May We Knit on Sunday

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May We Knit on Sunday?

Published in The Literary Digest.
October 20, 1917.

The problem of Sabbath observance has come up in various forms in England, where it was decided by certain bishops that no harm could come from working in the fields on the Lord's day. With us the extreme stage of the question has not been reached; but Scranton, Pa., has asked aloud if it is right for women to knit on Sunday for the soldiers, and also whether knitting during church service is proper. An answer is attempted by the Baltimore Sun, speaking ethically, and assurance is given that "so far as knitting garments for our soldiers on Sunday is concerned, even the strictest Sabbatarian might safely include it among permissible works of mercy and necessity." The Sun argues the point with seriousness, even if it does permit itself a stroke of humor at the end of its homily.

"With all the numberless knitting-needles that are enlisted in the cause there will not be enough woolen articles to keep every soldier warm this winter. Even with spare hours on Sunday utilized, there is no time to be lost if the individual knitting factories are to come anywhere near meeting the demand upon them.
"The question of knitting in church is, we concede, more debatable. If it is right to fight battles on Sunday, why should it not be right to do helpful and comforting things during church services? It is not inconceivable that a warm stocking would be regarded as far more religious up above than a cold prayer, and that a woolen vest for a soldier of the Lord might be considered in the heavenly court of last resort as more eloquent than many sermons. Nor do we think it could be urged that knitting in church would divert the minds of the congregation from exhortations to piety. Knitting, when fully mastered, becomes largely mechanical, and even beginners could still sing the hymns and listen devoutly to the minister.
"We acknowledge that knitting is not per se a pious exercise, and that it does not necessarily involve a peaceful frame of mind. The French furies who surrounded the guillotine during the Reign of Terror frequently carried their knitting with them, and rarely missed a stitch even during the most exciting scenes. It would unquestionably be better to knit in church than like Madame Lafarg at such a revolutionary shrine as that at which she and others of her kind worshipped during those memorable days of blood.
"However this may be decided, we enter a protest right here against one thing: no young woman should be permitted to take her young man along and make him hold the yarn for her in church while she winds it up into a ball. That would certainly be demoralizing to the preacher, and it would surely inspire jealous and irreligious thoughts in the minds of girls who had no young men to hold their yarn. We make this point now both in the interest of religious decorum and of feminine friendship and good feeling."