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Vocational Guidance for Girls online

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Matters pertaining to heating, ventilating, and plumbing are easily
taught as resting upon certain definite, well-understood principles.
Here the personal element is less to be considered, and scientific
knowledge may be passed on with some degree of authority. Our courses
in physics, chemistry, and hygiene can be made thoroughly practical
without losing any of their scientific value. Especially in our rural
schools should matters of this sort receive careful and adequate
treatment. In times past it was considered inevitable that the
country-dweller should lack the advantages, found in most city houses,
of a plentiful supply of water, radiated heat for the whole house,
proper disposal of waste, and arrangements for cold storage. We know
now that these things are obtainable at less cost than we had
supposed; and we know also that it is not lack of means, but lack of
knowledge, which forces many to do without them. In many a farm home
the doctor's bills for one or two winters would pay for installing
proper systems of heat and ventilation. Everything that tends to
increase the comfort and safety of home life must be taught, as well
as everything that tends to lessen the labor of keeping a family
clean, warm, and properly fed.

Accurate figures should be obtained to set before the boys and girls
who will be homemakers, showing the cost, in time, labor, and money,
of running a heating plant for the house as compared with several
stoves scattered about in the dwelling. To accompany these we must
have more figures, showing the comparative time spent in doing the
necessary work incidental to the operation of each type of apparatus.
We must consider the comparative cleanliness of both types of heating
plants, with their effect, first, upon the health of the family, and
secondly, upon the amount of cleaning necessary to keep the house in
proper condition. We must compare types of stoves with one other,
hot-air, steam, and hot-water plants with one another, and various
kinds of fuels, both as to cost and as to efficacy.

The water question is one of real interest to both city-and
country-dweller, although the chances are that the country-dweller
knows less about his source of supply than the city-dweller can know
if he chooses to investigate. The city-dweller should know whence and
by what means the water flows from his faucet, if for no other reason
than that he may do his part in seeing that the money spent by his
city or town brings adequate return to the taxpayer. For the rural
homemaker, of course, the problem usually becomes an individual one.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A dangerous well. The rural homemaker must make sure that his water
supply is at a safe distance from contaminating impurities]

Is the water supply adequate? Is the water free from harmful bacteria?
Is the source a safe distance from contaminating impurities? Are we
obtaining the water for household and farm purposes without more labor
than is compatible with good management? Is not running water as
important for the house as for the barn? How much water does an
ordinary family need for all purposes in a day? How much time does it
take to pump and carry this quantity by hand or to draw it from a
well? How much strength and nerve force are thus expended that might
be saved for more important work? Does lack of time or strength cause
the homekeeper to "get along" with less water in the house than is
really needed? Is there any natural means at hand for pumping the
water - any "brook that may be put to work," any gravity system that
may be installed? If not, are there mechanical means available that
would really pay for themselves in increased water, time, and comfort
for all the family?

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Where water must be pumped and carried by hand much strength and
nerve force are expended which might be kept for more important work]

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A "brook put to work" may be utilized in supplying water to a

From a consideration of water supply we pass naturally to questions of
the disposal of waste, and here again is found a subject too often
neglected both in town and in rural communities. In the city the
problems are not individual ones in the main, but rather questions of
the best management and use of the public utilities concerned. Does
the average city householder know what becomes of the waste removed
from his door by the convenient arrival of the ash man, the garbage
man, the rubbish man? Does he know whether this waste is disposed of
in the most sanitary way? Does he consider whether it is removed in
such a way as to be inoffensive and without danger to the people
through whose streets it is carried? Does he know anything of the cost
to the city of waste disposal? Is it merely an expense, and a heavy
one, for him in common with other taxpayers to bear? Or is the
business made to pay for itself? If not, is it possible to make it
pay? Does any community make the waste account balance itself at the
end of the year?

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
An objectionable garbage wagon. Disposal of waste is a subject too
often neglected both in urban and in rural communities]

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
This new covered garbage wagon subjects the public to no danger]

In the country, once more we face the individual problem rather than
that of the community. Here proper provision for the disposal of waste
often necessitates more knowledge of the subject than is possessed by
the homemaker, or sometimes it requires the installation of apparatus
whose cost seems prohibitive. A careful consideration of these matters
will possibly disclose the fact that a smaller expenditure may
accomplish the desired purpose. Or, if this is not true, it may be
found that the end accomplished is worth the expenditure of what
seemed a prohibitive sum. A water closet, for instance, has not only a
sanitary but a moral value. We must somehow educate people to
understand and to believe that the basis of family health and
usefulness is proper living conditions, and that some system of sewage
and garbage disposal is a necessary step toward proper living
conditions. With the urban population these matters are removed from
personal and immediate consideration, but every rural homemaker must
face his own problems, with the knowledge that since his conditions
are individual his solution must be equally his own.

