Moving the Mountain, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Chapter 9

I LEARNED to understand the immense material prosperity of the country much more easily than its social progress.

The exquisite agriculture which made millions of acres from raw farms and ranches into rich gardens, the forestry which had changed our straggling woodlands into great tree-farms, yielding their steady crops of cut boughs, thinned underbrush, and full-grown trunks, those endless orchard roads, with their processions of workers making continual excursions in their special cars, keeping roadway and bordering trees in perfect order — all this one could see.

There were, of course far more of the wilder, narrower roads, perfect as the road-bed, but not parked, with all untrimmed nature to travel through.

The airships did make a difference. To look down on the flowing, outspread miles beneath gave a sense of the unity and continuous beauty of our country, quite different from the streak views we used to get. An airship is a moving mountain-top.

The cities were even more strikingly beautiful, in that the change was greater, the contrast sharper. I never tired of wandering about on foot along the streets of cities, and I visited several, finding, as Nellie said, that it took no longer to improve twenty than one; the people in each could do it as soon as they chose to.

But what made them choose? What had got into the people? That was what puzzled me most. It did not show outside, like the country changes, and the rebuilt cities; the people did not look remarkable, though they were different, too. I watched and studied them, trying to analyze the changes that could be seen. Most visible was cleanliness, comfort, and beauty in dress.

I had never dreamed of the relief to the spectator in not seeing any poverty. We were used to it, of course; we had our excuses, religious and economic, we even found, or thought we found, artistic pleasure in this social disease. But now I realized what a nightmare it had been — the sights, the sounds, the smells of poverty — merely to an outside observer.

These people had good bodies, too. They were not equally beautiful, by any means; thirty years, of course, could not wholly return to the normal a race long stunted and overworked. But in the difference in the young generation I could see at a glance the world’s best hope, that the “long inheritance” is far deeper than the short.

Those of about twenty and under, those who were born after some of these changes had been made, were like another race. Big, sturdy, blooming creatures, boys and girls alike, swift and graceful, eager, happy, courteous — I supposed at first that these were the children of exceptionally placed people; but soon found, with a heart-stirring sort of shock, that all the children were like that.

Some of the old folk still carried the scars of earlier conditions, but the children were new people.

Then of my own accord I demanded reasons. Nellie laughed sweetly.

“I’m so glad you’ve come to your appetite,” she said. “I’ve been longing to talk to you about that, and you were always bored.”

“It’s a good deal of a dose, Nell; you’ll admit that. And one hates to be forcibly fed. But now I do want to get an outline, a sort of general idea, of what you do with children. Can you condense a little recent history, and make it easy to an aged stranger?”

“Aged I You are growing younger every day, John. I believe that comparatively brainless life you led in Tibet was good for you. That was all new impression on the brain; the first part rested. Now you are beginning where you left off. I wish you would recognize that.”

I shook my head. “Never mind me, I’m trying not to think of my chopped-off life; but tell me how you manufacture this kind of people.”

My sister sat still, thinking, for a little. “I want to avoid repetition if possible — tell me just how much you have in mind already.” But I refused to be catechised.

“You put it all together, straight; I want to get the whole of it — as well as I can.”

“All right. On your head be it. Let me see — first Oh, there isn’t any first, John! We were doing ever so much for children before you left — before you and I were born! It is the vision of all the great child-lovers; that children are people, and the most valuable people on earth. The most important thing to a child is its mother. We made new mothers for them — I guess that is ‘first.’

“Suppose we begin this way:

“a. Free, healthy, independent, intelligent mothers.

“b. Enough to live on — right conditions for child-raising.

“c. Specialized care.

“d. The new social consciousness, with its religion, its art, its science, its civics, its industry, its wealth, its brilliant efficiency. That’s your outline.”

I set down these points in my notebook.

“An excellent outline, Nellie. Now for details on ‘a.’ I will set my teeth till that’s over.”

My sister regarded me with amused tenderness. “How you do hate the new women, John — in the abstract! I haven’t seen you averse to any of them in the concrete!”

At the time I refused to admit any importance to this remark, but I thought it over later — and to good purpose. It was true. I did hate the new kind of human being who loomed so large in every line of progress. She jarred on every age-old masculine prejudice — she was not what woman used to be. And yet — as Nellie said — the women I met I liked.

“Get on with the lesson, my dear,” said I. “I am determined to learn and not to argue. What did your omnipresent new woman do to improve the human stock so fast?”

