Marguerite Stockman Dickson.

Vocational Guidance for Girls online

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manage buying and selling enterprises for themselves usually belong to
the trained group.

The service group among trained women is a large one, including
nurses, teachers, doctors' and dentists' assistants, various social
workers, librarians, secretaries and other confidential office
assistants, directors or "house mothers" in school and college
dormitories and in institutions, dentists, physicians, lawyers,

Within the group there is wide range of choice, differing
qualifications are necessary, and varying training is to be
undertaken. Girls, with the help of a vocational expert, should
analyze their physical and mental qualities and habits, and should
study somewhat exhaustively the vocation for which they seem to find
themselves fitted.

"I should like to be a nurse, or a teacher, or a milliner, or the
manager of a cafeteria" will not do, since those vocations presuppose
some years of widely differing training. Perhaps the girl will narrow
the choice to nursing or teaching. Then she must place over against
each other the two professions - special qualifications required,
length and cost of training, personal obstacles to be overcome, and
especially the demand and supply of nurses and teachers in her
locality. Upon these depends the girl's chance to succeed when she is
fitted and launched.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
The children's ward in a hospital. The nurse must be resourceful and
possess good judgment]

The student who takes up college work, not as a specialized training,
but as a completion of her general education, stands somewhat by
herself. Such a girl may perhaps put off vocational decision until she
is part way through her college years. The college sometimes awakens
ambitions and brings to light abilities not hitherto discovered; and
even when this does not occur, the choice may be made from the highest
and most responsible positions filled by women. From the college girls
we draw our high-school teachers and college instructors, our
doctors, lawyers, and preachers, in so far as these professions are
filled by women.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Among the many vocations belonging to the service group teaching is
one of the most popular]

We are confronted by the statement, made again and again and
reinforced by formidable rows of figures, that the more training a
girl receives, the less she is inclined to marry or, if she does
marry, to have children. The fact seems undeniable that in our larger
eastern women's colleges, at least, not more than half the graduates
marry up to the age of forty, which we may accept as the probable
limit of the marriage age for the average woman. The natural inference
is that a college education in some way prevents or discourages
marriage. This may or may not be true. To be quite fair, the
statistics should cover the coeducational colleges as well as the
colleges for women alone. Also some attempt should be made to
discover how the likelihood of marriage is affected by the age at
which girls finish their college course. Do the younger girls of a
college class marry, while the older ones do not? Are the younger
married graduates more often mothers than the older ones, or do they
have more children?

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
The influence of the librarian extends far beyond the walls of the

If it is true that training is interfering with marriage and
motherhood for our girls, the next step is not necessarily, as some
modern hysterical students of the question seem to suggest, that we
immediately cut out the training which, in case they do marry, will
make them far more valuable wives, mothers, and members of the
community; but rather so to time and place the training, and if
necessary so to alter its character, that any such tendency away from
marriage will be removed and that the trained women of the college and
professional school shall be available for the great work of mothering
the nation of the future.

A final word as to the place of the vocational guide in the choosing
of vocations may not be amiss. That every teacher should consider
himself or herself a helper in this most important work we must agree;
but that any teacher must walk carefully, and use the guiding hand but
sparingly, is equally true.

The object of vocational help is not merely to keep the "square peg"
out of the "round hole." The girl arbitrarily placed in a suitable
occupation may never discover why she is there, and may be handicapped
all her life by a deep conviction that she fits somewhere else. "Know
thyself" is a good old maxim yet. The teacher or vocational guide is
fitted by the place of observation she holds to help the girl to study
herself and the possibilities that life holds out to such as she thus
finds herself to be. The final choice should be made by the girl.



Marriage may, or may not, in these days, be the opening door into the
homemaker's career. Many a young woman is a homemaker before she
marries. On the other hand, women sometimes marry without any thought
of making a home.

But, after all, it is safe to assume that marriage and homemaking do
go hand in hand. The great majority of wives become managers of homes
of one sort or another. Shall we then frankly educate our girls for
marriage - "dangle a wedding ring ever before their eyes"? Or shall we
regard marriages as "made in heaven" and keep our hands off the whole

The proportion of marriages in the United States which terminate in
divorce was in 1910 one in twelve. Divorce in this country is now
three times as common as forty years ago. The success or failure of
marriages cannot, however, be measured merely by the divorce test. We
cannot avoid the knowledge that many other unhappy unions are endured
until release comes with death. When we say unhappy marriages, we mean
not only those which become unendurable, but all those in which
marriage impedes the development and hence the efficiency of either
party to the contract. Unhappy marriages include not only the
mismated, but also those whose unhappiness in married life is due to
their own or their mate's misconception of what marriage really means.
It is obviously impossible even to estimate the number of marriages
which are happy or unhappy; but we are safe in saying that the
processes of adjustment in many cases are far harder than they ought
to be, and that many marriages which seemingly ought to bring
happiness fail of real success.