In the matters pertaining to decoration within the house as well as
beautifying its surroundings, the country-and the city-dweller meet on
equal terms. Their problems may differ in detail, but the principles
to be studied are the same. Here our art courses must be made to
contribute their share to the homemaker's training. We must strike the
keynote of simplicity, both within and without, and must teach girls
especially the value of carefully thought-out color schemes and
decorating plans, to be carried out by different people in the
materials and workmanship suited to their purses. They must learn that
expense is not necessarily a synonym for beauty; they must know the
characteristics of fabrics and other decorative materials; and they
must be trained to recognize the qualities for which expenditure of
money and effort are worth while.

In the designing of school buildings nowadays close attention is paid
to beauty of architecture, symmetry of form, convenience of
arrangement, and durable but artistic furnishings. All unwittingly the
child receives an aesthetic training through his daily life in the
midst of attractive surroundings.

Many of our rural schools are doing excellent work in teaching
children to beautify the school grounds. Some, of them go farther and
interest their pupils in attacking the problem of improving outside
conditions at home. Every child whose mind is thus turned in the
direction of attractive home grounds has unconsciously taken a step
toward one branch of efficient homemaking. If it were possible to give
pupils the foundation principles of landscape gardening, they might
learn to see with a trained eye the problems they will otherwise
attack blindly.

[Illustration: An example of the newer architecture. An artistic
approach to a school has a daily effect on the mind of the child]

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Rural school with flower bed. Many of the rural schools are doing
excellent work in teaching children to beautify the school grounds]

With the house built and ready for its furniture, the selection of the
latter becomes both part of the scheme of decoration and part also of
the domestic plans for securing comfort and inspiring surroundings.
The same principles of beauty and utility, restfulness, comfort, and
suitability, are called into requisition. The trained housewife will
have an eye toward future dusting and will choose the less ornate
articles. The same person, in her capacity as the mother of citizens,
will see that chairs are comfortable to sit in, that tables and desks
are the right height for work, that book cases and cabinets are
sufficient in number and size to take care of the family treasures.
She will use pictures sparingly and choose them to inspire. Perhaps,
most of all, the woman with the trained mind will know how to avoid a
superfluity of furniture in her rooms. She will be educated to the
beauty of well-planned spaces and will not feel obliged to fill every
nook and corner with chairs or tables or sofas or other pieces of
furniture which merely "fill the space."

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
An artistic living room. The principles of beauty and utility,
restfulness, comfort, and suitability, must all be considered in the
furnishing of a home]

Before furnishing is considered complete, the housekeeper must take
into account the matter of operating apparatus. Perhaps a large part
of this important department of house equipment has been built into
the house. The water system, the sewer connection or its substitute,
and the lighting apparatus are already installed, so that the turn of
a switch or a faucet, the pull of a chain, sets one or all to work for
us. We are now to consider whether we shall buy a vacuum cleaner or a
broom and dustpan; a washing machine and electric flatiron or the
services of a washerwoman, or shall telephone the laundry to call for
the wash. Shall we invest in a "home steam-canning outfit" at ten
dollars, or make up a list for the retailer of the products of the
canning factory? Shall we have a sewing machine, or plan to buy our
clothing from "the store"?

Once upon a time practically the only labor-saving device possible to
the housekeeping woman was another woman. To-day many devices are
offered to take her place. Our homemaker must know about them, and
must compare their value with the older piece of operating machinery,
the domestic servant. She must know what it costs to keep a servant,
in money, in responsibility, and in all the various ways which cannot
be reduced to figures.

Already the pros and cons of the "servant question" have caused much
and long-continued agitation. The woman of the future should be taught
to approach the matter with a scientific summing up of the facts and
with a readiness to lift domestic service to a standardized vocation
or to abandon it altogether in favor of the "labor-saving devices" and
the "public utilities." Certain of our home-efficiency experts assure
us that all "industries in the home are doomed." If this is true, the
domestic servant must of necessity cease to exist. Most persons,
however, cannot yet see how "public utilities" will be able to do all
of our work. We may send the washing out, but we cannot send out the
beds to be made, the eggs to be boiled, or the pictures, chairs, and
window sills to be dusted. The table must be set at home, and the
dishes washed there, until we approach the day of communal eating
places, which, as we all know, will be difficult to utilize for
infants and the aged, for invalids, and for the vast army of those who
are averse to faring forth three times daily in search of food. For a
long time yet the domestic servant, _or her substitute_, will be with
us, doing the work that even so great a power as "public utilities"
cannot remove from the home.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Contrast the bad taste displayed in the furnishing of this hopelessly
inartistic room with the simplicity shown in that on page 43]

At present there is much to indicate that the servant's substitute, in
the form of various labor-saving devices, will eventually fill the
place of the already vanishing domestic worker. Whether this proves to
be the case will rest largely with these girls whom we are educating
to-day. The pendulum is swinging rather wildly now, but by their day
of deciding things it may have settled down to a steady motion so that
their push will send it definitely in one direction or the other.

