by Silena M. Holman

(GOSPEL ADVOCATE, 1 April 1880)

Not long since I read somewhere of an incident in a Texas court something like this: A witness being sworn in an El Paso court, gave her occupation as that of “wife and mother,” at which “the court smiled.” The writer goes on to say that perhaps if the woman had replied that she was a public lecturer on the rights of downtrodden women, an advocate of bloomer dress reform, or even a concert hall singer, the court would not have smiled, with much stuff of the same sort, all of which set me thinking.

The first thought was an inquiry. Is it possible that in our broad land, as especially in our sunny south, among our lovely southern women, the occupation of women as public lecturers, as advocates of bloomer dress, and the like, were so common as to excite no comment, while the occupation of “wife and mother” is so “old-fashioned and out of date,” as the writer said as to cause a smile to ripple over the face of the modern man when he chances to meet up with one who is a wife and mother?

Then I began to cast about among my friends and acquaintances and the people I had seen, and about whom I knew, and among them all—tens of thousands of them—are wives and mothers and only a very few of them are public lecturers and the rest of it, and many of these are also wives and mothers. So it could not have been because the “occupation of wife and mother” is “so old-fashioned and out of date” that “the court smiled.” Perhaps it was because the woman called it an “occupation.”

Then my thoughts scattered off in another direction, as they have a way of doing, and I thought that among the tens of thousands of mothers in our land, how many of them were the right sort of mothers—mothers in the best sense of that best of all good words, mothers who make this their life business, their occupation, mothers who equip themselves for this occupation, this life business, “this only royal profession of womanhood,” by any sort of preparation or education or knowledge such as the humblest professional man would seek to acquire before entering the meanest profession of them all?

And, knowing how few do this, how few women have any sort of educational or preparatory equipment for this royal profession, I have come to the conclusion that the crying want of the age is mothers—mothers who are wide awake, mothers who know what the best interest of their children require, and who are willing to sacrifice everything necessary that these best interests may be subserved.

In other times, when life was of a more primitive nature, and men had few interests outside of providing food, clothing, and shelter of the simplest kind for the body, perhaps little more was necessary than the natural instinct implanted in every mothers heart, whether animal or human, to defend and provide for her offspring until they were old enough to do this for themselves.

But in these days of our complex civilization, when life demands so much from everyone, outside of these first simple requirements the mother is poorly equipped indeed who depends only on her motherly instincts for guidance in her efforts to prepare her child for the battle of life, and his effort to secure for himself the best there is in this world and the world to come.

Herbert Spencer passes this scathing criticism on the educational system of our day: “If by some strange chance, not a vestige of us descended to the remote future save a pile of our schoolbooks or some college examination papers, we may imagine how puzzled an antiquarian of the period would be on finding in them no indication that the learners were ever likely to be parents. This must have been the curriculum for their celibates, we may fancy him concluding. I perceive here an elaborate preparation for many things—especially for reading the books of extinct nations and coexisting nations, from which indeed it seems clear that these people had very little worth reading in their own tongue—but I find no reference whatever to the bringing up of children. They could not have been so absurd as to omit all training for the gravest of responsibilities. Evidently then, this was the school course of one of their monastic orders. ”

Lide Meriwether says: “The training of mothers will be the chief corner stone of a higher, purer, nobler, civilization than the world has ever seen.” With all my heart I agree with her. Mothers sin in the bringing up of their children, not willfully but ignorantlly. If they only could realize, if they only knew, what terrible results would inevitably follow this indulgence or that failure to properly discipline them, or the neglect to properly cultivate every faculty of the childs mind and character that would lead to a better development, and to check or uproot every tendency that would result in evil, they would unwaveringly pursue the right course. Surely there is not a mother but wishes all that is best for her child. She will sacrifice herself for her child in every possible way—her rest, her comfort, her very life if need be, asking, expecting no reward but her childs love; still surrendering everything willingly gladly, even though that reward be not forthcoming, if she may but add to her childs real or imaginary comfort in the least.

Think what an immense power for good in this world this wonderful force of a mothers self-devotion, self-sacrifice, self-immolation would be if directed along proper channels, by an intelligent understanding of what her child really needs, both for the best development of the best forces of his life and character and for the suppression of evil tendencies. How it would assist in the building up of a manhood and a womanhood that would help to make the world a better place in which to live! They dont know, and the world wants mothers who do know; for

    A partnership with God is motherhood.

