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The Transition
by [?]

“In the second place, family work is more remunerative, even at a lower rate of wages, than shop or factory work, because it is better for the health. All sorts of sedentary employment, pursued by numbers of persons together in one apartment, are more or less debilitating and unhealthy, through foul air and confinement.

“A woman’s health is her capital. In certain ways of work she obtains more income, but she spends on her capital to do it. In another way she may get less income, and yet increase her capital. A woman cannot work at dressmaking, tailoring, or any other sedentary employment, ten hours a day, year in and out, without enfeebling her constitution, impairing her eyesight, and bringing on a complication of complaints, but she can sweep, wash, cook, and do the varied duties of a well-ordered house with modern arrangements, and grow healthier every year. The times, in New England, when all women did housework a part of every day, were the times when all women were healthy. At present, the heritage of vigorous muscles, firm nerves, strong backs, and cheerful physical life has gone from American women, and is taken up by Irish women. A thrifty young man I have lately heard of married a rosy young Irish girl, quite to the horror of his mother and sisters, but defended himself by the following very conclusive logic: ‘If I marry an American girl, I must have an Irish girl to take care of her; and I cannot afford to support both.’

“Besides all this, there is a third consideration, which I humbly commend to my friend Letitia. The turn of her note speaks her a girl of good common sense, with a faculty of hitting the nail square on the head; and such a girl must see that nothing is more likely to fall out than that she will some day be married. Evidently, our fair friend is born to rule; and at this hour, doubtless, her foreordained throne and humble servant are somewhere awaiting her.

“Now domestic service is all the while fitting a girl physically, mentally, and morally for her ultimate vocation and sphere,–to be a happy wife and to make a happy home. But factory work, shop work, and all employments of that sort, are in their nature essentially undomestic,–entailing the constant necessity of a boarding-house life, and of habits as different as possible from the quiet routine of home. The girl who is ten hours on the strain of continued, unintermitted toil feels no inclination, when evening comes, to sit down and darn her stockings, or make over her dresses, or study any of those multifarious economies which turn a wardrobe to the best account. Her nervous system is flagging; she craves company and excitement; and her dull, narrow room is deserted for some place of amusement or gay street promenade. And who can blame her? Let any sensible woman, who has had experience of shop and factory life, recall to her mind the ways and manners in which young girls grow up who leave a father’s roof for a crowded boarding-house, without any supervision of matron or mother, and ask whether this is the best school for training young American wives and mothers.

“Doubtless there are discreet and thoughtful women who, amid all these difficulties, do keep up thrifty, womanly habits, but they do it by an effort greater than the majority of girls are willing to make, and greater than they ought to make. To sew or read or study after ten hours of factory or shop work is a further drain on the nervous powers which no woman can long endure without exhaustion.

“When the time arrives that such a girl comes to a house of her own, she comes to it as unskilled in all household lore, with muscles as incapable of domestic labor and nerves as sensitive, as if she had been leading the most luxurious, do-nothing, fashionable life. How different would be her preparation, had the forming years of her life been spent in the labors of a family! I know at this moment a lady at the head of a rich country establishment, filling her station in society with dignity and honor, who gained her domestic education in a kitchen in our vicinity. She was the daughter of a small farmer, and when the time came for her to be earning her living, her parents wisely thought it far better that she should gain it in a way which would at the same time establish her health and fit her for her own future home. In a cheerful, light, airy kitchen, which was kept so tidy always as to be an attractive sitting-room, she and another young country girl were trained up in the best of domestic economies by a mistress who looked well to the ways of her household, till at length they married from the house with honor, and went to practice in homes of their own the lessons they had learned in the home of another. Formerly, in New England, such instances were not uncommon; would that they might become so again!”