For education involves knowledge of the means by which health may be preserved and improved, and enables a mother to consult such modern books as will tell her how to rear up her children into healthy men and women, and skillfully nurse them and her husband when disease attacks her household.
Without education she will be not unlikely to listen with fatal results to the advice of superstitious quacks, who pretend to work wonders by charms and magic.
But according to a higher conception of woman’s sphere, woman ought to be something more than a household drudge. She ought to be able, not merely to nurse her husband in sickness, but also to be his companion in health.
For this part of her wifely duty education is necessary, for there cannot well be congenial companionship between an educated man and an uneducated wife, who can converse with her husband on no higher subjects than cookery and servants’ wages.
Also one of a mother’s highest duties is the education of her children at the time when their mind is most amenable to instruction. A child’s whole future life, to a large extent, depends on the teaching it receives in early childhood, and it is needless to say that this first foundation of education cannot be well laid by an ignorant mother. On all these grounds female education is a vital necessity.
But it is sometimes urged that the intellect of women is so weak as to be incapable of receiving and benefiting by any but the lowest form of education. Such an assertion could hardly be made by any one who considers for a moment the instances afforded by history of women who have shown conspicuous ability in statesmanship, literature, science, and art.
The list of women who have by their intellectual power won for themselves an eminent position in history is a long one, and would be still longer if in the past they had enjoyed the same educational advantages as were given to men.
The only real danger to be apprehended from female education arises from an imperfect view of the scope of education. If education is confined to mere book-learning, there is a danger that women may, from physical weakness, succumb to the intellectual strain put upon them in their studies at school and college.
The remedy for this is to remember that physical training is an essential part of education, and to allow women the opportunity of strengthening their physical powers by regular exercise, especially by exercise in the open air, so that they have the good health necessary for the profitable prosecution of their studies.