THE EDUCATION OF GIRLS.
Higher and University Training. — It used to be a common subject of discussion whether women are intellectually inferior to men, and it was also commonly concluded that they are. Whether that be so or not, it is a fact that woman was for many centuries kept in subjection, and that indeed it was not till the advent of Christianity that woman was called to occupy her position as not the inferior but the complement of man. If there is any truth in heredity, this long-continued subjec tion must be taken into account, and the sug gestion of the old question that girls should not receive so complete an education as boys, because they are unfit for it, niust be set aside.
Without attempting a logical definition, we may say that education has as its objects the leading out or developing of all the powers of mind and body ; and even if it were admitted that woman is mentally inferior to man, that is only an additional reason for more careful, and complete, and well-adapted training. Linked with man in life's work, and one with him in destiny, why should woman be less carefully prepared for the duties of life or less fitted for its issues'? Accordingly, now as complete an education is being gradually extended to girls as is given to boys, nor is a university education now denied to them.
Opinions of Various Authorities in Eng land, America, and France. — Although sufficient time has hardly elapsed, since this movement began its full swing, to enable one to estimate accurately its effects, nevertheless a very considerable body of testimony is put forward to show that girls are not only fitted intellectually for the highest developments of education, but are not necessarily injured physi cally. Thus Mrs. Henry Sidgwick, speaking of her experience at Newnham and Girton Colleges at Cambridge, says experience of Girton and Newnharn certainly shows that the danger need not be alarming. The actual num ber of women who even temporarily break down at Cambridge from the effects of work is exceedingly small in proportion to the whole; and as .for the average health of the hard working students, it is little to say that it would compare very favourably with that of girls who are laboriously devoting themselves to the pursuit of amusement. I think it may be asserted that it would compare favourably with the average health of young women gen erally in the class from which our students are drawn. In fact, overwork is an evil to which
attention ought to be continually given, not so much because the danger of it is great, as because it is to a large extent preventible. A delicate woman may go, and frequently has gone, through the course of training for an honour examination without any injury to her health, and even with positive gain to it, from steady and not excessive work, with power, to a great extent, to chose her own days and hours for it; but even a strong one is liable to make herself ill unless she will observe the ordinary common - sense rules of health as to sleep, food, exercise, recreation, and other things." Miss Freeman, President of Wellesley College, Massachusetts, judging from the experience of three colleges for women in the Eastern States of America, the Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith Colleges, where in 1883 there were more than 1000 women students, says the results have been "so manifestly good that they would go on, greatly trusting that in educating women's heads they would not hurt their hearts or ruin their constitutions." Mrs. Richards of Vassar College offers proof of the possibility of giving girls a complete uni versity education free from danger to health, in the shape of statistics concerning a large number of women who had studied and graduated at first-class institutions, and who had passed out of them from five to fifteen years before the date of inquiry. As a result of the inquiry " physicians had acknowledged that they were surprised at the comparatively good health of the educated women of America as shown by these statistics." According to Mrs. Richards, "experience had shown that if a girl was well cared for from twelve to eighteen, then went to college from eighteen to twenty-two, during that period there would be no trouble what ever." She hoped that those who had the control of education in this country (England) would look closely into that matter. It was, of course, very difficult to keep acquainted with those who bad left college, but if some kind of record could be kept of their subse quent health, that would be the best answer which could be given as to the danger of the physical effect of education upon girls.