Teach Your Daughters the Art of Homemaking, Annie S. Swan, 1894


From Courtship and Marriage and the Gentle Art of Homemaking  by Annie S. Swan, 1894

Even a very young daughter can be of use to her mother, and her influence felt in the house, if she is taught how. Of course, the first concern, when our little maid gets out of the nursery, is that she should be educated, and her mental powers have the best possible chance of being brought to their full power.

The education of our girls is one of the great questions of the day—engrossing the interest of those in the highest places; and a healthy sign of the times it is. For since it is upon the women of to-day that the future of the race depends, what could be of greater importance than that all her powers, physical, mental, and moral, should be brought as near perfection as possible?

Do I of a set purpose mention the physical first? Yes; because the older I grow the more it comes home to me that unless we have sound and healthy bodies we can but poorly serve our day and generation.

Therefore the food the children eat should be one of our chief studies and concerns; because if we can send them out into the world with constitutions built upon a sure and common-sense foundation, it is the best possible service we can render them; and one for which they and theirs will be grateful always.

This question of education is rather a perplexing one, which gives parents a great deal of anxious thought.

It is gratifying to observe that many parents are awaking to the absurdity of insisting that their daughters shall acquire a superficial knowledge of certain accomplishments, whatever the bent of their minds. How much money, to say nothing of precious time, has been sacrificed in the vain pursuit of music, that sweetest of the arts; which is so often desecrated and tortured by unwilling and unsympathetic votaries.

It very soon becomes evident whether the child has an aptitude for music or not; and if she has not, but finds the study of it an imposition and a trial, what is the use of forcing her to such unwilling drudgery, when very likely she possesses some other aptitude, the cultivation of which will be both profitable and pleasant?

How many girls upon whom pounds and pounds have been spent never touch the piano when they are emancipated from schoolroom control; and how much more usefully could both time and money have been employed in the pursuit of something else!

Mothers are beginning to see this, and it is a welcome awakening. So long as our young maiden is occupied with school and lessons, she has not time to learn much else, since it is imperative that she has recreation likewise; it is when she leaves school that the wise mother, having an eye to the future, will at once seek to initiate her into the mysteries of housekeeping.

She ought not to be ignorant of what used to be considered the chief, if not the only occupation for women,—she ought to be fit to keep house on the shortest notice. It is a woman’s heritage.

Whatever she may or may not know, I hold that she ought to acquire a certain amount of domestic knowledge, whether she uses it or not. Most young girls are interested in domestic affairs, and are never happier than when allowed to have their finger in the domestic pie; but in this as in other things a thorough grounding is the most satisfactory.

It is astonishing what undreamed-of qualities a sense of responsibility awakens in a young soul; how the very idea that something depends on her, that she is being trusted, puts our little maid upon her mettle.

Therefore it is a good plan to leave to a young daughter some particular duty or duties for which she is entirely responsible. This may of course be a very slight thing to begin with—the dusting of a room, or the arrangement of flowers or books, or the superintendence of the tea-table; but whatever it is, the mother should insist that it be done regularly and at the appointed time.

Thus will she teach her child punctuality and a primary lesson in a method, which is the key to all perfect housekeeping.

Of course it is a little trouble to the mother to superintend the performance of such little duties, but she will have her reward in the daily increasing helpfulness of the daughter in the home.

Most young girls, if skillfully dealt with, speedily learn to take a special pride in their own little duties, especially if their efforts be met with appreciation.

Never snub a child; the young heart is very sensitive, and takes a long time to forget.

Little changes in the domestic routine will be introduced by the wise mother, in order that the work may not become irksome. Where there are several daughters, it is a good plan for them to exchange their particular duties for a time. Thus, one may assist with the cooking for a week, then change with her sister who has the care and arrangement of the drawing-room or sitting-room, or with the one who helps with the mending.

So the daily round would never become monotonous, and by gradual and pleasant degrees a knowledge of the whole system of housekeeping is acquired, which will be simply invaluable to her, whatever her future may be.

I again insist that it is every woman’s duty to know, or to acquire some practical knowledge of housekeeping. Her fitness for it will be a perpetual source of satisfaction to her, for there is nothing more self-satisfying than to feel that one is capable; it gives confidence, strength, and self-reliance.

One of the very necessary lessons to be taught a young girl is the value of money. The sooner she learns what equivalent in household necessaries money can procure the better. The day may come when the tired mother will be glad to be relieved even of the responsibility of spending, and when, thanks to her own wisdom and foresight, she can place the family purse in younger hands, knowing that the contents will not be recklessly or extravagantly spent.

Let our young maiden feel that she is entirely trusted, and that a great deal is expected of her, then will she display qualities undreamed-of. She will be eager to show what she can do; and when the word of encouragement and appreciation is not lacking she will be proud and happy indeed.

Of course there are perverse natures, of whom one is tempted at times to despair—irresponsible young persons who would make wild havoc in any establishment left to their care; but I am speaking of the average young girl, who may be expected to be thoughtless and forgetful often, as is the way of youth, but who nevertheless has the makings of a fine, gentle-hearted, noble woman in her.

She ought not to be ignorant of what used to be considered the chief, if not the only occupation for women,—she ought to be fit to keep house on the shortest notice. It is a woman’s heritage. -Gentle Art of Homemaking, Annie Swan https://amzn.to/2XhJsGS (afflink)


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