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knowledge which we are expected to possess. This is precisely the practical knowledge which the wife wants every day of her life, and without it her life cannot be comfortable, or scarcely respectable. So vital is this knowledge, that without it the day of marriage instead of the commencement of happiness is the beginning of misery. No husband can long respect a wife whom he finds destitute of the commonest qualifications for her station. No woman can long command respect from her household, who hourly displays an incapacity for its management. She must know enough to govern her subordinates, or they will govern her. From them she cannot hide her deficiencies, and it will not be long before they learn to take advantage of them. Without that system, which practical knowledge alone can bring about, her house will be a scene of waste and disorder, of discomfort and insubordination. To a housewife knowledge is power, ignorance is weakness. To the head of a family knowledge is happiness, ignorance is misery.
I count it therefore a most melancholy sight when I see a mother bringing up her daughters in utter ignorance of household affairs, and of course for all the practical duties in utter inefficiency. It is as much cruelty and injustice as to neglect to have them taught to read and write. The effect moreover upon the character is bad. It is only by action, by responsible action that the character can be formed to strength and energy. There is no other way to inspire confidence and courage. It is only by experience of the past that we can gain faith for the future. That we can perform the duties of tomorrow would seem to us utterly incredible, had we not performed the duties of yesterday. There is scarcely a greater happiness, I will not say source of happiness, but rather a greater enjoyment, than the sense of power arising from having done something. The feeling, “I can do this or that, which is necessary to my well being.I am not destitute of resource. Place me where you will, and I shall know what to do, and how to do it,” is the source of infinite satisfaction. On the contrary, the sense of helplessness and inefficiency, arising from never having proved our powers, even if we have them, is the source of despondency and
depression. I therefore counsel every young woman, who hears me this night, to resolve that whether encouraged in it or not, she will know both by theory and practice every thing that can be known of domestic affairs. You owe it to yourselves and your own happiness. A life of energy and action is the only life worth living. Woman was not made to dream away a sickly existence over sentiment, and castle-building, and the trifles of the day. She is made for duty, for action, for usefulness, and it is only when thus employed that she feels her existence ennobled and exalted, and her life redeemed from utter nothingness and vacuity.
Then there are even graver considerations, which ought to induce you to gain all the practical knowledge that comes within your reach at an early period of life. It is impossible for you to know before hand how you are to spend the three score years and ten of life, if you are spared so long. Time makes fearful revolutions in the condition of mankind, particularly of women. Reverses are sufficiently severe when they fall upon the stronger sex.
It is difficult for them to bear up under their troubles, it is difficult for them to provide for their wants on the most limited scale. What then is the condition of a woman thrown upon her own resources? I would not detail to you if I had the time, what I myself have seen of sad and sudden reverse, of unprotected females precipitated in a moment from comfortable circumstances to abject want; widows accustomed to luxury and abundance, suddenly stripped of all, and surrounded with young children, asking in vain for bread. With the best training, the condition is a melancholy one. It is alleviated and rendered tolerable precisely in proportion to the previous development of business habits and practical industry. With these, no condition is desperate. This is a world of labor, and it is ordained that those shall prosper who are willing to toil. But the willingness may exist without the capacity. The very habit and faculty of keeping accounts, has saved many a woman from want, and been the means of training a rising family to usefulness and respectability. From these reverses no woman is exempt, the most affluent are perhaps most exposed to them. They may take place without their fault, or the fault of any one with whom they
are immediately connected. It is fearful to see how soon death may place a solitude about a person, who is now surrounded by troops of relatives and friends. To be convinced what fearful changes time brings over the world, we have only to look back a few years, and consider who were the rich and distinguished, and who occupied the most conspicuous places in the public view. Where are they now? The following years will produce the same changes, and who are to be affected by them, it is impossible to foresee.
But death and misfortune are not the only causes of the loss of fortune. In cities there is another quite as prolific, the misconduct of husbands. Young ladies of wealth and expectations are ever surrounded by a set of young men, whom it is needless to describe, without character, talent or business, whose whole stock in trade is dandyism, dissipation and impudence, and whose whole adventure in life is to insinuate themselves into the affections of some unsuspecting heiress.
Those who have the misfortune to fall into the hands of such a pirate, are almost sure sooner or later to be stripped of all, and then