Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Fenelon's Treatise
on the
Education of Daughters;
Translanted from the French and Adapted to English Readers
With an Original Chapter, "On Religious Studies."
By the Rev. T. F. Dibdin, B. A. F. A. S
Albany; printed and published by Backus and Whiting, 1806.

Chapter I.
On the Importance of the Education of Daughters.

THE Education of Girls is, in general, exceedingly neglected :* custom, and maternal caprice, often appear to have the entire regulation of it. It absolutely seems as if we

* It must be remembered that the above sentiment was expressed in the year 1688, when the want of a good system of female education was universally felt and regretted. At the present day, we witness a noble reverse of things ; and whatever theories may have been proposed abroad, we can never cease to admire the labours, and applaud the sagacity, of our countrywomen in behalf of their sex.

supposed the sex to be in need of little or no instruction. On the other hand, the Education of Boys is considered as a very important concern, affecting the welfare of the public ; and although it be frequently attended with errors and mistakes, great abilities are nevertheless thought necessary for the accomplishment of it. The brightest talents have been engaged to form plans and modes of instruction: What numbers of masters and colleges do we behold ? What expences incurred in the printing of books, in researches after science, in modes of teaching languages, in the establishment of professors ? All these grand preparations may probably have more shew than substance, but they sufficiently denote the high idea we entertain of the education of Boys. In regard to Girls, some exclaim, " why make them learned ? curiosity renders them vain and conceited : it is sufficient if they be one day able to govern their families, and implicitly obey their husbands !" Examples are then adduced of many women whom, science has rendered ridiculous ; and on such contemptible authority we think ourselves justified in blindly abandoning our daughters to the conduct of ignorant and indiscreet mothers.

It is true, that we should be on our guard not to make them ridiculously learned. Women, in general, possess a weaker but more inquisitive mind than men ; hence it follows that their pursuits should be of a quiet and sober turn. They are not formed to govern the state, to make war, or to enter into the church ; so that they may well dispense with any profound knowledge relating to politics, military tactics, philosophy, and theology. The greater part of the mechanical arts are also improper for them : they are made for moderate exercise ; their bodies as well as minds are less strong and energetic than those of men ; but to compensate for their defects, nature has bestowed on them a spirit of industry, united with a propriety of behaviour, and an economy which renders them at once the ornament and comfort of home.*

* This idea is beautifully expressed in the following lines of THOMSON :--
" To give society its highest taste,
Well-ordered home iron's best delight to make ;
And by submissive wisdom, modest skill,.
"With every gentle care-eluding art
To raise the virtues, animate the bliss,
And sweeten all the toils of human life :
Thus be the female dignity and praise!"
Autumn, ver, 602-608.

But admitting that women are by nature weaker than men, what is the consequence ? What, but that the weaker they are, the more they stand in need of support. Have they not duties to perform, which are the very foundation of human existence ? Consider, it is women who ruin or uphold families ; who regulate the minutiae of domestic affairs ; and who consequently decide upon some of the dearest and tenderest points which affect the happiness of Man. They have undoubtedly the strongest influence on the manners, good or bad, of society. A sensible woman, who is industrious and religious, is the very soul of a large establishment, and provides both for its temporal and eternal welfare.- Notwithstanding the authority of men in public affairs, it is evident, that, they cannot effect any lasting good, without the intervention and support of women. The world is not a phantom, it is the aggregate of all its families ; and who can civilize and govern these with a nicer discrimination than women? besides their natural assiduity and authority at home, they are peculiarly calculated for it, by a carefulness, attention to particulars, industry, and a soft and persuasive manner. - Can men promise themselves any felicity in this life, if marriage, the very essence of domestic society, be productive of bitterness and disappointment ? and as to children, who are to constitute the future generation, to what misery will they be exposed, if their mothers, ruin them from the cradle ?

Such then, are the occupations of the female sex, which cannot be deemed of less importance to society than those of the male. It appears that they have a house and establishment to regulate, a husband to make happy, and children to rear. Virtue is as necessary for men as for women ; and without entering upon the comparative good or ill which society experiences from the latter sex, it must be remembered that they are one half of the human race, REDEEMED BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST, AND DESTINED TO LIFE ETERNAL.

Lastly, let us not forget that if women do great good to the community when well educated, they are capable of infinite mischief when viciously instructed. It is certain that a bad education works less ill in a male, than in a female breast ; for the vices of men often proceed from the bad education which their mothers have given them, and from passions which have been installed into them at a riper age, from casual intercourse with women.

What intrigues does history present to us, what subversion of laws and manners, what bloody wars, what innovations in religion, what revolutions in states, all arising from the irregularities of women? Ought not these considerations to impress us with the importance of female education? Let us, therefore, discuss the various means of accomplishing so desirable an object.

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