In view of the fact that so many marriages fall short of what they
might be, it would seem that some sort of assistance to the girl in
choosing a husband and to the young man in choosing a wife would be
wise, such as the instruction we give boys and girls to enable them to
be successful in the industrial world. In short, it is not enough to
prepare girls for homemaking by making all our references to marriage
indirect. Young men and women are entitled to more knowledge of
marriage, its rights, privileges, and duties; they need to realize
that in these days of complex living marriage is a difficult relation
which requires their best energies and wisest thought.

The modern marriage differs from the marriage of earlier centuries in
direct proportion as the status of woman has changed. The ancient
marriage, and indeed the medieval one, and the marriage of our own
grandmother's time began with submission and usually ended with
subjection. But the modern marriage at its best is a spiritual and
material partnership. It is the modern marriage at its best and
otherwise with which we have to do.

Half a century ago girls married at eighteen or even earlier, took
charge of their households, were mothers of good-sized families at
twenty-eight or thirty, and were frequently grandmothers at forty.

Nowadays early marriage is the exception. For years the marriage age
has been steadily rising, until some students profess to be alarmed at
a prospect of marriage disappearing, the maternal instinct becoming
lost by disuse, and the race finally becoming extinct. However, the
maximum marriage age, at least for the present, seems to have been
reached, and statistics show a slight dropping within the last two or
three years.

The forces operating to fix the marriage age are exceedingly complex.
The higher education of girls has undoubtedly been a large factor in
the postponement of marriage. Its effect has been wrought in a variety
of ways. The increasing years in schoolroom and lecture hall have been
directly responsible in many cases. The ambitions aroused account for
many more. The increased ability of girls to earn their own living and
public acceptance of their doing so have practically removed "marriage
as a trade" from the consideration of girls and their parents. Girls
no longer need to marry in order to transfer the burden of their
support from father to husband. Instead they may "go to work." And
once at work they are often reluctant to give up a personal income for
the uncertainties of sharing what a husband earns. Then, too, the
broadening effect of education makes marriage in the abstract a less
absorbing, momentous subject for the girl's thoughts. Also the rebound
toward selfishness coincident with woman's "emancipation" leads girls
to put off what they are sometimes led to consider a sacrifice of
themselves. The tragedies of the divorce courts are directly
responsible for many a girlish determination not to marry, a
determination which is broken only when the first zest of mature life
has passed and when the woman begins to long for the home ties she has
resolved to deny herself and decides to take the risk. The increased
cost of living and the ever-increasing responsibilities of rearing,
educating, and launching a family of children lead many young people
to postpone marriage until they can command a larger income. The
strain of modern industrial life, with its fierce competitions and its
early discard of the elderly and unfit, finds many girls who would
otherwise marry burdened with the care of parents who can ill spare
the daughter's help.

[Illustration: The Halliday Historic Photograph Co.
Miss Alcott's lifelong devotion to the interests of her family is a
well-known story. She made a happy home for them, and at the same time
attained marked success in the literary field.]

If all these obstacles to early marriage could be overcome, the
question of the wisest time for marrying might be approached fairly
and squarely on its merits.

Too early marriage means immaturity in choice, with the possibility
always of unfortunate mistakes and sad awakening. Too late marriage,
on the other hand, means settled convictions which often result in
that incompatibility which seeks relief in divorce. The plasticity of
youth at least _promises_ adaptability. The mature judgment of later
years ought to afford a wise choice. Between extreme youth then and a
too settled maturity is the wise time.

In order to approach the ideal in the marriage relation, the time of
marriage should be so placed that the girl is (1) physically fit, (2)
fully educated, (3) broadened by some experience with the world.

She must not be too old to bear children safely, or to rear them
sympathetically as they approach the difficult years. She must not be
physically worn by excessive industrial service, nor with enthusiasms
burned out by the same cause. Probably between twenty-two and
twenty-five the girl reaches the height of physical fitness. She may
also by that time have completed a liberal education, and she may even
have done that and also have put her training to useful service. It
would be better if girls completed their college courses earlier than
most do. However, since the great majority of girls do not have a
college education, the generally increased age of marriage cannot
rightfully be laid, as many seem to lay it, at the doors of the
college women. Schemes of education in the future will undoubtedly try
to remedy the defect of present systems in this respect. If most girls
could finish their training in college or professional school at
twenty, as some do now, the world would be rewarded by earlier
marriages and probably more of them. There would be more children,
reared by younger and more enthusiastic mothers. The more difficult
professions, which could not be successfully undertaken by the girl of
twenty, would then be reserved, as they generally are now, for the
women whose ambition is unusually strong and absorbing. Attempts are
frequently made to show that ambition is becoming an inordinately
prominent quality in all women, but there are few facts to support so
wide a contention.

