Page images

disturbed by painful dreams only less painful than realities.

Thus do the months revolve in attendance upon trivialities-baking, sweeping, dusting, mending, patching, cutting, making, managing, contriving; keeping little hands and faces clean, hearing perpetual complaints, drying tearful eyes a hundred times, condoling with the youthful sufferers from wounds and bruises, responding a thousand times a day to calls upon

«Mamma." Thus do the years proceed, wherein the monotony of housekeeping, and maternal solicitude is only broken by some great and awful trouble, and before men pass their prime, their wives are broken in health, and wasted in form. Foreigners universally remark the fresh beauty and winsome grace of our girls, but at the same time the premature fading and rapid decay of our women. They have a slang phrase in the West, which tells the story after a coarse but pointed fashion—" It's a great country for men and horses, but its death on women and oxen."

My picture of woman's wedded life may not be a pleasant one, but I believe it truthful,--and truth in human life, I think, is oftenest a sad thing to contemplate.

No, young woman! marriage is not an Elysian region of freedom, repose, and happiness, but a scene, -as is our mortal state for all—of responsibility, trial and labor.



How, then, I am asked, do you reconcile this condition of things with the government of universal love? Why do you exalt the position of woman, and exact from one oppressed and hampered as she is, the exercise of the sublimest, widest-reaching influence, the inauguration of the grandest and most enduring reforms ? I answer all the questions in this one statement—the great end of human existence and its divinest power is character, and no sphere is so propitious to its attainment as the home-life of woman.

Is it needful that I vindicate this proposition ? Her relation to her servants demands patience, prudence, long-suffering, self-control, and strength of will. Her house-keeping exacts diligence, watchfulness, punctuality, promptitude, thrift, management, method. With her children she must be thoughtful, gentle, firm ; ever ruling her own spirit that she may govern them; self-possessed, yet sympathetic, blending dignity with grace, and tenderness with authority. Toward her husband she will have need to be generous, magnanimous, forgiving; to her guests urbane and gracious; to her neighbors obliging and helpful; to the poor, friendly and kind; toward the great, decorous yet self-respectful. When the family for

meet with reverses, and her husband is dispirited and crushed, from the more flexible and elastic nature should come the spring and vigor by which losses may be retrieved and success re-estab

[ocr errors]

lished. In prosperous affluence her serene spirit may shed the tranquil light of contentment and peace throughout the household. In the time of uttermost need and darkness, when man's hope faileth, and his best discretion is as folly, she may lend wisdom to his councils, and strength to his steps, a wisdom and strength which she has obtained from One who "giveth liberally and upbraideth not." No one so needs the guidance, comfort and succor derived from prayer as she. To no one is the mercy-seat more accessible. The multiplicity of details which constitute her daily care, it would seem can only subject her to perplexity and vexation, but herein is a school for mental improvement and development. The best powers of foresight, skill, combination and construction, may be employed in restoring the tangled web. to order, where every thread shall find its appropriate place and every set of colors shall be assorted in a fit arrangement. Her perspicacity finds scope for exercise in reading the characters of her children ;-and the action of intellect is never so healthful and beautiful as when impelled by beneficent sensibility. The little

generalship of the family summons the best powers into alert and strengthening movement. The feebleness of infancy, the waywardness of youth, the opening consciousness of her larger children, alike demand of her, vigilance, solicitude, self-poise and energy. When she is weary and well-nigh exhausted, how do



the fires of her life rekindle as she beholds the merry sports and gambols of her darlings ! The bloom upon their rosy cheeks, and the light of their sunny glances, bring back the lustre to her own eyes, and the unaccustomed blood to her wan face. In an hour like this she tastes of happiness, and surely no married flirt, no gay, worldly-minded woman ever experienced in quaffing the chalices of adulation offered to her vanity, such pure ethereal joy, as that which fills the true mother's heart in beholding the innocent gladness of her offspring. Their delight is to her as a well of refreshment in the valley of her pilgrimage. Her force of will is invoked that she may govern them; and her sweetest pity that she may pardon; a quick and tender conscience is required for the delicacy and responsibility of her trust. Faith is needed, for she guides the footsteps of beirs of immoritality. Her work should ripen in her confidence in the germs of goodness which she plants in the soil of her children's nature, in the care with which she tends it, in the spiritual ministry which shall guard it, and in the eternal providence which ensures the fruit of her labor. God stations the mother by the cradle and bids her yield her hand to guide the uncertain steps of childhood, that man's earliest years may have the presidency and control of one apt to teach, able to direct, and competent to bless him. The mother is called to a life of self-sacrifice, and is not this the true notion of life, embodying the highest conception of character? The greatest the world has known, whom men have taken for their teacher hath said, “He that would be great among you let him be the servant of all.” Home-life is a toilsome but a benignant ministry ; the highest requital of its service is in the character which is gained by its blessed labor.

Who does not feel and know, that the divinest agency and force with which we are made acquainted, is character ? A perfectly educated will, calms, controls, and directs others. It is higher than intellect, or any form of genius. It blends the strength of Feeling, with the serenity of Reason. It is harmony of nature, wherein the creature's will is subject to the Creator's, after tumultuous striving and long-continued endeavor. It is the one only thing we carry with us to the future. As it is, shall we be-blessed or accursed. Therefore have I called it the true end, and divine power of human life, and said, that the most admirable lot for its acquisition and culture is the home-life of woman.

In these three provinces, then,-literature, society, and home-is her true sphere; here may her influence be exercised, and trophies and rewards, peerless and lasting as the soul itself, be won. By her books, conversation, manners and example, may she instruct and minister. As the world grows wiser

« PreviousContinue »