Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/234

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220
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of"? Do you think any other influence would have been as powerful in molding the lives of these young men?

It is very seldom, too, that young women can be kept in entire ignorance of the workings of this undercurrent. Nowadays the subject is much discussed; bits of information are dropped here and there by careless matrons; the sickening accounts of the infanticide of child-mothers (over the publication of the details of which accounts the daily press seems to claim an unquestioned prerogative)—all these things tend to depict, though in a fragmentary way, the workings of the other life. To assume, therefore, that our young women are ignorant of a state of things of whose existence they are perfectly well aware, is to put them at once upon the insecure basis of the dissembler. Is this simulated innocence of intrinsic value? Does it not rather dwarf growth and cripple usefulness? Unless early accustomed to viewing such matters from the truthful, helpful standpoint (and such standpoint does exist), our young girls become bitter and unsparing in judgment, sharers in that sweeping intolerance which half-knowledge always breeds.

Is there, I ask you in all fairness, any justice in exacting such a false social state? Here, as elsewhere, give our young women a chance to work. Do not bring them home with education "finished"—thoroughly equipped mentally, partially equipped physically, but utterly denuded of that intelligent moral accoutrement which is to make them well rounded in character, a power in their little world. Apply the strength now devoted to shielding their supposed ignorant innocence to the development of healthful views on a subject which must, sooner or later, confront every thinking woman. Many contend, I know, that our young girls are not strong enough to bear a comprehensive knowledge of this subject; that such knowledge, even though it may not rob them of their pure conceptions, at least causes them to become depressed and utterly cast down. But I think not, told with reverence, as a whole. They must face this knowledge eventually. Is it any less cruel to encourage the building up of disproportioned ideals which must ultimately be chipped away, piece by piece?

Let us grant, for the moment, that the conditions of society are now such that it is possible to keep young women completely ignorant of the moral laxity all around them. Let us admit, for the present, that it is possible for maturing persons to acquire broader views on all other topics and still retain their childishness of view in these matters. Do you think, therefore, that their influence, as is frequently claimed, will be stronger over the men with whom they come in contact? Do you think their misinformed minds can frame wise or trenchant judgments worthy of the respectful consideration of the men in their immediate circle?