Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- April 24, 1879The Ladies' Club of the German Society
The Ladies' Club of the German Society gave a luncheon at Klare's hall yesterday afternoon and many members, as well as friends of the Society, were present. After coffee, the president, Mrs. Hedwig Voss, gave an address which was received with much acclaim; she spoke about American ladies' clubs, and we herewith quote her speech:
American Ladies' Clubs
"The American ladies' clubs of late have enlarged their activities. Formerly, these clubs were mostly concerned with temperance and blue laws, equal franchise, and the usual benevolent activities. We German women are not much interested in such subjects. If religious sentiment (the belief in more inspiring matters pertaining to the world and human nature) does not pervade our daily actions, then it is not worth much. If religious belief is genuine, then we cannot believe in religion during festive occasions, or discard our belief,putting it on or off like clothing, according to circumstances. Undoubtedly, according to 2German views, the same harmless procedures should be tolerated on Sunday as on weekdays. Now, as to moderation, it is surely an excellent idea to be moderate in all things, and this applies particularly to women; but these nice virtues cannot be enforced by police measures. Virtues can only develop through a proper, sensible education, and by adherence to good principles. But particularly, with respect to temperance, so many of our American women show such an entire lack of tact that the temperance cause and the women behind it are being ridiculed.
"And the voting privilege! I do not think many of us are going to get gray hair thinking about it. Upon to the present time, we have not been concerned about politics, and our inherent modesty prevents us from becoming involved in matters of which we do not know much. But, unfortunately, there are also many men who are absolutely uninformed about our institutions, the American Constitution, and matters pertaining to the state; their efforts, as citizens, manifest themselves accordingly. And that is the claim to which our American women subscribe. The American women declare that men have made an awful 'mess' of politics and 3that, naturally, women should also have something to say in politics. The American women, are of course, better enabled to participate in politics than we [German women] are, because they have been more interested in the subject, and they have even entered the various professions; there are ministers of the Gospel and doctors, even lawyers, regardless of the protests of their male colleagues. Many women are newspaper writers and give lectures. Hence a large number of intelligent men now declare that the abstract right of voting cannot be denied the fair sex; after all, they are capable human beings endowed with intelligence.
"As employees of the state (of course, so far only in subordinate positions) women have proved to be very capable. Considered on the average, women are more ambitious and conscientious than men. Who knows, at long last we may attain this 'equality', the right to vote, and it may be given to us even without effort; allegorically speaking, it drops into our lap like ripened fruit, and then it may not appear as sour and unenticing as it does now.
"Lately, clubs have been organized in which the aforesaid aims appear to be 4somewhat relegated to the background. Among these associations are first of all, the 'social science clubs'. The word gives difficulty in translating from English into German, because one cannot obtain a proper conception of what is meants by a 'social' science. The object of these clubs is to investigate the shortcomings of our present social structure, to find out the reasons, and to eliminate the undesirable features, in so far as possible. The two main causes which promote bad conditions in general are attributed to laziness and ignorance. If the people could be given enough understanding, so that they may perceive the consequences of their foolish actions, and, if it were possible for the people to be aroused to pursue useful activities as a matter of habit, then a great many temptations would be removed; poverty, sickness, vice and misery would diminish noticeably. These newer women's clubs consist of seven divisions, in each of which the chairman, president, secretary and treasurer constitute the executive board. The divisions are: benevolence, education, art and literature, sanitation (that is, instruction on matters pertaining to health), home management, industry, and politics. Love for the state--the state of being well dressed--is taken 5for granted in so far as women are concerned, so the fair sex need only alter the conception a little, and then the women will soon be splendid citizens.
"Then, aside from these divisions, these clubs have subdivisions, for example, in the education division: lectures, education for women, schools, kindergartens, and care of small children. The other branches are divided in a similar manner. It thus becomes apparent that this presents a large field in which those with the most varied abilities can assert themselves. In considering only the last phase, every woman, even if she has no children, is a teacher, even if she only serves in giving an example to our growing youth. And, above all, as a teacher she must develop her abilities on her own initiative, otherwise she will not be able properly to fulfill her duties.
