Women of distinction/Chapter 99
INFLUENCE OF NEGRO WOMEN IN THE HOME.
That a large part of the great negro population in America is yet in a condition of ignorance, superstition and poverty is evident, and that this present condition is a natural sequence of a former and more wretched condition, no one who is well acquainted with the real circumstances can truthfully deny; and that another large part of the race has made unparalleled advancement far in excess of what was naturally expected at the close of the late war, and that as an American citizen the negro has already been a success in every avenue and avocation in which he has been permitted to freely operate and compete, cannot be truthfully denied.
Now let us for a moment assume that he is ignorant superstitions and poor. Is that any more than could have been naturally expected of a people who have been from under the yoke of bondage only thirty years, and who came into citizenship in one day more than four millions in number without a dollar and without an established credit for one dollar's worth, or is it possible that the world has so little of the sense of justice or charity for an oppressed people as to expect them en masse to become a perfect people in one-quarter of a century—a thing that no race has ever done? To expect this of the negro is simply to acknowledge that he possesses ability far superior to that of other races, which is not true.
It is amazingly strange to note the scrutiny that some of our friends bring into use at times to avoid giving the negro due credit for many of his good deeds, and at the same time to note their willingness to magnify and publish to the world his mistakes. Can our friends in America not afford to be just?
After all, it would seem that somehow, and certainly without good reason, the "negro is the American bone of contention." He is discussed and abused by a large part of the public press and upon the stump and public platform in almost every conceivable and unfair manner. Conventions are called in the North and in the South in which they discuss the what to do with him and what to do for him without ever asking him or his representatives to meet them and discuss the how to let him alone, other than to help him become a man like all other good men. Some Legislatures pass discriminating laws against him, some (and many) courts of justice pass upon him and his case without regard to his rights before the law of the just.
Mob violence hunts him by day and by night like the fierce lion of the forest in search of his prey. In the name of our glorious American flag we ask, Why is this so? He is not responsible as yet for his condition. He is in no way responsible for his presence in America, being brought here against his own will.
And surely he is a human being, created in the image of a just God, who made alike the black man, the white man, the red man and the Chinaman in His own image.
Surely the God who rules in heaven and in earth without error, and who is void of partiality in any form, would not be partial in dealing with the highest order of His created beings.
In 2 Samuel, 14:14, we read: "Neither doth God respect any person. "In 1 Peter, 1:17, we read: "Who, without respect of persons, judgeth according to very man's work." We read in Acts 17:26: "Hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth." In addition to these references the whole account of redemption through Jesus Christ shows beyond all question that God has not only been just in creating all men equals but has further manifested that justice by His provisions for the redemption of all men through the one medium, the blood of His crucified Son, Jesus Christ.
It would seem to the writer that to charge God with partiality in the creation or redemption of man is simply to deny that He is just, which is to deny Him of an important attribute. In addition to this the great Alexander Von Humboldt has truthfully said, "There is no typical sharpness of division among men, all being interfusible." His well-known and able brother, William, has said, "There is no real inferiority of race." The scholarly J. L. M. Curry, D. D., LL.D., has said, "There is no caste in mind." The distinguished and philosophic Dr. Thomas has said also, "The whole drift of scientific reasoning tends to the conclusion that there is really but one race modified and modifiable by environments."
Upon the above evidence, gathered from the Book of books and the writings of wise and scholarly men in recent days, we submit as a reasonable conclusion (1) THAT ALL MEN ARE BY CREATION EQUALLY ENDOWED; (2) THAT UNDER SIMILAR CONDITIONS ALL MEN ARE, TO THE SAME EXTENT, CAPABLE OF INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT.
Whatever, therefore, has been said above as applicable to man in his high calling is equally and to the same extent applicable to woman in her equally high sphere.
Whatever one woman has done in the development of home and home-life among her fellow-creatures others of her sex can also do.
Whatever of good qualities are applicable to American or English women are also applicable to Afro-American' women under similar circumstances.
