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Martha B Mosher.

Child culture in the home. A book for mothers online

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flushings and a supply of water in the traps
are necessary, while basins and sinks must be
absolutely cleaned and closed when not in use.

The kitchen, laundry and refrigerator waste
pipes are more liable to stoppage from the



Domestic Economy 213

collection of grease in the water that passes
through them ; they should, therefore, at least
once a week be flushed with hot water and con-
centrated lye, and all waste pipes especially
the water-closet pipes are safer for an occa-
sional use of disinfectant solutions. Cesspools
are unhealthy modes of disposing of waste
matter, and are a menace in or near a dwelling,
often producing typhoid and other fevers.

The entire house should be constructed and
furnished in a manner that best secures its
cleanliness. Close fitting carpets and heavy
draperies are dust traps, the latter especially
great germ holders. The healthiest and clean-
est method of treating the floor, if it is not of
hard wood, is to paint and varnish, or stain and
polish it all over, and to cover it with rugs that
can be taken up and shaken frequently ; then
one knows there is no accumulation of dust un-
derneath, and housecleaning remains no longer
the housekeeper's dread, for it may then be a
gradual process instead of a semi-annual agony.
Muslin and lace curtains that are easily laun-
dered are the least objectionable, and all that are
necessary for the bedrooms at least. Heavy
curtains gather and hold dust and germs so
tenaciously that they are better dispensed with.
For decoration, paint is preferable to wall
paper, for the latter affords lodgment to germs
and to insects of various kinds.



214 Child Culture

Beds and springs should be thoroughly
dusted inside and out and wiped with a wet
cloth, and the mattress brushed with a stiff
broom in every crevice once a month, while at
least twice a year, the entire woodwork of the
inside of the bed should be washed with very
cold water, as warm water tends to breed rather
than to destroy animal life. Beds should be
opened up and the mattresses raised for a free
circulation of fresh air each day, and ought
never to be made up until they have been thor-
oughly ventilated with outside air.

Man and gas light each use up the oxygen of
a room and fill the air with carbonic acid gas ;
a room, therefore, that is lighted artificially re-
quires more ventilation.

People who live in overheated rooms are less
vigorous than those who live in a moderately
low temperature. To obtain the right degree
of heat in cold weather is a difficult art ; 65 F.
is the right temperature for a room for ordinary
persons ; for convalescents, babies, old people,
or those affected with bronchitis a temperature
of 70 is advisable.

Waste that contains any organic matter
whatever, either in a state of decomposition or
ready to decompose, should be quickly removed
and disposed of in such a manner as not to
affect the healthfulness of any place. No ac-
cumulation of vegetable matter should be per-



Domestic Economy 215

mitted in cellar or kitchen, but should be
burned or removed regularly and frequently.

Illness and premature death are, as a rule,
attributable to three conditions : (1) injuries
and accidents of various kinds ; (2) germs pro-
ducing infectious fevers and kindred diseases ;
(3) habits of life, causing various chronic dis-
orders. Chronic diseases of the internal organs
are due to one's habits of life, though no symp-
tom of the disease may be manifest for many
years. The slight daily excess in food or drink
and insufficient fresh air and exercise are
sources of irritation to the system which may
not be felt at the time, but which gradually
continued for twenty or more years cause some
organ to succumb. An overstimulating diet
with little muscular exercise is as pernicious in
time as an insufficiency of food ; continued
overwork of either brain or muscles finally
prostrates the nervous system, and temperance
in all mental and physical indulgences is the
only sure way of holding ill health at bay.

Dirt is the natural home of infectious germs,
and dirty people are seldom healthy, for the ac-
cumulation clogs the pores and obstructs one
means of discharge of waste matter, thus
throwing additional impurities on the system,
or on the other organs. Germs, when not con-
veyed directly from person to person, find lodg-
ment in dirt ; if it were possible for a whole



216 Child Culture

nation to be absolutely clean, infectious dis-
eases would probably die out. No adornment
of the person renders it so attractive as perfect
cleanliness, and it is due others as well as one-
self.