Then Nellie settled down in earnest and gave me all I wanted — possibly more.

“They wakened as if to a new idea, to their own natural duty as mothers; to the need of a high personal standard of health and character in both parents. That gave us a better start right away — clean-born, vigorous children, inheriting strength and purity.

“Then came the change in conditions, a change so great you've hardly glimpsed it yet. No more, never more again, please God, that brutal hunger and uncertainty, that black devil of want and fear. Everybody — everybody — sure of decent living! That one thing lifted the heaviest single shadow from the world, and from the children.

“Nobody is overworked now. Nobody is tired, unless they tire themselves unnecessarily. People live sanely, safely, easily. The difference to children, both in nature and nurture, is very great. They all have proper nourishment, and clothing, and environment — from birth.

“And with that, as advance in special conditions for child-culture, we build for babies now. We, as a community, provide suitably for our most important citizens.”

At this point I opened my mouth to say something, but presently shut it again.

“Good boy!” said Nellie. “I’ll show you later.”

“The next is specialized care. That one thing is enough, almost, to account for it all. To think of all the ages when our poor babies had no benefit at all of the advance in human intelligence!

“We had the best and wisest specialists we could train and hire in every other field of life — and the babies left utterly at the mercy of amateurs!

“Well, I mustn’t stop to rage at past history. We do better now. John, guess the salary of the head of the Baby Gardens in a city.”

“Oh, call it a million, and go on,” I said cheerfully; which somewhat disconcerted her.

“It’s as big a place as being head of Harvard College,” she said, “and better paid than that used to be. Our highest and finest people study for this work. Real geniuses, some of them. The babies, all the babies, mind you, get the benefit of the best wisdom we have. And it grows fast. We are learning by doing it. Every year we do better. ‘ Growing up’ is an easier process than it used to be.”

“I’ll have to accept it for the sake of argument,” I agreed. “It’s the last point I care most for, I think. All these new consciousnesses you were so glib about. I guess you can’t describe that so easily.”

She grew thoughtful, rocking to and fro for a few moments.

“No,” she said at length, “it’s not so easy. But I’ll try. I wasn’t very glib, really. I spoke of religion, art, civics, science, industry, wealth, and efficiency, didn’t I? Now let’s see how they apply to the children.

“This religion Dear me, John! am I to explain the greatest sunburst of truth that that ever was — in two minutes?”

“Oh, no,” I said loftily. “I’ll give you five! You’ve got to try, anyway.”

So she tried.

“In place of Revelation and Belief,” she said slowly, “we now have Facts and Knowledge. We used to believe in God — variously, and teach the belief as a matter of duty. Now we know God, as much as we know anything else — more than we know anything else — it is The Fact of Life.

“This is the base of knowledge, underlying all other knowledge, simple and safe and sure — and we can teach it to children! The child mind, opening to this lovely world, is no longer filled with horrible or ridiculous old ideas — it learns to know the lovely truth of life.”

She looked so serenely beautiful, and sat so still after she said this, that I felt a little awkward.

“I don’t mean to jar on you, Nellie,” I said. “I didn’t know you were so — religious.”

Then she laughed again merrily. “I’m not,” she said. “No more than anybody is. We don’t have ‘religious’ people any more, John. It’s not a separate thing; a ‘body of doctrine’ and set of observances — it is what all of us have at the bottom of everything else, the underlying basic fact of life. And it goes far, very far indeed, to make the strong good cheer you see in these children’s faces.

“They have never been frightened, John. They have never been told any of those awful things we used to tell them. There is no struggle with church-going, no gagging over doctrines, no mysterious queer mess — only life. Life is now open to our children, clear, brilliant, satisfying, and yet stimulating.

“Of course, I don’t mean that this applies equally to every last one. The material benefit does, that could be enforced by law where necessary; but this world-wave of new knowledge is irregular, of course. It has spread wider, and gone faster than any of the old religions ever did, but you can find people yet who believe things almost as dreadful as father did!”

I well remembered my father’s lingering Calvinism, and appreciated its horrors.

“Our educators have recognized a new duty to children,” Nellie went on; “to stand between them and the past. We recognize that the child mind should lift and lead the world; and we feed it with our newest, not our oldest ideas.

“Also we encourage it to wander on ahead, fearless and happy. I began to tell you the other day — and you snubbed me, John, you did really! — that we have a new literature for children, and have dropped the old.”

