied them when they were hurt, not in the ratio of the noise they made, as many do, but in the ratio of their gentleness about their trouble. Children love sympathy, to be petted and pitied — if shrieking like Comanches is the price of notice, of course they will shriek. I used to say ‘softly, softly, and then I shall feel so sorry for you. Ah! what a good child to be so patient!’ They learned a pride in patience and endurance. I have seen mothers feeding a child with two spoons, nurse and mother feeding together, to keep the child from screaming as soon as its mouth was empty. The thing is a fact, and ruined the child’s temper and digestion. A child should be taught to wait patiently while its food is preparing, and while itself is being made ready to eat it. Naturally, the little one is the centre of its own universe, and believes the world was made when it was, and for it. We must early teach the child, in patience, gentleness and generosity, to know that it has compeers whose rights are as settled as its own.”

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The importance of order in the home

[Aunt Sophronia discusses time management with Hester, Helen and Miriam.]

“Is it better,” asked Miriam, “to know something of everything, or absolutely everything of something?”
“Absolutely, one can do neither,” I said.
“Well, within human limitations, understood.”
“It is better,” said Hester, “to know everything of something; for thoroughness is in itself a great virtue, and will enter into all your life, making one in all things painstaking and honest.”
“This devoting yourself to one thing, however,” said Helen, “will make you one-idea, crotchety, a hobby-rider, and you will be detestable.”
“These people of one idea have been the people who moved the world,” retorted Hester.
“The fact is, my dear girls,” I interposed, “no one branch of study stands isolated; it reaches out and intermingles and takes hold of others. Hester’s ideas are in the main correct; study that for which you find in yourselves most aptitude; aspire to completeness in whatever you undertake; value knowledge, and seize whatever comes in your way, and put what you acquire to use as fast as you can. The Lord found great fault with the servant who buried his talent in a napkin.”
“What do you suppose his talent was?” asked Helen.
“Time, perhaps: the one talent common to all.”
“And what was the napkin wherein he buried it?” asked Hester.
“Disorder, doubtless; for you can bury more time in disorder than in any other way.”
“I must be very disorderly, then,” laughed Helen, “for since I went to housekeeping I have no time for anything; you have no idea how behind-hand I am. I have not opened my piano except on a few evenings; I have a whole basketful of accumulated sewing, and hose for darning: I haven’t read anything but two or three novels; I have not done a bit of fancy-work —”
“My dear girl! I cried, “if this is your record now, what will become of you when cares increase? — say, for instance, if there were two or three little ones.”
“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Helen; “I should have to set up another servant or two, and then we should be bags of rags and all our buttons would be off, I expect.”
“Indeed, Helen,” I urged, “there must be a sad mistake somewhere if you have reached this result. Living here in the village, with but two in the family, you have a very modicum of household cares; what think you of young wives on farms who have chicks to feed, several hands to cook for, butter to make, oftentimes no servant, or but a young girl? and yet nearly all of them would make a better showing than this. I remember when Cousin Ann’s three elder children were little things, and she kept but a half-grown girl, there were no rags and no mending in arrears, and all the farm-work being done by half-past two, she could sit down to make or mend, and in the evening pick up a book or a newspaper. She made a point of reading as much as she could, so as to be able to interest and instruct her children. Her son Reed’s wife has a young child and keeps no help; she sends butter and eggs to market, and manages to well in all her work that she has spare hours for making pretty and useful things for her house, for reading, and for doing all her own sewing, and not being behind-hand with it. Depend on it, the secret lies in industrious order — in what is called good management.”
“But I cannot understand it, Helen,” said Miriam: “your house has only ten rooms beside the bath, and you keep a servant: where does your time go?”
“How can I tell where it goes, when I never can find it?” grumbled Helen. “I dare say you don’t understand it. Why, aunt, there is Miriam doing the most of her own work; no matter when I go there, the work is all done; the house is neat as a pin; Miriam is sitting at her reading or her sewing; she has made perfect gems of fancy things that stick here and there in her house; even in her kitchen she has fancy wall-pockets for string, paper and little bags; fancy holders, a pincushion hung by the window, a crocheted scrap-bag, and, if you believe me, always a bouquet in the window!”
“Why not have it nice?” said Miriam. “I have to be there often, and I can work faster where things are handy, and enjoy myself better when things are pretty. Why should I run upstairs for every pin I want, or look five minutes when I need a string, or have scraps of rag and paper stuffed in corners for want of a convenient bag to put them?”
“What amazes me is,” said Helen, “where you get the time for all those things.?
“I got it from Mrs. Burr for a wedding gift,” said Miriam.
“Do explain: I wish she had been as liberal to me.”
“She sent me a book of her own making, two boards of gray Bristol, bound in red satin and painted with one of her lovely landscapes. Inside was only a single page: that was white Bristol, illuminated with a wreath of flowers, bees and butterflies, and this motto within: ‘Always be one hour in advance of your work.’ I saw at once that there was the key to the Order that reigns at Mrs. Burr’s. If I were an hour beforehand with work I should never be hurried nor worried; if I began at once, the habit of being in season would be fixed. I saw also that the one hour would by good judgment in planning grow to many, the housekeeping matter out and have an exact routine for it; it was little trouble to do that. I had only to copy Aunt Sophronia: she always had exact order here.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Introducing Aunt Sophronia

