Congress of Mothers

by Mrs. T. P. Holman

(GOSPEL ADVOCATE, 27 May 1897)

For a week or two past, the papers have had much to say about the Congress of Mothers which met at Washington City Feb. 17–19. There were about 1,000 delegates in attendance. Representative women from all sections of our broad land and from every walk of life were present, and for three days discussed motherhood and its influences in every possible phase.

“The highest social authority in the capital dubbed it the proper thing,” and the meetings were attended by such throngs of people that it was difficult or impossible for large numbers of those who desired to attend to find room. As announced by Mrs. T.W. Birney, the president of the congress, the subject before the convention was child culture, including a considerable range of kindred topics. Women of national and international reputation had prepared and read papers on various subjects. Large numbers of those present had for years been studying the science of motherhood, and some were experts in one or more of the lines presented.

Among the subjects discussed were: “Heredity,” “Day Nurseries,” “Physical Culture,” “Playgrounds in Cities,” “Mother and Child of the Primitive World,” “Mothers and Schools,” “Reading Courses for Mothers,” “National Training Schools for Mothers,” and the like.

This Congress of Mothers but emphasizes the thoughts I tried to bring out in my article, headed “Wanted—Mothers,” in a recent number of the Gospel Advocate. It shows not only the necessity of mothers being aroused to a higher sense of their duties and responsibilities, but what is better, that large numbers of them are already wide awake and studying with all their hearts and souls that they may know what is best in order that they may bring up their children in the best possible way.

It is a noticeable fact that during the present generation the value of the little child has, in the minds of older people, seemed greater than ever before. Such consideration is shown to the childs wishes, such deference to childhoods simple rights as was never known to our ancestors. The first effect of this new order of things has been largely to the childs undoing rather than to his benefit. Wishing the very best possible for their children, parents defer to their wishes in an unreasoning kind of way, granting them every possible natural or artificial desire, never denying them anything in their power to give them, until the child grows up thinking that every want he can formulate must be gratified, while his character lacks the stability that a little wholesome self-denial and a proper discipline would furnish. The arrest of thought came years agone. The hand of our Father was tracing in dim hieroglyphics on the mothers brain the value and importance of the little child he had given her, and her duties and responsibilities to this immortal soul he had intrusted to her keeping. But—alas!—her eyes have been dim, and she has been unable to grasp the meaning of the living characters traced there. Trying to read them, and catching a glimpse here and there of their meaning, many mothers have gone far astray in their endeavors to pursue the proper course. But, again, many are learning to read them aright, and more and more people will do this until “the science of motherhood shall come to claim its rightful place of dignity and power.”

Dwight L. Moody thus outlines his ideas of the destiny of women, and I agree with him most heartily:
“I think the work of women in this world should be, above all, the rearing of a family. God gave into her keeping the souls and characters of the young to make or to mar, and surely there is no nobler or more responsible work than this. From the home, the domain of woman, spring most of the highest impulses of humanity, and to fit her for her great work the Creator made her of a finer cast than man. There is nothing on earth so good, so pure, so exalted, so near this ideal of character as a good woman. . . . I believe that all things else being equal, the happiest woman is the woman who is a mother.....”

How may mothers know what is the best course to pursue in solving the thousand and one perplexing problems that arise in the bringing up of their children? This is the disturbing query in the hearts of thousands of anxious mothers, and these and other thousands are working out their own salvation along this line with fear and trembling: for the proper data for the correct study of this question is not so easy of access as it should be and as it will be in the future.

The first and most important step is to get on the right track to begin with. Consider not alone what is for the childs temporary good, but what is best for his future and eternal good. Keep that always firmly fixed in the mind, never wavering from it for a moment. Get the best thought by the best minds on the subject, and read and digest it carefully. The literature of the subject is augmenting rapidly. Magazine articles, pamphlets, and books are easy to be found by the earnest seeker. One should be supplied with plenty of this literature, and read and compare and glean for ones own use the best of all. Often a number of mothers in the same neighborhood agree to meet together weekly and discuss the subjects, read and compare notes. These mothers meetings are getting to be quite common in many parts of the country. Many such meetings are now held in various parts of this State, and in every State of the Union they are doing the same thing. In the State of Illinois alone last year 2,000 mothers meetings were held, with an attendance of 8,000 women. The thoughtful, earnest inquirer after truth, properly equipped with the best literature on the subject, can give and receive many helpful suggestions in meetings of this kind.

This Congress of Mothers was the outcome of the awakened thought of the nation along this line. I would that I had space to give even an outline of the lines of thought on the various topics discussed. Some of the thoughts presented were infinite in possibilities for good if followed up; others, as might be expected from a gathering of imperfect beings, not practicable, possible, or even best; but all was calculated to set people thinking along lines where there has been too little thought and stir in them the desire to secure all that is best and possible for their children in this world and the world to come.

It is said that the best teachers are not they who teach the child the lessons they would have them learn, but they who teach the child how to learn the lessons for themselves.

If in these articles on motherhood I could but succeed in directing the minds of even a few mothers along proper channels, and get them to investigating these questions for themselves, as terribly in earnest in the matter as mothers ought to be, I should feel that I had not written in vain.

(e-text: JoAnne Toews)

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