Very long ago the needle was busy. It was considered honorable for women to toil in olden time. Alexander the Great stood in his palace showing garments made by his own mother. The finest tapestries at Bayeux were made by the Queen of William the Conqueror. Augustus the Emperor would not wear any garments except those that were fashioned by some member of his royal family. So let the toiler everywhere be respected!
The greatest blessing that could have happened to our first parents was being turned out of Eden after they had done wrong. Adam and Eve, in their perfect state, might have got along without work, or only such slight employment as a perfect garden, with no weeds in it, demanded. But, as soon as they had sinned, the best thing for them was to be turned out where they would have to work. We know what a withering thing it is for a man to have nothing to do. Old Ashbel Green, at fourscore years, when asked why he kept on working, said, “I do so to keep out of mischief.” We see that a man who has a large amount of money to start with has no chance. Of the thousand prosperous and honorable men that you know, nine hundred and ninety-nine had to work vigorously at the beginning.
But I am now to tell you that industry is just as important for a woman’s safety and happiness. The most unhappy women in our communities to-day are those who have no engagements to call them up in the morning; who, once having risen and breakfasted, lounge through the dull forenoon in slippers down at the heel and with dishevelled hair, reading George Sand’s last novel; and who, having dragged through a wretched forenoon and taken their afternoon sleep, and having spent an hour and a half at their toilet, pick up their card-case and go out to make calls; and who pass their evenings waiting for somebody to come in and break up the monotony. Arabella Stuart never was imprisoned in so dark a dungeon as that.
There is no happiness in an idle woman. It may be with hand, it may be with brain, it may be with foot; but work she must, or be wretched forever. The little girls of our families must be started with that idea. The curse of our American society is that our young women are taught that the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, tenth, fiftieth, thousandth thing in their life is to get somebody to take care of them. Instead of that, the first lesson should be, how, under God, they may take care of themselves. The simple fact is that a majority of them do have to take care of themselves, and that, too, after having, through the false notions of their parents, wasted the years in which they ought to have learned how successfully to maintain themselves. We now and here declare the inhumanity, cruelty, and outrage of that father and mother, who pass their daughters into womanhood, having given them no facility for earning their livelihood. Madame de Stael said: “It is not these writings that I am proud of, but the fact that I have facility in ten occupations, in any one of which I could make a livelihood.”