At this piece of information I could no longer preserve the attitude of a patient listener. I sat back and stared at my sister, while the full awfulness of this condition slowly rolled over me.

“Do you mean,” I said slowly, “that children are taught nothing of the past?”

“Oh, no, indeed; they are taught about the past from the earth’s beginning. In the mind of every child is a clear view of how Life has grown on earth.”

“And our own history?”

“Of course; from savagery to today — that is a simple story, endlessly interesting as they grow older.”

“What do you mean, then, by cutting off the past?”

“I mean that their stories, poems, pictures, and the major part of their instruction deals with the present and future — especially the future. The whole teaching is dynamic — not static. We used to teach mostly facts, or what we thought were facts. Now we teach processes. You’ll find out if you talk to children, anywhere.”

This I mentally determined to do, and in due course did. I may as well say right here that I found children more delightful companions than they used to be. They were polite enough, even considerate; but so universally happy, so overflowing with purposes, so skilful in so many ways, so intelligent and efficient, that it astonished me. We used to have a sort of race-myth about “happy childhood,” but none of us seemed to study the faces of the children we saw about us. Even among well-to-do families, the discontented, careworn, anxious, repressed, or rebellious faces of children ought to have routed our myth forever.

Timid, brow-beaten children, sulky children, darkly resentful; nervous, whining children, foolish, mischievous, hysterically giggling children, noisy, destructive, uneasy children — how well I remembered them.

These new ones had a strange air of being Persons, not subordinates and dependents, but Equals; their limitations frankly admitted, but not cast up at them, and their special powers fully respected. That was it!

I am wandering far ahead of that day’s conversation, but it led to wide study among children, analysis, and some interesting conclusions. When I hit on this one I began to understand. Children were universally respected, and they liked it. In city or country, place was made for them, permanent, pleasant, properly appointed place; to use, enjoy, and grow up in. They had their homes and families as before, losing nothing; but they added to this background their own wide gardens and houses, where part of each day was spent.

From earliest infancy they absorbed the idea that home was a place to come out from and go back to; the sweetest, dearest place — for there was mother, and father, and one’s own little room to sleep in; but the day hours were to go somewhere to learn and do, to work and play, to grow in.

I branched off from Nellie’s startling me with her “new-literature-for-children” idea. She went on to explain it further.

“The greatest artists work for children now, John,” she said. “In the child-gardens and child-homes they are surrounded with beauty. I do not mean that we hire painters and poets to manufacture beauty for them; but that painters and poets, architects and landscape artists, designers and decorators of all kinds, love and revere childhood, and delight to work for it.

“Remember that half of our artists are mothers now — a loving, serving, giving spirit has come into expression — a wider and more lasting expression than it was ever possible to put into doughnuts and embroidery! Wait till you see the beauty of our child-gardens!”

“Why don’t you call them schools? Don’t you have schools?”

“Some. We haven’t wholly outgrown the old academic habit. But for the babies there was no precedent, and they do not ‘go to school.’ ”

“You have a sort of central nursery?” I ventured.

“Not necessarily ‘central,’ John. And we have great numbers of them. How can I make it any way clear to you? See here. Suppose you were a mother, and a very busy one, like the old woman in the shoe; and suppose you had twenty or thirty permanent babies to be provided for? And suppose you were wise and rich — able to do what you wanted to? Wouldn’t you build an elaborate nursery for those children? Wouldn’t you engage the very best nurses and teachers? Wouldn’t you want the cleanest, quietest garden for them to play or sleep in? Of course you would.

“That is our attitude. We have at last recognized babies as a permanent class. They are always here, about a fifth of the population. And we, their mothers, have at last ensured to these, our babies, the best accommodation known to our time. It im proves as we learn, of course.”

“Mm!” I said. “I’ll go and gaze upon these Infant Paradises later — at the sleeping hour, please! But how about that new literature you frightened me with?”

“Oh. Why, we have tried to treat their minds as we do their stomachs — putting in only what is good for then. I mean the very littlest, understand. As they grow older they have wider range; we have not expunged the world’s past, my dear brother! But we do prepare with all the wisdom, love, and power we have, the mental food for little children. Simple, lovely music is about them always — you must have noticed how universally they sing?”

I had, and said so.

“The coloring and decoration of their rooms is beautiful — their clothes are beautiful — and simple — you’ve seen that, too?”

“Yes, dear girl. It’s because I’ve seen — and heard — and noticed the surprisingness of the New Child that I sit here fairly guzzling information. Pray proceed to the literature.”