In fact, we need to lay more stress upon our capabilities to do whatever God has enjoined upon us.
Let us not be too easily discouraged, but let us learn more to labor and to wait for results.
It seems to be quite true that our noble women possess more of this quality than our men, and I am not certain if our women in the home are not the most powerful, amd progressive and substantial agencies of the race.
In their quiet and often unseen work of building up, preserving, maintaining and purifing the home they are certainly "the power behind the throne" in many instances; and although often kept back, discouraged and haltered, so to speak, by the jealousy and tyranny of the would-be and so-called lords of creation, still they push forward.
The author has taken special pains to inquire of a great many successful business and professional men of both races as to the causes of either their success or failure, and the reply has come as expected from both.
Whenever one of our race has freely and willingly stated the cause of his success it has been attributed to the influence of a mother or sister or wife, while on the other hand, they have almost invariably attributed the causes of their failures to their refusal to be advised by mother or sister or wife.
X'ow while we do not intend to underrate the importance of man's work in the betterment of his own condition, and while we do not desire to be understood as advocating what is often called an apron-string government nor the subjugation of man by woman, yet we do desire to emphatically teach (and to urge) that a hearty co-operation of man and woman in all worthy undertakings whenever possible is the most hopeful means of success.
We believe that man and woman are created equal. He seems to be refined and encouraged and purified only as she herself is refined and purified and encouraged to look high and labor for the betterment of man. She does not seem to be created as man's slave. She is certainly not his beast of burden. She is not created to follow, necessarily, in all things, but seems to be rather his equal, and therefore belongs at his side, and is his companion in the truest sense.
We have only to recall to mind the nations and individuals of ancient, mediaeval and modern times to remind ourselves of a chain of testimony clearly proving that man has scarcely ever risen higher as a matter of fact, nor has had even higher ideals than the corresponding position which woman has occupied as his immediate associate.
Man's estimation of woman seems to be a true index to his own worth and condition. Now, then, if she is his equal, an associate and companion, then surely she is capable at least of helping and encouraging him to become whatever God has intended that he should be. In no place is she a more necessary power than in the home.
I. As a mother she may, to a great extent, assist in shaping our destiny, (1). The child’s physical development will largely depend upon the condition of the home and the care and conduct of the mother. If the moral and hygienic surroundings have been good, then we may expect a good physical development. These she may greatly modify. Let the home be attractive, neat, pleasant and pure. (2). The child's moral development is greatly modified by the condition of the home. Suffice it to say that the home, as far as possible, should be a model Christian home, presided over by. a gentle, loving mother, whose influence for good falls as constantly and as gently and as effectually upon the child as do the dews of night upon the tender plant. Kindness, with sufficient restraining positiveness, may often command a loving and willing obedience when all other powers may fail so to do. Who knows but that in this or that Christian home is being trained some great character, possibly a philosopher, a historian, a scholar, the president or queen of some great nation, a great reformer or conqueror? Who can tell what the extent of that home's influence shall be?
One thing is certain, however, that the influences of the home will be just what the home is, and the home will be largely what the woman of the home makes it. If the queen of a great and good home, then there will radiate therefrom great and good influences.
