I recall a very popular series of girls' books, widely read at the present time, in which the emotional natures of the little heroines are continually maintained at concert pitch from the strain put upon them by appeals to affection, to conscience, to inordinate love of praise, etc. I have often been astonished to see intellectually promising and otherwise sensible little girls devouring pages of unhealthy sentiment such as would fill their robust little brothers with scorn and repugnance.
We need only briefly refer to the unhealthy influence exerted upon the minds of little girls by foolish indulgence in showy dress or in social dissipation. Dissipation, indeed, is a serious term to apply to the social pleasures of little children, but, when we hear of children's parties beginning at nine o'clock, in which toilets and manners only suitable for their mammas are encouraged, we easily conclude that, in the lack of simplicity in social customs, we may find an abnormal stimulus to the emotional natures of American girls.
Certain school influences have a large responsibility in this direction. What is called the hot-house pressure of public schools, and the elaborate system of examinations in our higher institutions of learning, have their evil not in the exercise of the calmer faculties of the mind, such as judgment, reason, memory, etc., but in their tendency to arouse that complex emotion called worry. These influences are exerted, it is true, upon girls and boys alike, but, as the facility of the girls for emotional disturbance is greater, they suffer more largely per consequence. The repeated stimulation of such complex emotions can not fail to agitate the mind of young girls, and insidiously disturb its calm.
As the girl grows to womanhood, the impression made by these influences upon her plastic child nature can not be entirely thrown off. If she be of a strong and womanly type, she will meet the physical and social trials of life with such character and self-possession as she may, but they will have for such a one a double force. Life offers only too many facilities for overtaxing the sympathies of the unduly sensitized individual. The appeals of misery, poverty, and sorrow sound in every ear. The woman who would maintain a just equilibrium between sentimental mourning and efficient sympathy for these facts of existence needs to be re-enforced, not weakened, by the education of her childhood. And if to the friction of any life we add the strain of an elaborate social system, if our young woman be a society girl, with all the demands of a high-bred life of fashion upon her time, temper, versatility, and self-control, we have one more influence which maintains her at constantly high emotional pressure.
It is evident that the sum of these and similar forces constantly exerted upon the mind of women must have their due effect. The normal result of the stimulation of any organ of the body is well known to be a final loss of health in that organ. When the faculties of the mind, called out in the display of the emotions, are overtaxed.