Friday, 13 March 2009

The Young Woman in Society by Frances E Willard.

It is hard to write upon this subject, especially when one is a stranger in a strange land, but my interest in the young woman as represented by this magazine, and the young woman as an entity in England and America, is such that I will try to jot down a few points that occur to me. To my mind, the general principle that should govern our relations to society is this - we should try to make those around us better and happier in the most wise and tactful ways, and to adapt those ways to the age, circumstances, and outlook of those with whom we mingle.

A young woman of my acquaintance happily expressed her idea of the best way to conduct oneself in society by saying, "Try to make everybody have a good time, and yet at the same time be doing good to somebody."

"The doing of good" is a wide expression, but it would seem to apply with most force to the building up of those around us against what may be their most subtle and dangerous temptations. For a young woman to take on the air of an exhorter, a mentor, a teacher, or a superior, is odious, and may in every instance defeat her aim, if she is thoughtful enough to have one.

Man must be taught as though you taught him not,
And things remembered told as things forgot.

The right angle is by no means as graceful as the parabola. The circle is the line of beauty, the square the line of use; to combine these should be our aim. By way of practical illustration along paths with which I am familiar, may I mention that when first I began my temperance work, the prettiest and most popular young woman in the senior class of the university in which I was a professor came to me and said, "I really did not think much about the temperance movement until you joined it, and began to speak in public. Your pupils wish to help you in every way they can. Then we have ourselves received what you often call 'the arrest of thought.' Until now I certainly had not a thought upon the subject, but it comes to my mind that I am to entertain our class in my home within a week, and I have purchased a pretty little autograph album, which I have brought with me, that you may write in it the temperance pledge, and sign it yourself as an example to the flock. I will put my name under yours, and we will have the book on a table in some convenient corner of the drawing-room, where from time to time I can show it to different members of our class, both the young men and the young women, - for I should not like to single out the young men and ask them to sign it, " she added , with a wise forethought. This we agreed upon, and the evening in question resulted in a charming social entertainment, and the autographs of nearly every member of the class - there were well-nigh a hundred - being written in the book. Nobody was urged; there was just a little pleasantry about how glad Miss _____ would be to secure the names of her class friends, and a playful exhibition of the "prefatory note in the form of the pledge."

Excerpt from The Young Woman Magazine February, 1893.

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