(3). Intellectual development. Children are great imitators, both by inheritance and by acquisition of the habit. It is quite possible that even the acts of childish imitation serve as little whetstones, so to speak, to the little mind in giving it sharpness, and at the same time as an exercise may do much by assisting in the development of the same. Whether true or not, it does seem that the more intelligently the powers of the mind are brought into play in early life, the more readily that mind will acquire knowledge, all things else being equal. The more intelligent the home and home surroundings, the more intelligent, as a rule, are the offspring of that home. It is here the child gets an idea of its own intellectual powers. It is in the home it seems to get its first ideas of becoming wdiat it seems to see in others of its surroundings, whether good or evil. It is generally true that a child reared in an intelligent home has a more tenacious memory than one of opposite situation, yet this may not always prove true. The fact that one child at some time, or at all times in its history, shows more aptness and acquires more readily than another is no argument in favor of the superiority of one mind, b}' creation, over the other; no more than the fact that one organ or one set of organs in the same body; is created superior to the other, simply because one organ or one set of organs in that body is better developed than the other; nor is it any more so than the fact that the muscles of one arm are better developed than those of the other arm, because one arm has had the advantage of a more complete development. Suffice it to say, however, that the home should be as intelligent as circumstances will allow, and yet there are many good homes that are not so brilliant as those some would call intelligent, and yet they are intelligent; they are full of good sense, wdsdom, virtue, piety and thrift. From these homes have come many of our best men and women. Such homes are practical and greatly beneficial.
II. As a sister she may wield an influence at times more powerful than the mother, for many times she can find out the tendencies of a brother or sister long before the mother observes them. She is often taken more into confidence (and yet no friend should be regarded more confidential than mother), but somehow it is true that they, as children, talk of their desires and inclinations so that even in early childhood an older sister may do much good in assisting the mother in the care and well-being of the children. When her influence is combined with that of the mother, she may be even more powerful. The two constitute possibly the greatest powder of the ho.me, and especially so in giving counsel to those who are approaching womanhood and manhood, and are formulating their plans for the future. The restraining influence of a sister is far-reaching in its effects. It may haunt even an older brother in the midst of his wildest deeds and reclaim him therefrom.
How many young men, talented young men, have been saved by the tears and pleadings of an affectionate sister even when the fleecy locks of a tender mother were of no effect. She has often led to the mercy-seat a wayward brother whom God has greatly blessed and used as a means of saving thousands of souls.
III. As a wife. Possibly woman is never so powerful as when queen of her own home—the wife of a faithful husband. Here she mav reign in the fullness of her power and to the fullest extent of her love and sympathies, with almost unlimited interest and a never dying-satisfaction. She is indeed a queen in the full sense of the word; the ideal of a fond husband whom she serves and loves and obeys as a part of the joys of her life and the aspirations of her soul. Here her influence upon the community is most powerful as a neighbor and a sympathizer with the afflicted and unfortunate, a model of good works, a teacher of faithfulness and an administrator of impartial justice.
Presiding over a quiet home with dignity, and at the same time with almost unlimited love and interest, is truly a condition of a home that is a most wisely bestowed blessing upon any people or community.
All these positions of trust and great responsibility have been well filled by our women for more than a quarter of a century.
Beginning life as they did, without a home and without the means with which to buy a home, yet, as determined as if Spartan soldiers, they placed homes where there were no homes, and at once became the queens thereof. Negro women have done more for the peculiar growth and development of their race than the women of any other people. In fact, negro women have been the life of nearly every negro enterprise now in existence. Without her the Church would be a mere name, and the ministry would scarcely eat bread.
They have been the life of the schools, and, indeed, many of our great men and women have been educated bv the money earned by the hard and unceasing efforts of our women. By the sweat of their brow and b' the powers of their brain and muscle our zuonicn liave made statesmen, lawyers, preachers, doctors, teachers, artists and mechanics, many of wdiom have coped with the best brain of America. The negro has successfully operated in every avocation in which it has been his privilege to enter, in both State and national affairs. By what power was he impelled and sustained if not by the constancy of Afro-American women?
As our women have been great in the past they may be even more in the future. The race needs men, not only educated and scholarly, but men with will-power, and, if possible, with a steel backbone; men who once seeing-the right will maintain the same in the protection of home and home's dearest interests. We need man in some of our men; and most naturally we need men and money.
To our own true women alone we must look largely for these necessities. They preside over the home, they train the children of the home, and they will develop men and women in the home.
- In the preparation of this book it has occurred to the author that some space should be devoted to the consideration of our women in a general work and especially as to their efforts in building up our race enterprises and their special work in the home.