Marguerite Stockman Dickson.

Vocational Guidance for Girls online

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certain foods at the same meal or should cook certain foods together.
Often these time-honored combinations rest upon the soundest of
dietetic principles. On the other hand, many cooks feed their families
by a hit-or-miss method which as often as not violates all the laws of
scientific feeding, and which farmers long ago discarded in the
feeding of their cows.

[Illustration: Blackburn College students preparing dinner.
Fortunately girls may study dietetics in the school that teaches them
the law of gravity and the rules for forming French plurals]

Fortunately the girl who so desires may now learn something of these
feeding laws in the same school that teaches her the law of
gravitation or the rules for forming French plurals. Fortunately,
also, the girls of to-day seem inclined to undertake such study. It is
not too much to expect that the girl of the future will be able to set
before her family meals scientifically planned or food wisely and
economically purchased, well cooked, and attractively served. Nor is
it too much to expect that teachers will be able to do these things
and to instruct others how to do them. That this ideal requires
considerable and varied knowledge is clear at the outset. The serving
of a single meal involves: (1) knowledge of food values, (2) skill in
making a "balanced ration," (3) knowledge of market conditions, (4)
skill in buying, with special reference to personal tastes and
financial conditions, (5) knowledge of the chemistry of cooking, (6)
skill in applying chemical knowledge, (7) skill in adapting knowledge
of cooking to existing conditions, (8) knowledge of serving a meal and
practice in service.

The fact that a large proportion of deaths is directly due to
digestive troubles is certainly food for thought. Such a statement
alone would warrant action of some sort looking toward increased
knowledge of food values and food preparation. It is not necessarily
because people live upon homemade food that their digestions are
impaired, as we so often hear stated nowadays, but because we have
taken it for granted that, given a stove, a saucepan, and a spoon, any
woman could instinctively combine flour, water, and yeast into food.
There is little dependence upon instinct in producing the bread of
commerce. Bakers' bread is scientifically made, no doubt; but there is
no reason why the homemade article may not also be a product of
science. And there will always be this difference between the baker
and the housewife: the baker's profit must be expressed in dollars and
cents, while that of the housewife will be represented in increased
force and efficiency in the family that she feeds. With such differing
ends in view, the processes and results of each must continue to
differ as widely as we know they do at present.

It is now some years since Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote of woman's
work:

Six hours a day the woman spends on food,
Six mortal hours!
* * * * *
Till the slow finger of heredity
Writes on the forehead of each living man,
Strive as he may: "His mother was a cook!"

[Illustration: A Blackburn College student mixing bread. There is no
reason why homemade bread may not be the product of science]

Many women now doubtless spend less time on cooking than when Mrs.
Gilman wrote; perhaps her scorn has borne fruit. But the implication
that being a cook is unworthy loses all its force unless it can be
shown that "his mother was _nothing but_ a cook." Even so, there are
worse things one might be. It is true that women should not spend six
hours out of the working day on merely one department of their
household work. Yet the ill-fed family is out of the race for a place
among the efficient. Let us then teach the coming woman to use less
time, more science, and all the labor-savers there are available, and
still accomplish the same, or perhaps better, results.

That the question of clothing is equally fundamental, perhaps few of
us will acknowledge. Yet we must not underrate its importance. Food
furnishes the fuel with which to support the fires of life. Clothes,
however, contribute not only to comfort and health, but to mental
well-being and self-respect. So long as we mingle with our fellow men
in civilized communities, raiment will continue to require "taking
thought." That much of the feminine part of the population devotes an
undue amount of thought to certain aspects of the clothing question we
cannot deny. It is equally certain that many women, if not most women,
devote too little thought to other phases of the problem.

Present conditions seem to indicate that the average woman, of any
class of society, places the "prevailing mode" first in her personal
clothing problems. How to be "in style" absorbs much attention and
time. Surely it is overshadowing other very important considerations
relating to dress. When American women have awakened to the real
importance of these considerations, we shall observe a better
proportion in studying the clothes question.

As a scientific foundation upon which to build her practical knowledge
of how to clothe herself and her family, the girl of the future must
be trained to an understanding of (1) the hygiene of clothes, (2) art
expressed in clothes, (3) the psychology of clothes, (4) ethics as
affected by clothes, (5) personality as expressed by clothes.

There is no stage of life in which hygiene, art, psychology, and
ethics do not apply to clothes. The practical knowledge built upon
these as a foundation will guide the girl in choosing clothes which
are suitable to the occasion for which they are designed, are not
extravagant in either price or style, give good value for the money
expended, express the individuality of the wearer, and exert an
influence uplifting rather than the reverse upon the community at
large.