What is moderation in food and exercise in
one person, may be excess in another, and that
which is beneficial to one may be harmful to
another. A man laboring hard out-of-doors,
can eat with impunity a hearty meal, from
which a man of sedentary habits would suffer.
A man who lives out in the air and sun re-
quires less sunlight and air in his dwelling than
does he who seldom goes outside.

Housekeeping is woman's special vocation,
and whatever her means or her position in life,
ignorance of the best methods of managing her
home is a great deficiency. She must possess
not only a theoretical but also a practical
knowledge of the details of the various work
of a house before she is competent to direct its
performance. In this country, when the for-
tunes of families are subject to sudden changes,
and when even the possession of wealth cannot
always secure efficient aid, domestic accom-
plishments are peculiarly indispensable, and if
young girls have some training in this direction
in their mother's home, they are spared much
inconvenience and embarrassment when they
later preside over their own. The better one's



Domestic Economy 217

understanding of the management of a house,
the greater the economy of both time, labor
and expenditure, for notwithstanding the im-
portance of these matters, they should not be
permitted to consume time to the exclusion of
the cultivation of the higher nature. By sys-
tem and good arrangement, all the work may
be done in order and due season, and much
time be left for other things. The household
duties of some women are never completed;
they can find no time for the cultivation of
their minds or for the claims of philanthropy ;
let such make a scrupulous examination of
their work, and by cutting off all that is super-
fluous, and considering the relative importance
of the various duties, they will find that such
retrenchment will spare them some hours for
better things. If a woman be compelled to do
her own cooking, and she confine it to the
preparation of simple, wholesome, nutritious
food, and waste no time on pies, cake, pud-
dings, or other deserts, she saves herself much
time and her family much indigestion, and if
the time thus saved be used in her or her chil-
dren's mental improvement, has she not made
a wiser use and distribution of time and effort?
If the sewing of the family devolve upon the
mother, and if the clothing be made simply,
and tucks, ruffles, and embroideries omitted,
some time can be saved, and the children will



218 Child Culture

be none the worse off for the omission of these
superfluities. It is the superfluous work which
profits no one and which is as often a disad-
vantage that consumes the time of overworked
women, and after years of such waste they
sometimes realize their mistake. When a
woman's leisure time is limited, it is far wiser
to spend it in good reading, or in out-of-door
exercise, or even in complete rest, than in em-
broidering, or in putting additional phylacteries
to her children's garments. A due regard for
the relative value of the work to be done and
a judicious distribution of one's time and labor,
will prove great economizers of both.

The housekeeper who presides over an estab-
lishment containing one servant or more will
also find that a systematic regulation of the
work of the house, assigning to each servant
and to each day and hour its specific work,
effects a great saving of time and care. All
good housekeepers are systematic, and the serv-
ice in such houses is greatly facilitated. There
is always time enough for everything that one
truly desires, or ought to do ; if there is an ap-
parent lack of time, the fault is certainly in the
arrangement, and a wiser one should be sought.

The amount of domestic work that it be-
comes one's duty to perform personally depends
on one's circumstances ; there are many who
having ample means have no necessity of ren-



Domestic Economy 219

dering any assistance in the work of the house,
but such work is very beneficial to health, and
every young woman should assume the care of
some part of it, if it is no more than the care of
her own room. Her knowledge extends if she
interests herself at different times in the various
departments of the work. She thus gains a
practical acquaintance with the various kinds
of house duties which will be of service to her
whether she is compelled to do her work in her
own home or only to superintend it.

Meritorious as is the performance of one's
household duties, it is in better taste to keep
its machinery enclosed and not exposed to view,
so that its existence will be known only by the
happy results. It is difficult for a person whose
whole mind and interest are engrossed with
domestic affairs not to intrude these matters on
her friends, but they are not edifying topics of
discussion, and the companion can scarcely feel
the interest in them that the speaker does;
therefore with their private consideration and
performance they should be dismissed from the
mind if possible, certainly from the conversa-
tion.