There is no inherent reason why making cake should be a less honorable
occupation than making underwear or shoes; why a well-kept kitchen
should be a less desirable workroom than a crowded, noisy factory. But
under existing conditions the comparison from the point of view of the
worker is largely in favor of the factory. Among the facts to be faced
by the homemaker who wishes to intercept the flight of the housemaid
and the cook are these:

1. Hours for the domestic worker must be definite, as they are in
shop or factory work.

2. The working day must be shortened.

3. Time outside of working hours must be absolutely the worker's

4. The worker must either live outside the home in which she
works, or must have privacy, convenience, comfort, and the
opportunity to receive her friends, as she would at home.

In short, the houseworker must have definite work, definite hours, and
outside these must be free to live her own life, in her own way, and
among her own friends, as the factory girl lives hers when her day's
work is done.

That women are already awaking to these responsibilities is shown by
the increasing number who choose the labor-saving devices in place of
the flesh-and-blood machine. Many of these women will tell you that
they make this choice to avoid the personal responsibility involved
in having a resident worker in the house. There _is_ comfort in not
having to consider "whether or not the vacuum cleaner likes to live in
the country," or the bread mixer "has a backache," or the electric
flatiron desires "an afternoon off to visit its aunt." It is the same
satisfaction we feel in urging the automobile to greater speed
regardless of the melting heat, the pouring rain, or the number of
miles it has already traveled to-day. Perhaps the future will see
machines for household work so improved and multiplied that we can
escape altogether this perplexing personal problem of "the woman who
works for us."

Whether or not we escape this problem when we patronize the laundry,
the bakeshop, the underwear factory, is a matter for further thought.
To many it seems a simpler matter to face the problem of one cook, one
laundress, than to investigate conditions in factory, bakery, and
laundry, to agitate, to "use our influence," to urge legislation, to
follow up inspectors and their reports, to boycott the bakery, to be
driven into the establishment of a coöperative laundry whether we will
or no, in order to fulfill our obligations to the "women who work for
us" in these various places. True, our duty to womankind requires that
we do all these things to a certain extent so long as the public
utilities exist, but with the multiplication of utilities to a number
sufficient to do a large portion of our work, it would seem that women
would be left little time for anything else than their supervision and

Problems relating to the establishing of a home would once have been
considered far from the province of the teacher in the public school.
Formerly we taught our children a little of everything except how to
live. Now we are realizing that the teacher should be a constructive
social force. Living is a more complicated thing than it once was, and
the school must do its share in fitting the children for their task.
All these matters we have been considering - the selection of a home
site, building, decorating, furnishing, sanitation, and all the
rest - represent constructive social work the teacher may do, which, if
she passes it by, may not be done at all. College courses should
prepare the teacher for such work, but even the girl who is not
college-trained will find, if she seeks it, help sufficient for her
training. And the work awaits her on every hand.



With a home established, the problems confronting the homemaker become
those of administration. The "place for making citizens" is built and
ready. The making of citizens must begin.

One of the fundamental requisites for the efficient operation of the
home plant is that the homemaker shall have a firm grasp upon the
financial part of the business. To estimate the number of homes
wrecked every year by lack of this economic knowledge is of course
impossible; but you can call up without effort many cases in which
this lack was at least a contributing element to the wreck.

Keeping expenditures within the income is only the _ABC_ of the
financial knowledge required, although, like other _ABC_'s, it is
essential to the acquirement of deeper knowledge. It is not enough
that the housekeeper merely succeeds in keeping out of debt. She must
know what to expect in return for the money that she spends, and she
must know whether or not she gets it. She must have definitely in mind
the results she expects, and she must know why she spends for certain
objects rather than for others.

In the days of famine and fear, the individual was fortunate who had
food, shelter, and a skin to wrap about his shivering shoulders. In
these days it is not enough to have merely these things. Certain
standards of civilized life must be met, and we shall find that it
requires judgment and skill to apportion our funds properly.

The common needs of civilized mankind are usually roughly classified
as follows: food; shelter; clothing; operating expenses, including
service, heat, light, water, repairs, refurnishing, and the general
upkeep of the plant; advancement, including education, recreation,
travel, charity, church, doctor, dentist, savings.