[Illustration: Class in dressmaking at Blackburn College. With women
scientifically trained in the matter of clothing, we shall do away
with much of the absurdity of dress]

With such a girl, the fact that "they" are wearing this or that will
be always a minor consideration. With women trained in matters of
clothing, we shall no longer be confronted by the absurdity of
identical styles for thick and thin, short and tall, middle-aged and
young, rich and poor. We shall no longer see dress dominating, as it
does to-day, the entire lives of thousands of women. From the woman of
wealth who spends a fortune every season upon her wardrobe, all the
way down the money scale to the young girl who strains every nerve and
spends every cent she can earn to buy and wear "the latest style,"
slavery to fashion is an evil gigantic in its proportions and
far-reaching in its results.

We have no right to interfere with the woman's instinct to make
herself beautiful. Rather we should encourage it, and should carefully
instruct her in her impressionable years as to what real beauty is. It
is almost safe to say that at present the principle by which the
modern woman is guided in deciding the great questions of feminine
attire is imitation. Incidentally, we may remark that nobody profits
by such a mistaken foundation except the manufacturer, who moves the
women of the world about like pawns on a chessboard merely to benefit
his business. The society woman brings the latest thing "from Paris."
The large New York establishments sell to their patrons copies of
"Paris models." The middle-class shops and the middle-class women copy
the copies. The cheap shops and the poor women copy the copy of the
copy. Every copy is made of less worthy material than its model, of
gaudier colors, with cheaper trimmings, until we have the pitiful
spectacle of girls who earn barely enough to keep body and soul
together spending their money for garments neither suitable nor
durable - sleazy, shabby after a single wearing, short-lived - yet for a
few ephemeral minutes "up to date."

How far this heartbreaking habit of imitation extends in the poor
girl's life we can hardly say. She marries, and buys furniture,
crockery, and lace curtains cheap and unsuitable, like her clothes,
always imitations and soon gone, to be superseded by more of the same
sort. What thoughtful woman desires to feel herself part of an
influence which leads to so much that is insincere, uneconomical,
wasteful both of raw material and of the infinitely more important
material which makes women's souls? What teacher of young girls has a
right to hold back from setting her hand against the formation of
habits so undesirable?

And what of the vast output of the factories which turn out cheap
cloth, cheaper trimmings, imitations of silk, imitations of velvet,
ribbons which will scarcely survive one tying, shoes with pasteboard
soles, and all the other intrinsically worthless products which now
find ready sale? When women have been educated to a standard of taste,
of suitability, of quality, which will forbid the use of cheap
imitations of elegant and costly articles, will not the world gain in
bringing such factories to the making of products of real worth
instead of their present output?

The mother of the future will bring to bear upon the clothing question
not only more knowledge, but more serious thought, than she does
to-day. For the children she must provide comfortable, serviceable
play clothes in generous quantity, that they may pursue their
development unhampered in either body or mind. She must know the
hygiene of childhood and the psychology of children's clothes. For the
growing girls there must be a proper recognition of the growing
interest in adornment, avoiding the Scylla of vanity on one hand and
the Charybdis of unhappy consciousness of being "different from the
other girls" on the other. For the sons there must be careful
provision for the athletic life so dear to the boy, together with due
recognition of the approaching dignities of manhood, with special care
for the small details which mark the well-groomed man.

As in the matter of the food supply, there must be knowledge of
markets and skill in buying. And, as in that case, there should be
knowledge of the process of transforming materials into the finished
product. Processes involving a great degree of technical skill, such
as the tailor's art, the average woman will not attempt; but the
simpler forms of garment making present no special difficulty to
those who wish to try them or who find it expedient to do so.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Buying clothing ready made. The question of buying clothing ready
made or of making it will find individual solution according to means,
inclination, and ability]

A wholesale assumption that it is only a question of a short time
before all garment making will be done in the factory is probably
without warrant. We read again and again of late, "The day of buying
instead of making _is here_! We may like it or not like it, but the
fact remains, _it is here_!" And then we look all about us, and find
that the day is apparently not here for at least several thousands of
people of whom we have personal knowledge. That discovery gives us
courage to look farther. We find paper-pattern companies flourishing;
dress goods selling in the retail departments as they have always
sold; seamstresses fully occupied; and we conclude that for some time
yet the question of buying or making will find individual solution,
according to means, inclination, and ability. What we wish to guard
against in the upbringing of our future mothers is the necessity of
buying because of a lack of the ability to make. The woman trained to
a knowledge of the making of garments is the only woman who can
intelligently decide the question for her own household. The others
are forced to a decision by their own limitations.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
In a community preserving kitchen questions of food supply may
sometimes be solved and community interests unified]

Passing from the elemental needs, shelter, warmth, food, and clothing,
we enter upon the most complex of woman's duties - adjustment of her
home to community conditions and provision for her family's share in
community life. That these more abstract problems frequently overlap
the concrete ones already enumerated need not be said. It is
impossible, even if we so desire, to live "to ourselves alone." We
shall undoubtedly stand for something in the community, whether
consciously or otherwise. If it were given us to know the extent of
our influence, we should probably be appalled at the crossing and
recrossing of the lines emanating from our daily lives.