It is hoped that everyone recognizes the slov-
enliness of engaging in kitchen or any other
kind of domestic work in other clothing than a
wash dress, and a clean apron, and the hair cov-
ered. Neither mistress nor maid should attempt



220 Child Culture

to cook, sweep or dust, in a silk or cloth dress,
but should be appropriately equipped for such
work. If the table glass and china are abso-
lutely clean, well wiped and free from lint, they
may be very plain and inexpensive. Though
the food offered be very simple, if it is well
cooked and served, one need have no hesitancy
in inviting one's most aristocratic friend to share
it, for true hospitality consists in something
higher than the material offering, and a cordial
and gracious welcome are grateful substitutes
for rich entrees and cut glass. One need never
be ashamed of any economy that is necessary,
and it is an absurd weakness to try to appear
richer than one is.

When girls and boys arrive at the age of dis-
cretion they should know their father's circum-
stances and the family expenses and should be
ready to adapt themselves to both. No one can
retain his or her self-respect, or is entitled to
the respect of others, who lives, dresses or en-
tertains beyond what he can reasonably afford,
and the day of retribution, though sometimes
delayed, arrives surely. If young people are
given an allowance as liberal as the family's
financial circumstances admit of they learn the
value of money, the best means of using it, and
acquire much better judgment in their pur-
chases than when the parents can be called on
ad libitum.



Domestic Economy 22 1

Every girl should learn some profession, trade,
or art by which she can, if ill fortune overtake
her, maintain herself independent of relatives
and friends. If she possess special gifts or
talent, these will indicate the direction of her
cultivation, and though she may learn many
things in moderation, she should acquire one
thing in perfection. Everyone has some possi-
bility or adaptability which if properly trained
will secure her against want and temptation,
for though fortune may be favorable to-day, she
may frown to-morrow, and when one's resources
are developed in prosperity one can meet ad-
versity more calmly. A family does not live
within its means that does not provide for sud-
den emergency, temporary loss of employment
or for the death of the bread winner. A por-
tion of the income should therefore be held as
a reserve, or contingent fund. As Emerson
says : " When the income by ever so little ex-
ceeds the outgo, we have the beginning of
wealth." The greatest wealth is health, and no
economy that is practiced at the expense of
health or of a reasonable cultivation of the
mind, can be accounted true economy. A stout
roof, wholesome food, substantial and sufficient
clothing, are all in the interest of thrift, and
unwise economies are often the worst extrava-
gancies.



XVI

CIVIC DUTIES

THE sober quiet sense of what a man owes
to the community in which he is born, has been
found specially hard to maintain, says Mr.
Bryce, in modern times and in large countries.
It is comparatively easy in small republics or in
cities, but with a vast population, the individual
is lost in the multitude. Mr. Bryce, however,
exhorts us to remember the civic virtue, and
tells how it may best be inculcated in the
young. We must cultivate three habits, to
strive to know what is best for one's country as
a whole ; to place when one knows it, the
country's interest above party feeling or class
feeling, or any other sectional passion or mo-
tive ; to be willing to take trouble, personal
and even tedious trouble, for the well-governing
of every public community one belongs to, be
it a township or parish, a ward or a city, or the
nation as a whole. And the methods of form-
ing these habits are two, which of course, can-
not in practice be distinguished, but must go
hand in hand, the giving of knowledge re-
garding the institutions of the country
knowledge sufficient to enable the young citi-
222



Civic Duties 223

zen to comprehend the workings elements
which still dazzle imagination from the conflicts
of fleets and armies of the past. Current his-
tory or elementary politics, Mr. Bryce thinks,
would be easier to teach than history in the
usual sense of the term.