    What strength, what purity, what self-control.

    What love, what wisdom, should belong to her

    Who helps God fashion an immortal soul !

There is nothing on earth so important as that mothers should absolutely know what course to pursue with their children all through their prenatal lives, as well as along every step of their earthly lives, from the hour the child first opens his eyes to the light of day until her control is lost in the light of a perfectly developed, fully matured manhood or womanhood.

Thousands of mothers go wrong from the very beginning. They havent an idea of their duties and responsibilities during the prenatal life of their children. They start with an unnatural dislike to having children at all, and their hearts are filled with anger and hatred and such murderous feelings that it often leads to prenatal murder. Many, while not going so far, still allow these feelings to predominate in their hearts at this all important period, and their children are born into the world—into what a heritage! Does any one having the least idea of the influence of the mother over the prenatal life of her child, wonder why there are so many murderous monstrosities cropping out from among those supposed to be well nurtured people? Knowing what I know of many womens dislike to bearing children, I sometimes wonder that there are not more. So the child is often ushered into the world, most unwelcome at the beginning; but mothers love soon comes to her assistance, and the child, so unwelcome at first, comes to be worth more to her than the value of a thousand worlds. What would she not do to promote the well-being of her child?

But a large number of mothers are ignorant of the first principles of the childs requirements. Instead of allowing the child to rest undisturbed between proper intervals of feeding, it is nursed and fondled and rocked and shaken and jumped until its body and nerves are racked with pain. It is fed every time in manifests a desire for attention of any sort, if that is half a dozen times an hour, until its stomach and bowels are disordered and the childs life is endangered. Surviving this, as it grows older it is indulged, petted, and noticed until the child is miserable, without it, even for a moment. Children are encouraged into precociousness mentally, and grow up with a self-consciousness and a desire for abnormal excitement that is a detriment to them all the days of their lives. They are sent to school and taught the usual branches and accomplishments, but few things that go to real character building or to fitting them to the business of their lives, and are launched into the world with as little idea of the duties and responsibilities of life as had their mothers before them.

O that we had mothers who were capable of properly molding the wax of their little childrens lives and habits when it is most susceptible to impressions! Some one has said: “Beat not your knuckles against the granite of mature character, when you can mold the clay of a three year olds life and habit.”

Press, pulpit, and platform tell us in season and out, that “the only royal profession for woman is motherhood.” I believe that with all my heart; but where in all our broad land are the means of equipping the young women who enter the matrimonial field for the practice of this royal profession? I believe that the best talent in the scientific world, the best thought of the centuries, the best experience of the ages, should be at the command of those who would follow this profession.

I believe women should study to know how she may exert the right sort of influence over the prenatal life of her child—how to feed it and care for it, that she may keep it in the best possible health; how to train its moral and mental nature, that her child may grow up into the heritage of a well-balanced life.

If I were a woman (as I am), I would study these questions with all my heart (as I have done all my life). If I were a man, whatever qualities I might consider requisite for a wife, I should choose for the mother of my children a woman who was wide awake, intelligent, healthy, industrious and well balanced from every point of view.

I believe that when the “new woman” (not the “new woman” of the newspaper paragrapheds imagination, but a “new woman” as she is and will be) comes into her kingdom, wide-awake, alert, thoughtful, up to date, she will not depreciate, but so magnify and glorify the profession of motherhood that there will be an evolution of the present type of mankind into a higher race of beings. I believe that the crying want of the age is mothers, the right sort of mothers—mothers who are devoted and earnest and religious and intelligent and wide-awake and up to date and well informed; mothers who understand and appreciate the sacredness and responsibilities of motherhood; mothers who believe that a childs first and most sacred right is the right to be rightly born, and who welcome their children into the world with wide-open arms and tender, expectant, loving hearts; mothers who place their duties to their children above any other earthly duty, and who go about the performance of these duties in an intelligent, understanding way; mothers who, though they may be compelled at times to follow other avocations, yet believe that motherhood is the best of them all, that “the only royal profession of woman is motherhood.”

May God give us more such mothers!

(e-text: JoAnne Toews)

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