“Literature is the most useful of the arts — the most perfect medium for transfer of ideas. We wish to have the first impressions in our children’s minds, above all things, true. All the witchery and loveliness possible in presentation — but the things pre sented are not senseless and unpleasant.

“We have plenty of ‘true stories,’ stories based on real events and on natural laws and processes; but the viewpoint from which they are written has changed; you’ll have to read some to see what I mean. But the major difference is in our stories of the future, our future here on earth. They are good stories, mind, the very best writers make them; good verses and pictures, too. And a diet like that, while it is just as varied and entertaining as the ‘once upon a time’ kind, leaves the child with a sense that things are going to happen — and he, or she, can help.

“You see, we don’t consider anything as done. To you, as a new visitor, we ‘point with pride,’ but among ourselves we ‘view with alarm.’ We are just as full of Reformers and Propagandists as ever, and overflowing with plans for improvement.

“These are the main characteristics of the new child literature: Truth and Something Better Ahead.”

“I don’t like it!” I said firmly. “No wonder you dodged about so long. You've apparently made a sort of pap out of Grad-grind and Rollo, and feed it to these poor babies through a tube P

This time my sister rebelled. She came firmly to my side and pulled my hair — precisely as she used to do forty years ago and more — the few little hairs at the crown which still troubled me in brushing — because of being pulled out straight so often.

“You shall have no more oral instruction, young man,” said she. “You shall be taken about and shown things; you shall ‘Stop! Look! Listen!’ until you admit the advantages I have striven in vain to pump into your resisting intellect — you Product of Past Methods!”

“You’re the product of the same methods yourself, my dear,” I replied amiably; “but I’m quite willing to be shown — always was something of a Missourian.”

No part of my re-education was pleasanter, and I’m sure none was more important, than the next few days. We visited place after place, in different cities, or in the country, and everywhere was the same high standard of health and beauty, of comfort, fun, and visible growth.

I saw babies and wee toddlers by the thousands, and hardly ever heard one cry! Out of that mass of experience some vivid pictures remain in my mind. One was “mother time” in a manufacturing village. There was a big group of mills with water-power; each mill a beautiful, clean place, light, airy, rich in color, sweet with the flowers about it, where men and women worked their two-hour shifts.

The women took off their work-aprons and slipped into the neighboring garden to nurse their babies. They were in no haste. They were pleasantly dressed and well-fed and not tired.

They were known and welcomed by the women in charge of the child-garden; and each mother slipped into a comfortable rocker and took into her arms that little rosy piece of herself and the man she loved — it was a thing to bring one’s heart into one’s throat. The clean peace and quiet of it, time enough, the pleasant neighborliness, the atmosphere of contented motherhood, those healthy, drowsy little mites, so busy with their dinner.

Then they put them down, asleep For the most part, kissed them, and strolled back to the pleasant workroom for another two hours.

Specialization used to be a terror, when a whole human being was held down to one notion for ten hours. But specialization hurts nobody when it does not last too long.

In the afternoons some mothers took their babies home at once. Some nursed them and then went out together for exercise or pleasure. The homes were clean and quiet, too; no kitchen work, no laundry work, no self-made clutter and dirt. It looked so comfortable that I couldn’t believe my eyes, yet it was just common, everyday life.

As the babies grew old enough to move about, their joys widened. They were kept in rooms of a suitable temperature, and wore practically no clothes. This in itself I was told was one main cause of their health and contentment. They rolled and tumbled on smooth mattresses; pulled themselves up and swung back and forth on large, soft horizontal ropes fastened within reach; delightful little bunches of rose leaves and dimples, in perfect happiness.

Very early they had water to play in; clean, shallow pools, kept at a proper temperature, where they splashed and gurgled in rapture, and learned to swim before they learned to walk, sometimes.

As they grew larger and more competent, their playgrounds were more extensive and varied; but the underlying idea was always clear — safety and pleasure, full exercise and development of every power. There was no quarrelling over toys — whatever they had to play with they all had in abundance; and most of the time they did not have exchangeable objects, but these ropes, pools, sand, clay, and so on, materials common to all; and the main joy was in the use of their own little bodies, is as many ways as was possible.

At any time when they were not asleep a procession of crowing toddlers could be seen creeping up a slight incline and sliding or rolling triumphantly down the other side. A sort of beautified cellar door, this.

