Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/232

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


218

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

As a consequence of this superficial convention, it becomes absolutely unsafe for respectable women to violate its code. Compare this with the state of things in our own country. Are our young women less pure or our young men less gallant where no such artificial system obtains? Is there not rather the greatest respect here for the young woman who treads fearlessly our streets, thinking no evil? But there are many bad people abroad. Shall the pure, therefore, be kept at home, their freedom fettered, their sphere of usefulness limited, because one third, perhaps, of those whom they pass go to and fro, abetting the indulgence of vulgarity and crime?

And if in the streets a pure woman commands respect because of her dignified bearing; if in the halls of higher education she walks apace with the thinkers of the day; if in the arts and sciences she is welcome as an able participant, why should she be barred from grappling with the greatest question of existence—the mystery of life and the abuses with which it is so thickly surrounded? Will she bring thither an insight less keen, a sympathy less spiritual, a judgment less temperate, a power less practical? And if she is to cope with tire subject at all, is there any time when she will be in fuller power, in greater subtilty of influence, than in her developing womanhood? That she can reform our sensual world I do not claim; but that she is an intermediary, singularly well fitted for this work, I most earnestly believe.

Do not misunderstand me. I would not urge her going with the doctor on his rounds, nor the policeman on his raids. I would not drag her unneedfully to the haunts of shamelessness and resulting torment, but I would urge that she learn the principles of this, as of all life's lessons, in her early youth; that she be gravely and reverently led on to perceive her own high usefulness in perpetuating right views of this matter, so that with full knowledge she may face the sad life around her; that the veil be gradually moved aside—not kept tightly drawn till rent asunder at a time when the awakening must inevitably result in a revulsion of affection, a cynicism of spirit, and a hardness of heart, whose exceeding bitterness only those who have suffered can know.

I claim that the idea of usefulness, the quickening to the highest form of womanhood, combined with the early revelation of God's plan, will go further to disarm sensual thoughts than any artificial innocence, however well guarded.

Does any one question the purity of our young women physicians or our trained nurses? Does their knowledge of disease and its causes take from them that nicety of feeling with which they entered the profession? In many instances a sweet serious-