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since they have households to regulate, husbands to make happy, and children to bring up well. Add to this that virtue is no less for women than for men; without speaking of the good or ill they can do to the public, they are the half of the human race, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and destined to eternal life.
6. Finally, we must consider, besides the good which women do when they are well brought up, the evil which they cause in the world when they lack an education which inspires them with virtue. It is unquestionable that the bad education of women does more harm than that of men, since the disorders of men often come both from the evil training which they have received from their mothers, and from the passions which other women have inspired in them at a more advanced age. What intrigues are presented to us in history, what overturnings of laws and manners, what bloody wars, what innovations in religion, what revolutions in the state, caused by the profligacy of women! These are the considerations that prove the importance of giving girls a good education : let us seek the means of doing so.
Defects of the Prevailing Education.
7. A girl's ignorance is the cause that she grows weary, and that she does not know how to employ herself innocently. When she has reached a certain age without applying herself to solid things, she has neither a taste nor regard for them; all that is serious appears to her sad, all that demands sustained attention fatigues her; the inclination to pleasure, which is strong in youth, the examples of persons of the same age who are plunged in amusements
- all serves to make her fear a regular and laborious life. At this early age she lacks the experience and authority to manage anything in the house of her parents; she does not even know the im
portance of applying herself to it, unless her mother has taken care to instruct her in detail. If she is of rank, she is exempt from the work of her hands : she will work therefore only some hour of the day, because people say, without knowing why, that it is proper for women to work; but often it will be only a pretense, and she will not become accustomed to continuous employment.
8. In this condition what will she do? The companionship of a mother who watches her, who scolds her, who thinks she is bringing her up properly by overlooking nothing, who is reconciled with her, who makes her endure her whims, and who always appears burdened with domestic cares, offends and repels her; she has around her flattering women, who seek to insinuate themselves into her regard by base and dangerous attentions, follow all her idle fancies, and entertain her with all that can disgust her with the good: piety seems to her a tiresome business a rule hostile to every pleasure. With what will she occupy herself? With nothing useful. This heedlessness will even turn into an incurable habit.
9. Meanwhile there is a great vacancy, which one can not hope to fill with solid things; it is necessary, therefore, that frivolous things take their place. In this inactivity a girl gives herself up to idleness; and idleness, which is a languor of the soul, is an inexhaustible source of weariness. She accustoms herself to sleep a third more than would be needful to keep her in perfect health; this large amount of sleep serves only to enervate her, to make her more delicate, more exposed to bodily ills: while moderate sleep, accompanied by regular exercise, renders a person cheerful, vigorous and strong - a thing which undoubtedly tends to the true perfection of the body, not to speak of its advantages to the mind. This effeminacy and indolence, being joined to ignorance, heget a pernicious desire for diversions and
plays; they excite an inconsiderate and insatiable curiosity.
10. Persons who are educated and engaged in serious employments, have ordinarily only a moderate curiosity: what they know gives them a contempt for many things that they do not know; they see the uselessness and folly of most of the things which little minds that know nothing and have nothing to do, are eager to learn.
On the contrary, girls who are badly educated and indolent, always have a wandering imagination. For lack of solid nourishment, their curiosity ardently turns toward vain and dangerous objects. Those who have cleverness often become affected, and read all the books that can feed their vanity; they become passionately fond of novels, comedies, and fantastic adventures, in which sexual love has a place. They develop a visionary spirit of accustoming themselves to the magniloquent language of romantic heroes: they are even spoiled in that way for society; for all those beautiful, high-flown sentiments, all those generous passions, all those adventures which the author of the novel has invented for pleasure, have no connection with the true motives that operate in the world and decide its affairs, nor with the disappointments that one finds in all that one undertakes.
A poor girl, full of the tender and marvelous incidents that have charmed her in her reading, is astonished not to find in society real persons resembling these heroes: she would like to live as imaginary princesses, who in novels are always charming, always adored, and always above every need. What disgust for her to descend from this heroism to the smallest details of housekeeping !
II. Some women push their inquisitiveness still further, and meddle in the decision of religious questions, although they lack the requisite knowledge. But those who have not sufficient openness of mind for these matters, have others that are suited to them: they ardently desire to know what
is said, what is done, a song, a bit of news, an intrigue; to receive letters, to read those that others receive; they wish to be told all, and also to tell all; they are vain, and vanity talks a great deal; they are frivolous, and frivolity prevents the thoughtfulness which would often keep silent.
Various Principles and Recommendations.
12. It is necessary to be content with following and aiding nature. Children know but little, we should not urge them to talk : but since they do not know many things, they have many questions to ask. It is sufficient to answer them precisely, and to add sometimes little comparisons in order to render more intelligible the explanations that one is to give them. If they express a judgment of something without knowing it well, it is needful to embarrass them by some new question, in order to make them feel their error, without rudely putting them to confusion. At the same time we should let them see, not by vague praises, but by some practical mark of esteem, that we approve them much more when they doubt and when they ask what they do not know, than when they decide the best. This is the true means of imparting to their minds, with much politeness, a genuine modesty, and a great contempt for the wranglings that are so common with young people of little intelligence.
13. The curiosity of children is a natural inclination which goes out to meet instruction; do not fail to take advantage of it. In the country, for example, they see a mill, and wish to know what it is; we should show them how the food that nourishes man is prepared. They observe some harvesters, and it is necessary to explain to them what they are doing, how grain is sowed, and how it multiplies in the earth. In the city they see shops where different arts are practiced, and where different articles of merchandise are
sold. We should never be annoyed by their questions; these are openings which nature offers in order to facilitate instruction: express a pleasure in them; in that way you will gradually teach them how all the things are made which are of use to man, and with which commerce is concerned. Little by little, without special study, they will learn the best way to make everything they need, and the just value of it, which is the true foundation of economy. This knowledge, which ought to be despised by no one, since everybody has need to estimate his expense, is chiefly necessary to girls. 14.
We have remarked that the brain of children is altogether warm and moist, a fact that gives them continual movement. By reason of this softness of the brain everything is easily impressed upon it, and the images of all sensible objects are very vivid : hence we should make haste to write on their minds while the characters are easily formed there. But we should chose well the images that we are to engrave there; for we should pour into so small and precious a receptacle only exquisite things: we should remember that we ought, at that age, to pour into minds only what we desire to remain there for life. The first impressions made while the brain is still soft, and nothing is written there, are the most profound. Besides they harden as age dries the brain; hence they become ineffaceable: whence it happens that when one is old, one distinctly remembers the things of youth, although far distant, while one recollects less clearly what has been seen at a more advanced age, because the impressions have been made upon the brain when it was hardened and full of other images.
15. At the same time it is necessary to seek every means to render agreeable to the child what you demand of her. If you have something unpleasant to propose, let her understand that the pain will be soon followed by pleasure; show her always the utility of the things you teach her; make her