[Illustration: Photograph by Paul Thompson
Mrs. Stuart was one of those in whom the talent for homemaking and
the talent for creative literary work existed side by side. On her
husband's plantation in Arkansas she found many of the types for the
characters in her stories]

The girl graduate of twenty, reinforced by from two to five years of
work in the vocation she has chosen, is usually fit, physically and
mentally, for marriage. More than that, she may by that age, usually,
be trusted to know what she wants, even in a husband, if she is ever
going to know.

In the day when girls married nearly always "in their teens," wise
choice of a husband called for selection of a man considerably older
than the girl herself. This disparity is less common in these days,
and is really less desirable than it once was. The girl of the earlier
time reached maturity of mind earlier than the girl of to-day with her
prolonged education, and much earlier than the boy of her day did. He
was still being educated in school or as an apprentice, and was hardly
ready to undertake the responsibility of a family at an age when the
girl's scanty education was long since completed and it was considered
high time that her support was laid upon a husband's shoulders.

It used to be said, "Men keep their youth better than women," so that
any disparity in age at the time of marriage was soon lost. This is no
longer true as it was once. The early marriage, with early and
excessive childbearing, overwork, and the numerous restrictions that
custom laid upon her, were responsible for woman's loss of youth.
These conditions no longer exist. The woman of forty or fifty can now
usually hold her own with the man of her own age in point of youth.

Madame Homer's great success in the difficult art of operatic singing
has by no means interfered with her career as a homemaker.]

Another consideration in favor of more nearly equal age lies in the
fact that formerly men did not look for wives who were their mental
equals. They did not really desire mental equals as wives. To-day they
do, or, if there still lingers in the minds of some of them the old
notion that wives must be clinging vines, the lingering notion will
soon be gone. The marriage of equality possesses too many advantages
for both parties to be thrown aside. The wife who can think, who is
mature enough to be capable of real partnership, is the wife surely of
to-morrow, if not of to-day.

Among the forces that control marriage may be mentioned (1) physical
attraction, (2) continued social relationships, (3) dissimilarity, (4)
affection, (5) barter.

It is usually difficult to say of any marriage that any one of these
forces alone caused the mating. It may have been physical attraction
together with everyday companionship; or physical attraction and
dissimilarity or strangeness, resulting in what we know as love at
first sight. Or it may have been affection of slow growth, or
affection with an element of appreciation of worldly advantage, or it
may have been a little physical attraction with a great deal of desire
for social position or wealth, or, ugliest of all, it may have been
pure barter, without personal attraction of any sort. For these worldy
advantages you offer, I will sell you my body and my soul.

To secure the finest marriages for girls we must insure three
conditions: (1) high ideals of marriage among our adolescents, (2)
better knowledge of men, and (3) wise companionships during the years
from fourteen to twenty-five.

The South is justly proud of this poet of no mean rank who gave
herself unstintedly to her home duties and responsibilities]

Physical attraction on one or both sides is undoubtedly the greatest
force in marriage selection. It is only when physical attraction
exerts its influence upon a girl whose ideal of a husband is low or
vague or incorrect that the danger is great. Physical attraction is
not love, but it may be - often it is - the basis of love when it exists
between two who are suited to a life together.

Generally speaking, girls will find married life easier, and their
husbands will find life more satisfactory, when the two have been
reared with approximately the same ideals. The girl who falls in love
with a man largely because he is "different" from the boys among whom
she has grown up often finds that very difference a stumbling block to
domestic happiness. Marriages across such chasms where there should be
common ground are more hazardous than between those whose education,
social training, friends, and beliefs are of the same type. When they
do succeed, they undoubtedly are the richer for the variety of
experience husband and wife have to give each other; and, too, they
show an adaptability on the part of one or both which argues well for
continued happiness. Commonly, however, they do not succeed.

There are, also, deeper matters than these to be considered. Is this
man or this woman worthy of lifelong devotion? Is the love he offers
or she offers in return for the love you offer, the love that gives or
the love that merely takes? Has he been a success at something,
anything, that counts? Has he a sense of responsibility in marriage
and the burdens it brings? Does he desire a home? Do his views as to
children reflect man's natural desire to found a family or merely the
selfish desire for the freedom and luxury which the absence of
children may make possible? Has he a right to approach fatherhood - is
his body physically and morally clean?