In some households there are definite aims in the direction of
community life. These differ widely. In many the question seems to be
entirely, "What can I get from the community?" in some, "What can I
give?" in a few, "What can I share?" Of the three, the last is without
doubt the one which contributes most to community well-being.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A community Christmas tree. Even the younger children may be given
the opportunity to take part in community work]

The ordinary family of necessity touches community life at one time or
another at certain well-defined points. The efficient homemaker must
therefore make intelligent provision for these points of contact with
the community.

Church and charity organizations have always been recognized in
American life as community matters and have provided community meeting
places and community work. Through them, especially in earlier days,
women often found their only common activities. The school furnished
the same common ground for the children. In the present time of
multiplied activity these organizations still stand in the foreground.
In them, both young and old find perhaps their best opportunity for
"team work."

A parish in which all pull together is perhaps as rare as a school in
which every child truly desires to learn. Yet neither is beyond the
possibilities. To keep each family in a proper attitude toward these
community institutions is part of the homemaker's work - and a delicate
task it often is. It is not enough for a mother to adopt a cast-iron
policy of indiscriminate approval of pastor or teacher, although that
is often recommended. Do you remember your resentment as a child of
the inflexible judgment "The teacher _must_ be right"? Really there is
no "must" about it, and the child knows that as well as we. The
mother, therefore, who is able to review the matter in dispute calmly,
justly, and withal sympathetically, and who indorses the teacher's
action after such review, is a better conserver of the public peace
than the prejudging mother.

Or suppose she fails to indorse the teacher's course. We have always
been led to expect that this failure ruins forever the teacher's
influence with the child. There are some of us, however, who doubt the
immediate destruction of a wise influence, even if we should say, "No,
I do not think I should have punished you in just that way. But
perhaps you have not told me all that occurred. Or perhaps you
overlook the fact that you had annoyed Miss - - until, being human
like the rest of us, she lost her temper. Is it fair for you to treat
your teacher in such a way that you cause her to lose her
self-control?" It is usually possible for the wise mother to turn her
fire upon the child's own error without outraging the childish sense
of justice by indorsing something which does not really deserve
indorsement.

There is, perhaps, no way in which the mother of a family can do so
much for the community institutions as by keeping up her own interest
in them and thus stimulating the other members of the family to a
willingness to do their part in the work of uplift. Where everybody is
really interested and working, the first great stumbling block in the
way of public enterprises has already been surmounted.

In the case of the school, however, the well-trained mother will find
additional work to do. We who have been teachers know how vainly we
have sought for intimate acquaintance on the part of parents with the
school. And we who have been mothers know something of the
difficulties in the way of gaining such intimate acquaintance. In
spite of, or perhaps because of, my long years of schoolroom
experience, I am quite unable to conquer my reluctance to knock at a
classroom door. There is an aloofness about being a school visitor
which most mothers feel and few enjoy. However, it is possible to gain
so much of sympathetic understanding by persistent visiting that I
have found it worth while to disregard my reluctance.

So often we hear mothers say, "I try to visit school at least once
each year." I wonder if they ever think of that one visit as an
injustice to the teacher? Suppose that, as is quite probable, the
visitor arrives at an inopportune moment, finding the children in the
midst of work which won't "show off," or the air heavy with the
echoes of a disciplinary encounter, or the children restless as the
session draws to a close, or dull and listless from the heat of an
unusually hot day. What the visitor needs to do is not to visit once a
year, but to get acquainted with the school as she does with her
next-door neighbor or her mother-in-law. Having done this, she may
attend the meetings of the parent-teacher association with a
consciousness of knowing something of the problems to be met and
solved. Until she has formed such acquaintance she deals with unknown
quantities and is therefore in danger of erroneous conclusions.

[Illustration: Mothers visiting a school garden. Mothers need to
visit the schools often in order to know something of the problems to
be met and solved by the teachers]

It is interesting to see how completely both teacher and pupils take
to their hearts the mother who really does get acquainted them. How
easy it is to appeal to her for advice and help; and what a sense of
familiar ownership she comes to have in the school. It is no longer
merely "what my child is learning" or whether "my children are getting
what they ought to get in school," but rather "what _we_ are doing in
our school."

