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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/345

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FEMALE EDUCATION.

knowledge to a very high degree. They get pushed to their bent, and with all this they have little craving for fresh air and romping. They are often over-conscientious and most receptive. In fact, they are the very young women that delight the heart of the teacher, and sometimes carry off all the prizes at the end of a school session. The treatment of the teacher and the physician would be exactly opposite for such cases. The physician would take such brains to put them to grass for two or three generations—would scarcely educate them at all in the ordinary sense—would send them to grow up almost uninstructed in the country, cultivating blood, bone, muscle, and doing mechanical work alone. That would be the only salvation for such brains. But then we should perhaps miss having a genius once in a century. We should have our Chattertons working as joiners in the country, instead of writing poetry and committing suicide in town garrets. I could adduce many lamentable examples, from my own experience, of most brilliant school careers ending in insanity. If I had written down the fierce apostrophe of a young lady of twenty on her entry into the asylum at Morningside, at the end of a school career of unexampled success, the reading of it would do more to frighten the ambitious parents of such children from hastening their daughters forward at school too fast than all the scientific protests we doctors can make. She was well aware of the cause of her illness, and with passionate eloquence enumerated the consequences of her losing her reason.

It is not very long since a pupil-teacher, who had been working all winter about ten hours a day in teaching and preparation, and had taken no exercise or fresh air at all, after suffering for a while from headaches and confusion of mind, threw herself into a pond. She told me afterward that the harder she worked the more confused she got, then she got depressed, and then lost her self-control.

There can be no doubt that too hard school-work in young women during the adolescent period tends to bring out hereditary, nervous, and other weaknesses. The great natural protection against these is sound health and general bodily vigor in a frame that has been brought carefully to full maturity, harmonious and healthy in all its functions. This law is found to prevail in regard to nervous hereditary weaknesses, that the stronger and more direct the tendency, the earlier in life such weakness is apt to show itself. If we can postpone it, we can frequently avert it altogether.

Of the chief purely mental results of a brain-education higher than the whole organization can bear, one is unquestionably a certain change in the natural mental type of woman. I shall be asked, of course, What is the natural female psychical type? Is it to be found in the uneducated women of the East, or among the uncultivated classes of the West? Without going into argument, I may say that I should be willing to take the general character of womanliness pervading all the various