Strange that we always punished children for sliding down unsuitable things and never provided suitable ones. But then, of course, one could not have machinery like this in one brief family. Swings, see-saws, all manner of moving things they had, with building-blocks, of course, and balls. But as soon as it was easy to them they had tools and learned to use them; the major joy of their expanding lives was doing things. I speak of them in an unbroken line, for that was the way they lived. Each stage lapped over into the next, and that natural ambition to be with the older ones and do what they did was the main incentive in their progress.

To go on, to get farther, higher, to do something better and more interesting, this was in the atmosphere; growth, exercise, and joy.

I watched and studied, and grew happy as I did so; which I could see was a gratification to Nellie.

“Airen’t they ever naughty?” I demanded one day.

“Why should they be?” she answered. “How could they be? What we used to call ‘naughtiness’ was only the misfit. The poor little things were in the wrong place — and nobody knew how to make them happy. Here there is nothing they can hurt, and nothing that can hurt them. They have earth, air, fire, and water to play with.”

“Fire?” I interrupted.

“Yes, indeed. All children love fire, of course. As soon as they can move about they are taught fire.”

“How many burn themselves up?”

“None. Never any more. Did you never hear ‘a burnt child dreads the fire’? We said that, but we never had sense enough to use it. No proverb ever said ‘a whipped child dreads the fire’! We never safe-guarded them, and the poor little things were always getting burned to death in our barbarous ‘homes’!”

“Do you arbitrarily burn them all?” I asked. “Have an annual ‘branding’?”

“Oh, no; but we allow them to burn themselves — within reason. Come and see.”

She showed me a set of youngsters learning Heat and Cold, with basins of water, a row of them; eagerly experimenting with cautious little fingers — very cold, cold, cool, tepid, warm, hot, very hot. They could hardly say the words plain, but learned them all, even when they all had to shut their eyes and the basins were changed about.

Straying from house to house, from garden to garden, I watched them grow and learn. On the long walls about them were painted an endless panorama of human progress. When they noticed and asked questions they were told, without emphasis, that people used to live that way; and grew to this — and this.

I found that as the children grew older they all had a year of travel; each human being knew his world. And when I questioned as to expense, as I always did, Nellie would flatten me with things like this:

“Remember that we used to spend 70 per cent, of our national income on the expenses of war, past and present. If we women had done no more than save that, it would have paid for all you see.”

Or she would remind me again of the immense sums we used to spend on hospitals and prisons; or refer to the general change in economics, that inevitable socialization of industry, which had checked waste and increased productivity so much.

“We are a rich people, John,” she repeated. “So are other nations, for that matter; the world’s richer. We have increased our output and lowered our expenses at the same time. One of our big present problems is what to do with our big surplus; we quarrel roundly over that. But meanwhile it is a very poor nation indeed that does not provide full education for its children.”

I found that the differences in education were both subtle and prof ound. The babies’ experience of group life, as well as the daily return to family life, gave a sure ground-work for the understanding of civics. Their first impressions included other babies; no child grew up with the intensified self-consciousness we used to almost force upon them.

In all the early years learning was ceaseless and unconscious. They grew among such carefully chosen surroundings as made it impossible not to learn what was really necessary; and to learn it as squirrels learn the trees — by playing and working in them. They learned the simple beginnings of the world’s great trades, led by natural interest and desire, gathering by imitation and asked instruction.

I saw nowhere the enforced task; everywhere the eager attention of real interest.

“Are they never taught to apply themselves? To concentrate?” I asked. And for answer she showed me the absorbed, breathless concentration of fresh young minds and busy hands.

“But they soon tire of these things and want to do something else, do they not?”

“Of course. That is natural to childhood. And there is always something else for them to do.”

“But they are only doing what they like to do — that is no preparation for a life work surely.”

“We find it an excellent preparation for life work. You see, we all work at what we like now. That is one reason we do so much better work.”

I had talked on this line before with those who explained the workings of industrial socialism.

“Still, as a matter of education,” I urged, “is it not necessary for a child to learn to compel himself to work?”

“Oh, no,” they told me; and, to say truth, convincingly showed me. “Children like to work. If any one does not, we know he is sick.”

And as I saw more and more of the child-gardens, and sat silently watching for well-spent hours, I found how true this was.

The children had around them the carefully planned stimuli of a genuinely educational environment. The work of the world was there, in words of one syllable, as it were; and among wise, courteous, pleasant people, themselves actually doing something, yet always ready to give information when asked.