The activities of women in the church usually follow along well-worn
paths. The women help as they have always helped by their attendance
at service, by their ladies' aid society or guild, by their missionary
society, and by their aid to the poor of the town. Many struggling
churches depend almost solely upon their women's work for support.
That the woman whose problems we are studying should enter upon her
church duties armed with wisdom is quite as necessary as that she
should be earnest and enthusiastic. The church is not primarily a
neighborhood social center. It is first of all a means for spiritual
uplift. It must not, in a multiplicity of humanitarian activities,
lose its character of spiritual guide. Its women will therefore be
animated by a spiritual conception of the church and will base their
activities in church work upon such a conception. The church built
upon such a foundation will be foremost among local forces devoted to
community service and will be a true force in the individual lives of
its people. The women of the church need to use the church as an
effective instrument for community betterment - not merely material
welfare, but actual increase in spiritual worth. Perfunctory church
attendance has little part in such a program. It calls rather for
intelligent understanding of church problems and an application of
spiritual ideals to everyday life.

Outside the organizations common to all communities the homekeeper
finds that she must keep in touch with her particular neighborhood
through its social life. It is here that her children are growing up,
here that they find their friends, here that they give and take
knowledge of themselves, of people, of ways to enjoy life and to meet
its problems. Here perhaps they will find their life mates and will
start out to be homemakers themselves. The mother of a family must
know her community thoroughly. She must do her share toward making it
a safe place and a pleasant place in which her children and other
children may grow up, and in which she and her husband, other women
and their husbands, may spend their lives. The mother who knows her
children's friends, who makes them welcome at her house, who "gets
acquainted" with their qualities good and bad, who is a "big sister"
to them all, will not find herself shut out from her children's social
life. If all the mothers were "big sisters" and all the fathers were
"big brothers," neighborhood society would be a safer thing than it
sometimes is.

Nor should all the social life center about the young people. The
woman's club, the village improvement society, the men's civic league,
all have their places. Club life will menace neither the man nor the
woman whose first interest is the home; and every man and woman needs
the stimulus of contact with other minds.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A road in DeKalb, Illinois, before improvements were made. Through
the agency of improvement societies, homemakers may often bring about
community reforms]

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
The same road after repairs were made through the efforts of members
of the community]

Sometimes it will happen that the homemaker finds work to be done in
the line of community reform. Perhaps the roads are out of repair, or
the cemetery is neglected, or the school building insanitary. Perhaps
the water supply is not properly guarded, or milk inspection not
thoroughly looked after. Perhaps industrial conditions in the town are
not what they should be. Perhaps laws are not being enforced. New
conditions require new laws. There may be loafing places on streets
and in stores which are dangerous. The billiard halls may need a
thorough moral cleaning and a moral man placed in charge. The public
dance halls may need proper chaperonage. The moving pictures need
state and national censorship to eliminate the careless suggestions
leading toward both vice and crime. The homemaker must know under such
circumstances how to stir public opinion, how to make use of her
existing organizations, how to set on foot the various movements
necessary for reform.

In connection with the subject of the homemaker's place in the
community we must return to the thought of woman as the buyer for the
home and of her consequent influence upon the economic standards of
the community. It is not unusual in these days to read or hear such
statements as the following: "The woman was no longer producer and
consumer.... She became the consumer and her entire economic function
changed.... The housewife is the buying agent for the home." Like many
statements in regard to woman and her function, this seems overdrawn,
since woman in her capacity as homemaker is still a producer as well
as a consumer in thousands of cases. That she will become,
economically, _merely_ a buying agent, some of us not only doubt, but
should consider a certain misfortune, should it occur. The fact
remains, however, that as buyer of both raw materials and finished
products the woman spends a very large percentage (some say
nine-tenths) of the money taken in by the retail merchants of the
country. This gives, or should give her, a commanding position in the
producing world. If the women of America should definitely decide
to-day that they would buy no more corn flakes, or mercerized crochet
cotton, or silk elastic, the factories now so busy turning out these
products would be shut down to-morrow until they could be converted to
other uses. Women often fail to realize their power in this
direction. When they do realize it, they are able to accomplish
quietly all sorts of reforms in the mercantile and industrial worlds.
There need be no crusade against adulterated foods other than real
education and the refusal of homemakers to buy from merchants who
carry them in stock. The same remedy will apply to overworked and
underpaid workers, to insanitary shops and factories. That it is the
woman's duty to control these matters is a necessary conclusion when
we consider her power as the "spender of the family income." Who else
has this power as she has it?

We have already noted how this power might be used to regulate not
only the quality but the character of products in the factories. If
women merely passed by the outlandish hats, the high heels, the hobble
skirts, of fashion, their stay would necessarily be short. The woman,
therefore, _if she choose_, is absolutely the controller of production


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Online LibraryMarguerite Stockman DicksonVocational Guidance for Girls → online text (page 4 of 14)