"The leader of the social science clubs of this State is Mrs. Elizabeth Boynton Harbort, assistant editor of the Inter Ocean for many years. This newspaper [Inter Ocean] has a special department for women, and publishes two pages every 6Saturday entirely devoted to women. Under the headline "Woman's Kingdom' one finds accounts of women's attainments, club activities, etc., whereas the heading 'Home' is restricted to household matters. On one page we may obtain inspiration from philanthropic ideas, and on the other page we may learn how to bake a pumpkin pie or build a so-called 'air castle' of cards. That newspaper [Inter Ocean] has a large circulation, particularly in the country districts, and it undoubtedly has a good influence. It provides a sort of substitute for clubs and associations with people, since these social activities are restricted to rural communities.
"Mrs. Harbort also publishes a paper expressly for clubs, The Social Science Journal, and every member is given a copy free. The first issue was published on New Years's, and a somewhat triumphant note is contained therein: 'Hail, Sisters, our harvest is well-ripened, may the gatherers not be lacking. For the sake of the Country, truth and justice, let us not dedicate ourselves to luxury, idleness, and mere superfluous ornamentation as we did in the past, but let us take an interest in more valuable endeavors, such as diligence and independence.7
Labor is honorable, even for women. We need improvements in the home, school and church, in society, associations, and politics, and the women must help. Let us co-operate and forget our immaterial personal affairs for the sake of the common weal, and success will be assured.'
"Much may have been said and written while activity was lacking, but, at the beginning, one must express himself, consider, and seek advice. We may be exceedingly intelligent and benevolently inclined, but it will not benefit others, if we remain aloof and mute. And, considering the activity of American women, their energy and sacrificial spirit, they will not stop with mere words. At present, hundreds of women are making arrangements for an authors' carnival, which is to be held at the Exposition building for the benefit of charitable institutions. It will be a fair, but of an unusual character. The salesladies will appear in groups, representing various persons and scenes from the works of well-known authors, and the presentation--in costume and action--is to be shown in an authentic manner. The idea has proved popular elsewhere, and has exceeded expectations. The people come, they want to see--and they buy; the 8latter, after all, is the most important feature.
"The Women's Shop is also an innovation which is scheduled for the near future. A store is to be rented, a saleslady will be employed, and all women may then dispose of homemade articles without the necessity of functioning as clerks. The members of the club [which establishes the store] will try to obtain customers in order to help their less fortunate sisters. Everything made by women will be acceptable: paintings, drawings, ornaments of all kinds, fine embroidery and other handmade articles, clothing for children, linen, bakery goods, candy, preserves, and most assuredly, popcorn. The list of the executives contains many names of German women who may thus benefit members of their sex who are of foreign origin.
"Also a trade school for girls is to be founded; this is very commendable. The wife of former Governor Beveridge leads these organizations. Poor, neglected children roaming the streets are to be taught, so that they may become useful. Many states have such schools for boys, but no places can be found for girls; in 9fact, the latter, in many cases, were virtually driven from these institutions to make room for the boys; and, as the girls were left to shift for themselves, one can readily imagine what became of them after growing older.
"In the police annals of the City of New York, an account is given of a woman called Margaret, the mother of criminals. She grew up under the influence of street environment, without schooling or work. In the course of time, she had many children and still more grandchildren, until the progeny amounted to hundreds of persons. More than one half of this large family became wards of the state. The women almost invariably became prostitutes, while the men were feeble-minded or drunkards, thieves, tramps, robbers and murderers. The state has had to pay more than one million dollars to apprehend, prosecute and support these criminals--not to mention....the bad influence upon others caused by association with that element.
"Would it not have been worth while for the state to educate the child in the 10first place? The women in particular, the mothers, are responsible; they can even curb the negligence and vices of a man, if they are of superior stock. However, it often requires a deplorably long period until such a humanitarian idea penetrates into the craniums of our politicians and united action is taken. Women's meetings were also held in our State, even in the senate hall after adjournment; motions were made, resolutions passed and petitions signed; many lawmakers were present, but so far nothing has transpired.
