That perfect innocence disarms impurity, even among those who have fallen far below the ordinary standards of virtue, I gladly admit. None but brutish men can resist the exquisite, oftentimes unconscious pleadings of things intrinsically beautiful—whether in the form of a mother's love, a hero's exaltation of spirit, a maiden's sweetness, or
Opened wide to the light of day."
Such things must touch, for the time being, the hearts of the hardened; but, alas! they are so seldom far-reaching in effect or enduring in result. In very rare instances, in the cloistered nun, possibly in a jealously guarded daughter, does complete innocence now exist. And an opening flower can not go back again to the constricting clasp of its budding life without violating the law of its natural development. Shall we surround it with artificial barriers, thereby restraining and delaying its blooming, or shall we encourage it to unfold and thrive in the air in which God has placed it? No young woman, properly impressed with the noble dignity of her calling, equipped with wholesome views of life and fearless in purpose, can fail to command the respect and admiration of all who cross her path. A licentious or loose-lipped man would cower before her earnest eyes as certainly as before the appealing innocence of a child-woman, nor ever attempt to break down the barriers with which nobility of purpose always encircles our most womanly young women.
I am glad to see that many are now awakening to the necessity of abandoning the limitations of an old method which, while throwing a halo of romance around the barbarous and superficial chivalry of our knightly ancestry, in reality fostered the growth of a system of license whose many ramifications are to-day undermining the very foundations of our social structure. The latest work of our greatest English novelist portrays, as only his master-hand can portray, the need of woman's thorough comprehension of and co-operation in the treatment of this gravest moral problem of the age.
Just how a young woman may work in this field I can indicate merely in a general outline, which the tact, native ability, and earnest judgment of those interested will fill out as circumstances permit. For the proper carrying out of this work, integrity of purpose is the primal requisite. Eliminate that, and I unhesitatingly concede to the mediæval, convention-ridden methods the undisputed right of way.
In many of our cities our college-bred and working young women are at the head of little bands whose foremost aim is to gather in the children from the streets; for in this, as in every