The young, to the extent of their under-
standing, should not only be instructed in the
political government of city, state and nation,
but what is more important, they should be
stimulated to an interest in public affairs and
inspired with a sense of civic duty. As they
mature, the young man's and young woman's
interest will be proportioned to the interest
which the parents and their associates in the
home manifest in such affairs. In England, in-
terest in public affairs and knowledge of politi-
cal movements are much more general than
with us ; all well educated women are conver-
sant with the political situation, its current
opportunities, possibilities, and probabilities,
and they enter into discussions of these sub-
jects as freely as do the men. In this particular
they are in advance of the average American
woman ; the intellectual life of the latter, while
often profound, does not turn in the direction
of politics or interest in public affairs, except
occasionally to their philanthropic side. In
some of the larger cities a few women are be-
ginning to interest themselves actively in the



224 Child Culture

progress and improvement of those cities, and
the results are eminently satisfactory. It re-
quires no more time to participate in a confer-
ence about municipal improvements than to
attend teas, receptions and card parties, and the
benefit to the community is vastly greater.
The woman who has children needing her pres-
ence or has other duties at home, should neglect
them neither for her own pleasure nor for the
profit of any municipality, however great her
interest in it may be. Yet may not the many
women who have no children, or whose families
are grown, or they who prefer to spend their
leisure hours in advancing the civic and social
life that surrounds them to joining in the usual
frivolities of fashionable life may not these
women be worse employed ? It is not the op-
portunity which draws women from the domes-
tic life but dissatisfaction with the close con-
finement, or a greater taste for outside pleas-
ures ; and yet desertion for the causes of
frivolity is never censured as is desertion for
intellectual purposes. If she does not take an
active part, every woman should at least under-
stand and interest herself in the civic life, in
the material, social and moral progress of
humanity, and know all of the vital movements
of the country and of the world.

In many families there is an utter dearth of
knowledge or concern of public affairs ; the



Civic Duties 225

conversation revolves in the most circumscribed
orbit, on the most insignificant occurrences
which profit no one, and which ultimately nar-
row the mind and impoverish its quality.

There is no excuse for man's civic laxity;
public spirit and the promotion of human re-
forms, however unbecoming the consideration
of a woman they may be held, never reflect
anything but glory on man. His only possible
impediment is that they sometimes clash with
his private interests, but until it becomes his
pleasure he should hold it his duty to perform a
part of the disinterested service which every city
requires, and hold himself to a degree responsi-
ble for municipal stagnation and corruption.

To create an interest in the younger members
of the household one need only to make public
affairs, philanthropic movements, and social
progress topics of conversation, and to feel and
manifest a genuine interest in them ; the inter-
est of the girls and boys will soon be aroused
if it does not grow to exceed that of the
parents. In how many families are such move-
ments discussed or even touched on ? Unless
there is a menace of war or a presidential
election is impending, the average family is as
unconscious and ignorant of social and political
conditions as was Robinson Crusoe on his
lonely isle. For the right education of their
children, parents should inform themselves and



226 Child Culture

cultivate familiarity with public affairs and
with the progress of humanity in general. For
this reason, if for no other, the mother should
enlarge her view and her interests that she may
contribute to this development of her family,
for she is responsible for the citizenship of her
children. Politically the non-voters cannot do
a great deal, but they can do something ; they
can desire the laws that bespeak the greatest
moral elevation, the noblest living of humanity,
and they can strive for the men who stand for
the ethical as well as for the material advance-
ment of the country, regardless of party or
sectional prejudices.

Religiously and philanthropically, the dis-
franchised class and the future voters can ac-
complish a great deal more. If parents are not
themselves religiously inclined there are still
many reasons why they should not neglect the
religious life, and why they should contribute
to the maintainance of a church and of good
works. If their spiritual lives are poor and
sterile, the inference is that their souls have
lacked the culture which enriches the spiritual
nature. By uniting with some denomination
with whose creed they can sympathize, it mat-
ters little which, they place themselves in posi-
tion to acquire that soul culture and develop-
ment of which their attitude toward religion
indicates their need. If they feel that it is too



Civic Duties 227

late to secure such development in themselves,
they will certainly not deprive their children of
the spiritual enrichment and ethical nurture
which such an alliance affords. The theology
and dogma of religion are less appealing to
persons who are not by heredity, tradition, or
early religious training imbued with a taste for
it; and many such decline religion in the belief
that dogma and creed are its chief constituents;
whereas if they would yield themselves to its
spirit, the heart of religion, they would find it
very attractive and elevating.