[Illustration: Copyright by Underwood & Underwood
Colonel Roosevelt's own family was pre√Ђminently one in which the
father shared with the mother a keen sense of the responsibilities of
marriage and the highest ideals of home life]

These are serious questions with which to weight the wings of a young
man's or a young woman's fancy. But the attraction which cannot stand
before them is not safe as a basis for marriage. Many a young man or
woman has willfully turned closed eyes to the selfishness or the
irresponsibility which will later wreck a home, because attraction
blinded common sense.

Barter, the lowest form of marriage, exists and has always existed
whenever the material benefits that either husband or wife expects to
derive from the connection are the impelling forces in the union. The
woman desires wealth, social position, a title - or perhaps nothing
more than security from poverty or the necessity of work outside the
home, or perhaps no more than the mere security of a home itself. The
man in other cases desires wealth, or social position, or a wife who
will grace his fine home, or some business connection which the
marriage will afford. And upon these things men and women build, or
attempt to build, the foundations of home life.

It is not true of course that every girl of moderate means, or without
means, who marries a man of wealth does so because of his money. Nor
is it always true when the cases are reversed. Love may be as real
between those two as between any others. But when it is true that the
marriage is an exchange of commodities, it is no different from
prostitution under other circumstances. In fact, it is prostitution
under cover, without acceptance of the stigma which for centuries has
been the portion of voluntary selling of the body to him who cares to

[Illustration: Copyright by Underwood & Underwood
In the life of Mrs. Howe was exemplified the identity of ideals of
husband and wife. They worked side by side in the literary field and
in their philanthropic and reform work]

Eugenics, a modern science which aims at race regeneration, lays down
many laws and restrictions for those who are selecting their mates. By
the following of these laws and restrictions in the selection of
husbands and wives, undesirable traits in the offspring are to be
weeded out and desirable; ones are to be fostered and increased.
That these laws should be studied with the care used by breeders of
plants and animals goes without saying. That if they are followed
strictly the number of marriages would be materially reduced, at least
for a considerable time, is doubtless true. That marriages in which
eugenics has played the major part in selection will present new
problems is probably equally true. If marriages were mere temporary
unions, for the purpose of obtaining offspring, eugenic principles
could not be too exactly nor too coldly applied to the selection of
mates. But since marriage implies living together and becoming, or
continuing to be, worthy members of the community, and since the
offspring are fashioned no less by the conditions of their upbringing
than by heredity, selection of mates must involve more than looking
for eugenically perfect fathers and mothers for the generations yet
unborn. Eugenics, however, is in infancy as a science, and, like the
human infants it would protect, must react to the environment in which
it finds itself and must feel the chastening hand of time before its
value can be known. Agitation in the direction of allowing posterity
to be "well born" can never be out of place. What being well born is
and how it shall be attained is a worthy subject of research. As a
cold, exact science, however, eugenics can never hope for application
without some consideration of the personal equation which makes
marriage at its best not a mating merely, but a joining of souls.

Choosing a husband or a wife is, after all, merely the beginning of
the marriage problem. Good husbands are not discovered, but made, from
originally good or perhaps indifferent or in rare cases from even poor
material, by the reaction of married life upon what was previously
mere "man." Even so with wives.

Mrs. Crane, an expert on sanitation, has successfully applied the
principles of good housekeeping to civic affairs in many cities, and
has thus made women more of a factor in the community at large]

The successful marriage presupposes unselfishness, even carried if
necessary to the point of sacrifice, but it must be unselfishness for
two, not for one alone. Neither the "child wife" who must be carried
as a burden, nor the complacent husband who forms the center of a
smoothly revolving little world patiently turned by a silent wife, has
any part in the marriage of equality - the only marriage worthy of the

The successful marriage calls also for freedom - again for two. Women
sometimes hesitate to marry because the old idea of marriage involved
loss of individuality, and they have little faith in men's readiness
to accept any other idea. Men, on the other hand, fear to marry
because the "new woman" demands so much for herself - development, a
career, a chance to work out her own ideals of life. The man sees
little in this for himself but the "second fiddle" which woman for
centuries played to his first. Ideal marriages, however, do take place
in which there is no sacrifice of personality - in which, indeed, each
lives a fuller life than would have been possible without the
marriage. For this to be realized, there must be full recognition of
the responsibility of each for his or her own deeds, and a standing
aside while each works out his destiny. This does not mean a
separation of interests nor an abandonment of common counsel. It means
merely that in individual matters each must have the freedom enjoyed
before marriage took place. It must mean for women some sort of
economic independence, and in addition a spiritual independence such
as men enjoy. When this freedom is cheerfully given, and in return the
wife gives a like liberty to the husband, the great incentive to
concealments and deceptions or to nagging and controversy is removed.

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Online LibraryMarguerite Stockman DicksonVocational Guidance for Girls → online text (page 13 of 14)