I believe the present era holds great opportunity for the daughters of America. But in order to lay hold of this opportunity and obtain success in this wonderful battle of life, there is one thing you must do: Keep to your specialty, to the doing of the thing that you accomplish with the most satisfaction to yourself and the most benefit to those about you.
Keep to this, whether it be raising turnips or tunes; painting screens or battle-pieces; studying political economy or domestic receipts; for, as we read in a great author who has a genius for common sense: “There is not one thing that men ought to do, there is not one thing that ought to be done, which a women ought not to be encouraged to do, if she has the capacity for doing it. For wherever there is a gift, there is a prophecy pointing to its use, and a silent command of God to use it.”
Such utterances as these are assertions of the “natural and inalienable rights” of the individual as such. They are deductions of the Christian philosophy that regards you and me, first and chiefly, as human beings, and makes the greatest possible account of personal identity.
In all the ages there have been minds that saw this truth. The intellects who towered like alpine peaks above the mass of men were the first to reflect its blessed light. Two thousand years ago, the Roman poet Juvenal made the heroine of a famous satire say to the hero: “I like our Latin word for man, which equally includes your sex and mine. For you should not forget that, in all things highest, best and most enduring in our natures, I am as much a man as you are.”
The sun of truth looms high above the far horizon in our day, and even the plains of human thought and purpose are glowing with the light of this new inspiration. Terms such as “personal value” and “personal development” will be the noontide watchwords “when the race out of childhood has grown.” Only yesterday I heard a fashionable butterfly, in the surroundings of a luxurious home, say with sudden enthusiasm: “Of one thing I am sure; every woman who lives is bound to find out what is the very best thing she can do with her powers, and then she’s bound to do it.”
In creating each of us with some peculiar talent, God has given us each “a call” to some peculiar work. Indeed, the time is almost here when the only call that will be recognized as valid, in any field, must involve in him who thinks he hears it both adaptation and success.
Each one of us is a marvelous bundle of aptitudes and capacities. But just as I prefer the active to the passive voice, I prefer to put the aptitudes first in my present inventory.
Besides, the world has harangued us women on our capacities from the beginning, and it is really refreshing to take the dilemma of our destiny by the other horn at last! Civilization (by which I mean Christianity’s effect on the brains and hands of humanity) wonderfully develops and differentiates our powers.
Among the Modocs Indians, there are only four specialties–two for the squaws and two for the braves. The last hunt and fight; the first do the drudgery and bring up the papooses.
Among the Parisians, on the contrary, the division of labor is almost infinite, so that the hand perfectly skilled in the most minute industry (such as molding the shoestrings of a porcelain statuette) needs no other resource to gain a comfortable livelihood.
Among the Modocs, skins are about the only article of commerce. Among the Parisians, evolution has gone so far in the direction of separating employments formerly blended that you cannot buy cream and milk in the same shop.
By some unaccountable perversion of good sense, the specialties of human beings who are women have been strangely circumscribed. But they were there all the same, and now, under the genial sun of a more enlightened era, they are coming airily forth, like singing birds after a thunderstorm, and wonderfully they help some of us to solve the toughest of all problems: What is life for?
Let us see. Lift the cover of your sewing basket: There are thimble, scissors, spools of thread and other tools needed by a seamstress, but minus the needle they have no explanation and no efficiency. Unlock your writing desk: What are paper, ink and sealing wax without the pen? They are nothing but waste material and toys.
So it is with you and me. We have no explanation that is adequate; we have no place in the workbox and portfolio of today; no place in the great humming hive of the land we live in, save as some predominating aptitude in each of us explains why we are here, and in what way we are to swell the inspiring song of voluntary toil and beneficent success.
Suppose that here and now, you proceed to take an “inventory of stock,” if you have not been thoughtful enough to do that already. Made up as you are, what is your forte, your “specialty,” your “best hold,” as men phrase it? Be sure of one thing at the outset: The great Artificer, in putting together your individual nature, did not forget His crowning gift, any more than He forgets to add its own peculiar fragrance to the rose or its own song to the lark.