Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/693

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
671
THE "NEW WOMAN" AND HER DEBTS.

dexterity re-enforced by art. However we pride ourselves on mere material resources, without industrial power and technique the rest of the world will beat us. Japan and China have developed their exquisite textiles, bronzes, and faience for four thousand years. Russia has greater oil fields than America. If Egypt and India fail to out-acre us in cotton, Africa could be turned into one vast cotton field where the three economic factors—food, shelter, and raiment—would be minimized, since the cultivator would wear no clothes, would sleep under a tree, and, when he wanted food, would climb the tree and get it.

Clearly, too, we shall continue at an ethical as well as a commercial disadvantage unless we replace the handicrafts of the primitive woman and build up the industrial arts—the all-important, ever-dignified and beautiful pursuits of cooking and sewing, cleaning and repairing, needlework, embroidery, carving, coloring, and house decoration. The most unlovely homes in the world are the bare, untidy homes of our working population. The most wasteful housewife on earth is the thriftless American housewife. To reinstate the skilled industries, to weave in beauty with the life of the people, we must carry manual and technical training and applied art to the point of action, as it were, down among the degraded, the belated, the neglected, the submerged. In the "slums," where ignorance revels, crime festers, and decent poverty hides, we should found cooking, sewing, and housekeeping schools, with carpentry centers, wood-carving, brass-hammering, drawing, modeling, and other creative pursuits that will fascinate the roughest street girl and transform the boy "tough" into an eager, industrious artisan. Belgium and France, whose products we in vain try to equal, have planted industrial and domestic science schools in every hamlet, technical schools in all the manufacturing towns, dairy and farm schools in the agricultural districts. The teaching is adapted to local industries; on the coast, to shipbuilding and fisheries; in the quarries, to stone-cutting; around textile mills, to weaving and dyeing; with drawing everywhere. Hence the industrial supremacy of these countries, their excellent food, absence of waste, national thrift, and the love of art that pervades even the humblest classes. To educate by the same methods the children of America, to improve our homes, to bring order, skill, and beauty into the barrenest lives, to carry on the propaganda for universal industrial and art training, is the privilege and duty of the "new woman."

Two words of warning. Even to dabble in handicrafts and aesthetics is a sign of. the crude and amateurish but noble upstriving of our times, just as it indicates awakened civic conscience that club women settle in one hour's discussion the most far-reaching municipal problems and the gravest financial issues.