"During such meetings women often became fresh and arrogant, and so, regardless of the gallant and submissive spirit of American men, some became disgruntled and obstinate. When Miss Frances Willard, with her temperance regiment, appeared and also demanded the senate hall, some gentlemen objected, and one of them declared vehemently: 'According to my view, these women would do better by going home and taking care of their children; their offspring will surely develop into ruffians if left to themselves.' Another gentleman declared that one should not spoil Sister Willard's fun; he, for his part, enjoys the sight when women 11harangue unrestrictedly. Those senators who do not care to be reproached for their sins need not be present; no law makes it mandatory. He also does not believe that small children will be neglected, since neither Miss Willard (an old spinster) nor the protesting senator are blessed with progeny. Of course, such banter appealed, and a large majority of the senatorial group gave their consent for the use of the hall. The ladies could argue to their hearts' content, and undoubtedly did.
"The trade school for girls is not yet favored by the Senate, but the school is to be started, though on a small scale. A suitable place has been rented, and much interest has been aroused. Even among the elite Americans, two clubs for small girls have been founded; one of these clubs has already collected more than one hundred dollars in furtherance of the cause. According to the report, the children are not 'forced' to go into the school, nor are special efforts made to obtain attendance, but, nevertheless, the children appreciated it--they were zealous and declared they would never give up their school membership. That is gratifying. Even if there appears to be an inclination to imitate the older 12people, such ideas given during childhood are not likely to be disregarded entirely in later years, and in many cases may cause a wonderful development.
"Herewith, ladies, I bring to a close my discourse about American women's clubs, although the subject has only been shown in general. However, I would like now to speak to you as a German.
"Many of you may probably think: 'How can a German housewife find time for such involved affairs?' Of course, if a woman has small children, or a large household to be managed with little or no extra help, then she will hardly be able to take an active interest in such matters. But many of us are better situated, so that we need not 'stay within our shell' like a snail or remain in a burrow like a marmot. We German women have a reputation throughout the world for having a sense of domesticity, and may heaven prevent us from disregarding our duties and from acting in an irresolute, unintelligent manner. We surely have sympathy for anything that suffers, and individuals hardened by self-ishness--thinking only of personal gratification--are rare among us. But are 13we not often too particular, penny-pinching and one-sided? Of course, the home should be our main interest, but it should not--and must not be--our boundary. Regardless of how carefully we protect our children, eventually they must face stern reality, and....our offspring cannot escape reality: If women reach the stage where they take an enthusiastic interest in affairs which benefit the community, then, to quote a well-known German author, 'only a boor would insist that women stick to their brooms and darning needles.' (Applause).
"Our minds and sentiments should be susceptible to broader activities. After all, we are so closely related, so similar despite our dissimilarity, composed of the same substances, motivated by identical wishes, virtues and weaknesses--differing only in degree--and we have the same sentiments toward anything which is really good and commendable. May we, therefore, also display a growing interest in a better conception of life, for honest endeavor, and let our proverb be 'progress!'"14
Generous acclaim followed this splendid address, which undoubtedly made a lasting impression.
Then followed a number of musical selections, under the direction of Oscar Schmoll:
Romance from "Robert der Teufel," (Robert the Devil) by Meyerbeer, and airs by Franz Schubert, sung by Miss Alice Sittig; Recitative and Aria from "Hans Heiling," by Marschner, and songs by R. Franz and Raff, sung by Miss Amalie Kleinofen; Fantasy for violin and piano, based on the motif from "Stradella," by Sinzele, played by Messrs. Von Goetzen and Oscar Schmoll; "Leichte Cavallerie" (Light Cavalry) Overture, by Suppe, and a "Rhapsodie Hongroise" by Eugene Ketterer, played by Miss Minna and Mr. Georg Claussenius.
The excellent renditions were awarded deserving applause.
After that, various topics of interest were discussed in an informal manner, 15and new members became affiliated with the Club, thus furthering the beneficent work. Not only the members, but also many friends, were present who, after learning the facts, expressed their willingness to help the cause.
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