Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vol. IV: Literature of the Republic, Part I., Constitutional period, 17881820
How Women May Best Commend Themselves
By John Sylvester John Gardiner (17651830)
[From a Sermon at Trinity, before the Members of the Boston Female Asylum. 1809.]
OF all women, I have generally observed that your great readers are the most insufferable, who repeat whole passages of prose and poetry, in season and out season, and who, instead of obtaining the admiration they aim at, disgust all who hear them with their vanity and impertinence. Nor are those ladies who have received what is called a genteel education, most admired by sensible and judicious men. The modest female, who shuns rather than courts observation, who is destitute of every fashionable accomplishment, if she has affable manners, good principles, good-humor, and good-sense, will be sure of securing their suffrages. There must, then, be something wrong in the present system of female education. It is far too superficial. It is almost exclusively directed to the improvement of the person and address. I should wish for something more substantial. I should wish them educated, not merely to flutter in a ball-room, not merely to display the graces of a beautiful animal without intellect, but as beings who are to be wives and mothers, the first and most important guardians and instructors of the rising generation, as beings endued with reason, and designed for immortality. Only lay a solid foundation, and you may raise on it a superstructure as airy and fantastical as you please. You may then permit them to cultivate every elegant art, and to gain every accomplishment becoming their age and sex.