“Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” (Proverbs 31:29)
Times are always changing, bringing new customs and manners and laying aside old customs and manners as worn out and unfit for use. What was just right and up to date when your parents were your age looks queer and odd now, and what seems exactly right to you will in a few years be as much out of style. These changes have always been taking place, and they will continue to do so. We hear much talk about our modern young people as if young people of your time were the first who ever moved out and did things differently than their parents had done them; but every time has had its modern young people who would be up-to-date in everything.
All that is old in customs and manners is not ready to be discarded and all that is new is not always for the best. It is wise for all of us, whether old or young, to learn to choose wisely so that we do not lose our standard of measurements and become unable to tell what is right and what is wrong. Because a thing is being done does not make it right and really proper, and because it is not being done by a large percent of the people does not make it wrong or improper. We should remember that the true standards of right and honor and purity remain the same from the beginning to the end. There are no fluctuations in the standards that will always govern what is right and clean and proper in true, upright, Christian manhood and womanhood.
While it is true that customs change all the time there are circumstances which cause these changes to come much faster at some periods than others. These seasons of rapid change of course bring more problems than are found at other times. Since the great World War we have been passing through one of those seasons of rapid change and our girls have had problems to meet that are different from those which had come before.
One of the greatest changes is the place allowed to women and girls in the business and working world and the confusion of manners and customs that have come as they adjust themselves to the new conditions. While girls have many more opportunities, their temptations are also more and our girls have not always met these changes and temptations to the best advantage.
One great change is in the manner of dress. In your grandmothers’ youth, girls wore too many heavy, close-fitting clothes for health and comfort. Now both health, and comfort are so well considered that those who design the clothes forget that they are also meant as a covering to the body. But our girls should remember that, no matter what the style or cut of her clothes, the real woman is always modest and unassuming, with nothing in her manners or the way she is dressed that will lower the conception of true womanhood in the minds of those who see her. It is always the careless and thoughtless girl or woman who dresses and conducts herself in a way to arouse unchaste thoughts in others.
In many circles smoking is common for women and girls. The changing custom that makes health in dress such a fetish skips over the unhealthful effects of tobacco, yet the effects of tobacco are just as bad now as they ever were. While we would not say that smoking destroys all the beauty of girlhood, we must admit that this habit is becoming a serious blot on American girlhood and that every girl indulging in the habit is placing herself in bondage to something that may seriously injure her health and make her unfit for the better things of true womanhood. Because many are doing it, the habit has lost none of its evil points and has gained not a single good one.
More dangerous still is the temptation to strong drink. So much has been said derogatory of total abstinence that many fear they appear old-fashioned or narrow if they will not take a drink. But drunkenness is just as ugly and its effects just as ghastly now as they ever were, and the only safe person, boy or girl, is the one who will not drink at all. Any indulgence in this respect is a serious blot on a girlhood that would be beautiful. Our girls who are seeking for beautiful character and who place worth upon their influence as real women will not take up the habit, nor indulge occasionally, either in smoking or drinking any liquor. They will dare to stand out from their associates if necessary as total abstainers. The path of beautiful girlhood leads away from every habit that tends to lower the standard of true womanhood.
Girls and women mix with men and boys as equals in the business and work world and many of those little courtesies that used to come to them because they were women were dropped. Because it is not expected of her that she shall be helpless and inefficient the girl should not go to the opposite extreme and act bold or forward, nor by any of her actions make herself unwomanly. In her work life as in her social life she should show herself a friend, sociable and approachable, but her guards should always be up that all may know that she remembers her place as a woman. The wise girl learns how to be friendly without being “fresh,” and to be sociable without being silly. She may do many things her mother and grandmother never did in their girlhood, but she holds within herself just as high a standard of womanly purity and cleanness of life as they ever had. At heart our girls are just as sweet and pure and innocent of wrong intent as girls ever were, and any lowering of that standard comes about because of something wrong in the condition of heart or purpose in the girl who does it, not because our modern girls are all wrong.
Clear waters come out of a clean fountain, and every girl who will keep her fountain of desire and purpose clean and true will show forth a true Christian spirit in her life, and will possess her own allotment in the Land of Beautiful Girlhood.
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