« AnteriorContinuar »
Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1852. by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, in and for the Southern District of New York.
Men of America;
WHO SHOW, IN THEIR LAWS AND CUSTOMS, RESPECTING
IDEAS MORE JUST AND FEELINGS MORE NOBLE THAN WERE EVER
EVINCED BY MEN OF ANY OTHER NATION:
THE APPROVAL OF THE SONS
THE WORLD WILL THEN KNOW THE
Daughters are Worthy of Bonour.
EACH century has its peculiar tide of thought; the highest wave bearing onwards, as ocean tides bear the tossed bark to land, the human race into the promised harbour of millennial peace.
The ninth wave of the nineteenth century is the Destiny of Woman.
Within the last fifty years more books have been written by women and about women than all that had been issued during the preceding five thousand and eight hundred years. Far the greater portion of works concerning the female sex has been published within the last twenty years. Since the idea of this "Woman's Record" occurred to me—just three years ago to-day a dozen or more of these books have appeared. Among them are "Noble Deeds of Women," "Mothers of the Wise and Good," "Heroines of the Missionary Enterprise," "Woman in America," "Woman in France," and "Woman in all Ages and Nations." Three of these works are by men; thus showing that a deep interest in this subject pervades society. Each work has its peculiar merits, but no one is satisfactory, because none contains the true idea of woman's nature and mission; therefore each work has only made my own seem to me more necessary.
Does this frank confession appear like vain boasting? Pray examine my book before deciding against me. At any rate, it has cost me three years of hard study and labour to make it.
The Publishers, all must own, have done their part nobly. The series of Engravings furnish a gallery of Portraits that, besides their usefulness in stamping on the mind of the reader a more permanent impression of each individual character thus illustrated, furnish an interesting study to the curious in costume and the adept in taste.
Then, the Selections afford an opportunity of judging the merits of female literature; the choicest gems of thought, fancy, and feeling are here treasured, sought out from works in different languages, and brought together in the uniform design of a perfect Cyclopædia of reference and comparison as regards woman and her
productions. No work extant is similar to mine; for this reason, I am sure it will be welcomed. The world wants it.
"There are so many women of richly cultivated minds," says a British critic, "who have distinguished themselves in letters or in society, and made it highly feminine to be intelligent, as well as good, and to have elevated as well as amiable feelings, that by-and-by the whole sex must adopt a new standard of education."*
Now, my work is prepared to be both an aid and incentive to such progress. In order for this, three things are indispensable: to understand what God intended woman should do; what she has done; and what farther advantages are needed to fit her to perform well her part.
"The General Preface" is designed to answer the first query; also the "Remarks" at the beginning of each Era, and hints scattered through the book, will, I trust, be of service in the elucidation.
To show what she has done, I have gathered from the records of the world the names and histories of all distinguished women, so that an exact estimate of the capabilities of the sex might be formed by noting what individuals have accom plished through obstacles and discouragements of every kind.
The third proposition, growing naturally out of the two preceding, is answered by considering their import.
If God designed woman as the preserver of infancy, the teacher of childhood, the inspirer or helper of man's moral nature in its efforts to reach after spiritual things; if examples of women are to be found in every age and nation, who, without any special preparation, have won their way to eminence in all pursuits tending to advance moral goodness and religious faith, then the policy, as well as justice of providing liberally for female education, must be apparent to Christian men. "The excellent woman is she who, if her husband dies, can be a father to their children," says Goëthe. If read aright, this would give the female sex every required advantage.
Like all moral and social changes, the one now going on in the public mind concerning woman has its absurdities and its errors. When mists are rising, they often take fantastic shapes and reveal ugly features in the landscape; but truth, like the sun, will at last make all clear and beautiful of its kind.
It has been my earnest endeavour to throw this true light over the important themes discussed.
The Bible is the only guarantee of woman's rights, and the only expositor of her duties. Under its teachings, men learn to honour her. Wherever its doctrines are
*See article on Mrs. Hemans, in Blackwood's Magazine, 1849.