Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/242

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


FOR years the world has been on a moral crusade against the employment of children in mines and factories, while the far greater evils that result from the mothers going out as wage-earners have attracted comparatively little attention. Labor, within certain limits, is good for the child, giving it a wholesome moral discipline, and training it for the business by which it is to earn its livelihood; but, when a married woman has to neglect her natural duties for the responsibilities that properly belong to the other sex, it is time for humanity to protest in the name of her offspring. No one individual can fulfill satisfactorily the double or, I should say, the triple function of bearing and rearing children, and providing for their maintenance. I am a laboring woman myself, and have met with some success as a bread-winner; and I know that the conditions of performing this function satisfactorily are quite incompatible with those arduous and important duties which make such heavy demands upon every conscientious mother, especially among the poor. In the homes of the very poor there are no hired servants to keep the household machinery running smoothly while the mistress is away. The wife of the laboring man is frequently cook, nurse, house-maid, laundress, all in one; and if she must go out as a bread-winner besides, what is to prevent the domestic engine from running off the track and getting itself hopelessly ditched?

Of the two evils, if both are evils, I am persuaded that it is better that the child should go out to labor than the mother. Liberty, uncurbed by the check-rein of parental restraint, is a more than doubtful blessing, for the loss of which the child that takes its mother's place in the shop or the mill is more than compensated by the advantage of having her care at home. It is of far greater importance to the physical and moral well-being of the child that it should have a clean, well-ordered home to receive it out of working-hours, than that its working-hours should be abolished. The real hardship to the children of the poor lies not in setting them early to learn the wholesome lesson of labor, but in leaving them to grow up amid the discomforts and dangers of a neglected home, while the mother is bestowing upon loom and spindle the care that is the natural birthright of her little ones.

But here we are confronted with the question of education, and it will be asked. How is the child ever to learn anything if put to work so early? Such considerations, however, need present