If one recognizes in religion the foundation
of morals, if one approves of the existence of
churches, then one must admit that it is one
man's duty as well as another's to aid in sup-
porting them. Any public institution that re-
quires support should receive contributions from
all who desire to see it prosper, as its existence
can only be coextensive with its maintainance.
There is as much spiritual poverty among the
finely clad and richly housed who never open
their purses for the support of church or char-
ity as there is in the tenement districts ; and
the poverty of the former is far less excusable
than that of the latter class, for the remedy is
more accessible. No one individual and no one
organization can solve the problem of human
misery and human impediment, but every man
can do something toward such solution.



228 Child Culture

It is not, "however, by the opening of purses
and the handing over of a few dollars, or a few
hundreds, that philanthropy is best served;
relief is at best but a superficial remedy and is
oftener a factor in the creation of poverty.
Gifts to the unworthy encourage them to con-
tinue their worthlessness, and indiscriminate
charity is nothing more than a pauper factory.
It is a great temptation and an easy discharge
of benevolence to give alms to the beggar who
moves us with a pitiful tale, and many persons
think they do nobly when they thus acquit
their feelings. They do not consider the fact
that the spirit of beggary is thus fostered, and
that it is far more humane and just, to ascertain
the cause of the condition and to seek its re-
moval. Except in temporary cases, it is found
that the cause lies in serious mental, moral, or
physical defect, often congenital and seldom
curable. Prevention is the watchword of the
nineteenth century and will be much more that
of the twentieth. The most that can be done
for the poisonous tree of adult age is to lop off
its branches and prevent their overrunning, and
while humanity demands this, the great strokes
should be at the root, and radical reform be
effected through the child, the process, pre-
vention. The foundation of all human progress,
mental, moral and material, lies in the right
education of human nature. The kindergarten



Civic Duties 229

is one source of right development, and its prin-
ciples extended to child life in the home em-
phasize that education, and the resulting bene-
fits. It is not only among the poor that human
nature needs direction, but quite as much
among the well-to-do and the wealthy, whose
power gives increase of responsibility. Some
one says truly: "If the kindergarten is the
luxury of the children of the rich, it is the vital
necessity of the children of the poor. Its per-
sonal touch is the best substitute for that which
home ought to give them but cannot. Its meth-
ods develop individuality, its occupations train
to dexterity, and awaken that solemn joy of duty
done which is the best guarantee of persevering
industry. Its plays teach the control of im-
pulse, develop imagination, and ally it with
conduct, as Matthew Arnold has taught us that
the social order requires. More than all, these
plays are a revelation of joy, that divine ex-
perience without which, perfection either of
conduct or character, cannot be attained. And
what shall we say of those sweet affections,
those mutual forbearings, those glad ministra-
tions, that simple reverence for things holy,
which are the very soul of the kindergarten
system ? Simply these alone are exclusive of
that kind of dependence which is unworthy of
human nature. Here then, in the kinder-
garten, we find a ground of hope for the child



230 Child Culture

of the tenement house ; an awakened intelli-
gence, which, better than all truant laws, will
secure his further education ; a delight in duty
which will keep him steady at his work ; a
stability of character which will fortify him
against temptation ; a warmth of heart which
will keep him true to family and social pieties ;
a sense of obligation which will make him a
conscientious citizen ; an awakening to joy
which restores to him his birthright as a man.
Not that life will thereby become an easy
thing. Life, for nearly all the children of the
poor, must continue to be a bitter struggle,
until the children of the rich awaken to a sense
of the obligation of privilege. But the struggle
for an independent, self-respecting manhood
will no longer be against desperate odds, for
the three years of kindergarten with the subse-
quent training which they alone make possible,
are enough to waken to life that character


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Online LibraryMartha B MosherChild culture in the home. A book for mothers → online text (page 12 of 13)