The exact proportion of any income devoted to each of these is of
course a matter conditioned by the needs of the particular family as
well as by its tastes and desires. Figures are obtainable which throw
light upon proportions found advisable in what are considered typical
cases. We may learn the minimum amount of money which will feed a man
in New York or in various other cities and towns. We may find
estimates as to the prices of a "decent living" in various parts of
the country. Home-economics experts will furnish us with figures which
may be used as a basis for apportioning this amount among departments
of household expenses. That the figures offered by these experts
differ more or less widely need not disturb us. It is perhaps too
early in such work for final authoritative estimates.

The following apportionment is taken from Chapin's _The Standard of
Living among Workingmen's Families in New York City_ and has to do
with the minimum income required for normal living for a family of
father, mother, and three children on Manhattan Island:

Food $359.00
Housing 168.00
Fuel and light 41.00
Clothing 113.00
Carfare 16.00
Health 22.00
Insurance 18.00
Sundry items 74.00
- - - -

"Families having from $900 to $1,000 a year," concludes Dr. Chapin,
"are able, in general, to get food enough to keep body and soul
together, and clothing and shelter enough to meet the most urgent
demands of decency." Regarding incomes below $900, he says, "Whether
an income between $800 and $900 can be made to suffice is a question
to which our data do not warrant a dogmatic answer."

The two apportionments given below have been made by the federal
government and concern the maintenance of a normal standard in two
industrial sections of the country. In each case the family is assumed
to be, as in Dr. Chapin's estimate,[1] made up of father, mother, and
three children.

Fall River, Georgia and
Mass. North Carolina
Food $312.00 $286.67
Housing 132.00 44.81
Clothing 136.80 113.00
Fuel and light 42.75 49.16
Health 11.65 16.40
Insurance 18.40 18.20
Sundry items 78.00 72.60
- - - - - - - -
$731.90 $600.74

These estimates do no more than suggest the minimum upon which the
various items of living expense can be met and the proportion to each
account. People who can do more upon their incomes than merely live
must look farther for help.

Mrs. Bruère in her _Increasing Home Efficiency_ offers the following
as a minimum schedule[3] for efficient living:

Food $ 344.93
Shelter 144.00
Clothing 100.00
Operation 150.00
Advancement 312.00
Incidentals 46.85
- - - -

"When the income is over $1,200," Mrs. Bruère adds, "the family has
passed the line of mere decency in living and entered the realm of
choice. Their budget need not show how the entire income _must_ be
spent, but how it may be spent to gain whatever special end the family
has in view."

That any estimated schedule for any income will fit exactly the needs
of any family of father, mother, and three children in any given town
in the United States no one supposes, but it is at least a basis upon
which to work. And perhaps the main point from an educational
standpoint is that it is a schedule at all.

The happy-go-lucky, spend-as-you-go style of housekeeping does not
constitute efficiency. The homemaking expert we are training will have
a better plan. She will have been long familiar with the idea of
apportioning incomes. She will have applied the tests of efficient
decision to her personal income before she has to attack the problem
of spending for a family. The ideal homemaker of the future will be a
woman who has had a personal income, and preferably one that she has
earned herself and learned how to spend before she enters upon
matrimony and motherhood.

By the less scientific plan of merely recording what one has spent,
when the spending is over, it is more than likely that some
departments of home expenditure will gain at the expense of others. If
we can afford only $150 for rent, and we pay $200, it is evident that
we must go without some portion of the food or clothing or advancement
that we need. If we dress extravagantly, we must pay for our
extravagance by sacrificing efficient living in some other direction.
The budget is not entirely or even in large measure for the sake of
saving, but rather for the sake of spending wisely. When women become
as businesslike in the administration of home finances as they must be
to succeed in business life, or as men usually are in their business
relations, home administration will be placed upon a secure financial
footing and will gain immeasurably in dignity thereby.

Feeding and clothing a family are perhaps the fundamentals of the
homemaker's daily tasks. And upon neither of them will the application
of scientific principles be wasted. It is not enough that we merely
set food before our families in sufficient quantity to appease the
clamoring appetite. Children and adults may suffer from malnutrition
even though their consumption of food is normal in quantity three
times a day. No housewife is properly fitted for her task unless she
has some knowledge of dietetics.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Teaching housewives food values. No housewife in these days need lack
the knowledge of dietetics which will fit her for her task]

Many a notable housewife who has perhaps never even heard of dietetics
has nevertheless a practical working knowledge of some or many of its
principles. There are traditions among housewives that we should serve

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Online LibraryMarguerite Stockman DicksonVocational Guidance for Girls → online text (page 3 of 14)