Godey's Lady's Book

Sarah J. Hale: Editor's Table, Jan. 1856

"The sword may pierce the bearer--
Stone walls in time may sever;
'Tis heart alone, worth steel and stone,
That keeps man free forever!" -- Moore

A New Year! Yes, a new year--and a happy New Year may it prove to our beloved country--has dawned on the world. Though many prophecies are abroad, which designate this year as not only the time for the great comet to make its visit, but also for awful catastrophes and cruel wars, we, who live under the protecting banner of that true freedom which emanated from the hearts of noble Christians, men and women, who feared God, and, therefore, were freed from the fear of wicked tyrannies--we may rejoice and be glad that the year eighteen hundred and fifty-six has come with its hopes, its promises, and its opportunities. We might give a true and most pitiful description of the sufferings which now pervade Europe. To wars of the most destructive character are added the scarcity of food and the fears of bloody revolutions. These are, however, well known to our readers through the journals of the day; and we prefer to go beyond the present surface of things, and trace the source from whence such evils flow, and we find it in the selfishness, blindness, and wickedness of heart which rejects the true freedom that only can come through the Bible way of peace and happiness. Nations must fear God and obey his laws; men and women must make the gospel precepts their rule of duty; then the New Year would be the harbinger of hope and rejoicing to the whole world.

This heart service in the cause of humanity belongs naturally to women. We cannot take the sword to defend the right; we must aid by holier means. There are so many opportunities in our country both of improvement and of employment that we are in danger of forgetting the oppressions of our sex in the Old World. England we have always been in the habit of considering the bulwark of law and of freedom through the law in Europe; the injustice and cruelties which the law in England sanctions respecting women have never been sufficiently considered by us. We have lately had our attention called to this subject; and, partly to illustrate the blessings we American women enjoy under our better system of laws and usages, and partly to awaken public attention to the still existing defects in our own institutions, we show a glimpse of married life in England; and, while we commiserate the sufferings of our sister women on the other side of the Atlantic, we give a warmer grasp of friendship to the hands that are reaching out to us on all sides, and from every section of the Union, as we wish each household, where our influence enters a happy New Year! a heart happy New Year!



Note from HG: extensive quote from an article of the North British Review regarding Mrs. Norton--to be added at a later date



Thanks to the spirit of Christian freedom, women in our land are favored above the sex in any other nation. The absurd and degrading customs or usages of the common law, and the partial and, therefore, unjust statutes of kings, brought by our forefathers from England, are fast passing away, or being rendered nugatory by new enactments, more in accordance with reason and righteousness. The Homestead laws, and the security given that the property of a married woman shall remain in her own possession, are great safeguards of domestic comfort. The efforts made to open new channels of industry and profitable professions for those women who have to support themselves are deserving of much praise; but one great act of public justice yet remains undone. Government, national or State, has never yet provided suitably for the education of women. Girls, as well as boys, have the advantages of the free school system; but no public provision has been made, no college or university endowed where young women may have similar advantages of instruction now open to young men in every State of the Union. True, there are very many private institutions devoted to female education; but these are defective for the want of a higher model than private enterprise has yet given. Of course, the better woman is educated the higher she will be estimated, and the more careful will legislators be to frame laws just and equitable which are to guard her happiness and protect her rights; men will thus improve their own hearts and elevate their views. The standard of woman is the moral thermometer of the nation.

Holding these sentiments, our "Book" has never swerved from its straight forward course of aiding women to improve themselves, while it has aimed to arouse public sentiment to help onward this improvement. For this, we give patterns and directions for feminine employment, we show the benefits of female education, and for this we have twice brought before congress our petition for aid; and now we come a third time, intending to persevere till some noble champion arises to advocate the cause and win the victory:--

To the Honourable Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled.
Whereas, there are now more than two millions of children in our country destitute of the opportunity of education, demanding sixty thousand teachers to supply them at the same ratio as is common in our best educated sections, your memorialists beg to call your attention to these considerations:--

1. That, while the great West, California, and the wide ocean invite young men to wealth and adventure, and while the labors of the school-room offer so little recompense or honor, the sixty thousand teachers needed cannot be obtained from their ranks; and, therefore, the young women of our country must become teachers of the common schools, or these must be given up.

2. That the reports of common school education show that women are the best teachers, and that in those States where education is most prosperous the average of female teachers to that of the other sex is as five to one.

3. That while, as a general rule, women are not expected to support families, nor to pay from their earnings to support the State, they can afford to teach for a smaller compensation than men; and, therefore, funds bestowed to educate female teachers gratuitously will in the end prove a measure of economy, and at the same time will tend to render education more universal and more elevated by securing the best class of teachers at a moderate expense.

4. That those most willing to teach are chiefly found in the industrial class, which as yet has received few favors from National or State Legislatures.

5. That providing for such gratuitous advantages for women to act as educators will secure a vast number of well-educated teachers, not by instituting a class of celibates, but by employing the unoccupied energies of thousands of young women from their school-days to the period of marriage, while, at the same time, they will thus be qualifying themselves for the most arduous duties of their future domestic relations.

In view of these considerations, your memorialists petition that THREE OR FOUR MILLIONS OF ACRES OF THE PUBLIC NATIONAL DOMAINS be set apart to endow at least one Normal School in every State for the gratuitous educations of female teachers.

These institutions could be modelled and managed in each State to suit the wishes of its inhabitants; and young ladies of every section would be trained as instructors for children in their own vicinity; this would be found of immense advantage in the States where schools have hitherto been neglected.

While such vast portions of the national domains are devoted to national aggrandizements or physical advantages, we humbly petition that a moderate share may be conferred to benefit the daughters of our Republic, and thus at the same time to provide educators for two millions of its most neglected children.

Transcribed from the original, Godey's Lady's Book, July 1855, pp. 29 32 by Hope Greenberg. 11/21/95. Copy freely as long as this notice is attached.