OUR AUNT SOPHRONIA lives in one of our inland towns. She is the relative of many of the townspeople — the Oracle of all. Firmly entrenched in her own opinions, and more than usually self-complacent, she is yet ready to give other people their due; her ideas are broad and sound, and she is no doubt a great blessing to our community. An indefatigable diarist, she has for many years recorded the best of what she thinks and learns on her favorite theme — THE HOME. These journals being too voluminous, and too full of private affairs, to present bodily to the public, she has at our earnest solicitation reproduced part of them topically, and with a happy facility in discussing her subject from the beginning.
— Julia McNair Wright

Aunt Sophronia discusses, First


It will be a long day before I call myself old, simply because I don’t feel old, and I have been much too busy in my life to have time to grow old; but these three girls, who were babes in my arms when I was woman-grown, are women now, and talking of marrying — at least the two elder ones. I suppose they have been going on, while I have stood still! At least so it looks to me, as it does to people riding on fast trains, as if all the world were moving and they themselves stationary! 
The three girls are my three nieces: Miriam I brought up; Helen was brought up by her grandmother; and Hester came up as she chose, as her mother, my sister, died when the child was ten, and John Rochedale, her father, says, he “thinks every individuality ought to be left to develop on its own line.” Of all things! If I had married John Rochedale, as once seemed likely, instead of my sister, he and I would have had some very serious differences of opinion, this subject of “developing” being one of the many whereon we don’t agree. I am not particularly sorry that it was Ellen instead of me who became Mrs. Rochedale; not that I object to the married state: I do not doubt that the Lord knew what he was about when he set a married pair at housekeeping in Eden; but the single state has also its advantages, as Paul saw.
However most people who preach up “Paul on single-blessedness” seem to forget that, in the Bible, our great Guide-Book, the Lord’s opinions for matrimony come a long ways before Paul’s for celibacy. I don’t think that women should feel that, merely because they are not wives, they have no place nor work in the world, no home-life, no effect on coming generations; and I don’t think that women, who, for various reasons, have not married, should set themselves up as holier or better off than their married sisters.
I’ve given my nieces a deal of good advice, and among the rest I’ve advised them to marry, if the matter came reasonably to hand, without making it an object in life.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Preface to The Complete Home, by Julia McNair Wright (1879)

Between the Home set up in Eden, and the Home before us in Eternity, stand the Homes of Earth in a long succession. It is therefore important that our homes should be brought up to a standard in harmony with their origin and destiny. Here are “Empire’s primal Springs;” here are the Church and State in Embryo; here all improvements and reforms must rise. For national and social disasters, for moral and financial evils, the cure begins in the Household. In no case could legislation and commerce lead back to a day of honesty and plenty, unless the Family were their active co-worker. Where souls and bodies are nourished, where fortunes are built, and brains are trained, there must be a focus of all moral and physical interests.
Is it true that marriages and American-born children are lessening? Does the Family fail in fulfilling its Divine intention? Why should young men fear to marry, and by undue caution deprive themselves of the joys and safeguards of domestic life? Why should young women, having but little instruction in the duties, dangers and possibilities of the married state, wed in haste, and make the future a long regret? Why, when the final step is taken, should the young pair not know all that is needful to know to secure their home in its integrity, that it may be happy, orderly, and beautiful, that they may know how to preserve health, train children, make, save and spend money?
The author hopes that this book may help answer these questions. Every day has its full share of troubles, but, by troubles well met, we grow stronger. We rise —
By stepping stones
Of our dead selves, to higher things.”
How then shall the Home fulfill the great duty lying before it — the duty of restoring confidence and energy, of eradicating evils, of bringing much out of little, and affording to every Family in the land an assumed competence? The answer to these questions, the indication of the means of reaching an end so grand, will take hold on Moral Principles and their practical out-working.
This Book — the product of years of careful investigation, of actual experiences, and of a profound veneration for the Divinely instituted Home — undertakes to show how every sound man and woman may safely marry, how every family may have a competence, how every home may go on from good to better, and how each household may be not only gladsome in itself, but a spring of strength and safety to the country at large.
This book treats of the individual as set in Households: it regards the household as a unit in its affections, aims, success. The rights, duties, privileges, preferences of every member of the family are discussed. The Home itself, in its practical working, its food, clothing and shelter, its earnings, savings and spendings, its amusements, industries, and culture, will be found faithfully portrayed.
There is no thought more beautiful and far reaching than this of the solidarity or oneness of the Family; here, man is indissolubly bound to his fellows. The individual is solitary, but God setteth the solitary in families.