First the natural appetite of the young brain, then every imaginable convenience for learning, then the cautiously used accessories to encourage further effort; and then these marvelous teachers — who seemed to like their work, too. The majority were women, and of them nearly all were mothers. It appeared that children had not lost their mothers, as at first one assumed, but that each child kept his own and gained others. And these teaching mothers were somehow more motherly than the average.

Nellie was so pleased when I noticed this. She liked to see me “going to school” so regularly. I was not alone in it, either. There seemed to be numbers of people who cared enough for children to enjoy watching them and playing with them. Nobody was worn out with child care. The parents were not — the nurses and teachers had short shifts — it seemed to be considered a pleasure and an honor to be allowed with the little ones.

And in all this widespread, costly, elaborate, and yet perfectly simple and lovely en vironment, these little New Persons grew and blossomed with that divine unconsciousness which belongs to children.

They did not know that the best intellects were devoted to their service, they never dreamed what thought and love and labor made these wide gardens, these bright playing-places, these endlessly interesting shops where they could learn to make things as soon as they were old enough. They took it all as life — just Life, as a child must take his first environment.

“And don’t you think, John,” Nellie said, when I spoke of this, “don’t you really think this is a more normal environment for a young human soul than a kitchen? Or a parlor? Or even a nursery?”

I had to admit that it had its advantages. As they grew older there was every chance for specialization. In the first years they gathered the rudiments of general knowledge, and of general activity, of both hand and brain, and from infancy each child was studied, and his growth — or hers — carefully recorded; not by adoring, intimately related love, but by that larger, wiser tenderness of these great child-lovers who had had hundreds of them to study.

They were observed intelligently. Notes were made, the mother and father contributed theirs; in freedom and unconscious — ness the young nature developed, never realizing how its environment was altered to fit its special needs.

As the cool, spacious, flower-starred, fruitful forests of this time differed from the tangled underbrush, with crooked, crowded, imperfect trees struggling for growth, that I remembered as “woods,” or from clipped and twisted products of the forcing and pruning process; so did the new child-gardens differ from the old schools.

No wonder children wore so different an aspect. They had the fresh, insatiable thirst for knowledge which has been wisely slaked, but never given the water-torture. As I recalled my own youth, and thought of all those young minds set in rows, fixed open as with a stick between the teeth, and forced to drink, drink, drink till all desire was turned to loathing, I felt a sudden wish to be born again — now! — and begin over.

As an adult observer, I found this re-arranged world jarring and displeasing in many ways; but as I sat among the children, played with them, talked with them, became somewhat acquainted with their views of things, I began to see that to them the new world was both natural and pleasant.

When they learned that I was a “left-over” from what to them seemed past ages, I became extremely popular. There was a rush to get near me, and eager requests to tell them about old times — checked somewhat by politeness, yet always eager.

But the cheerful pride with which I began to describe the world as I knew it was considerably dashed by their comments. What I had considered as necessary evils, or as no evils at all, to them appeared as silly and disgraceful as cannibalism; and there grew among them an attitude of chivalrous pity for my unfortunate upbringing which was pretty to see.

“I see no child in glasses!” I suddenly remarked one day.

“Of course not,” answered the teacher I stood by. “We use books very little, you see. Education no longer impairs our machinery.”

I recalled the Boston school children and the myopic victims of Germany’s archaic letter-press; and freely admitted that this was advance. Much of the instruction was oral — much, very much, came through games and exercises; books, I found, were regarded rather as things to consult, like a dictionary, or as instruments of high enjoyment.

“School books” — “text books” — scarcely existed, at least for children. The older ones, some of them, plunged into study with passion; but their eyes were good and their brains were strong; also their general health. There was no “breakdown from overstudy;” that slow, cruel, crippling injury — sometimes death, which we, wise and loving parents of past days, so frequently forced upon our helpless children.

Naturally happy, busy, self-respecting, these grew up; with a wide capacity for action, a breadth of general knowledge which was almost incredible, a high standard of courtesy, and vigorous, well-exercised minds. They were trained to think, I found; to question, discuss, decide; they could reason.

And they faced life with such loving enthusiasm! Such pride in the new accomplishments of the world! Such a noble, boundless ambition to do things, to make things, to help the world still further.

And from infancy to adolescence — all through these years of happy growing — there was nothing whatever to differentiate the boys from the girls! As a rule, they could not be distinguished.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/gilman/charlotte_perkins/moving/chapter9.html

Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 22:17