8.31.2010

Theodore Roosevelt On Motherhood - 1905

This speech is worth reading in total, but if you're short on time, I have provided a "reader's digest" version below.


No piled-up wealth, no splendor of material growth, no brilliance of artistic development, will permanently avail any people unless its home life is healthy, unless the average man possesses honesty, courage, common sense, and decency, unless he works hard and is willing at need to fight hard; and unless the average woman is a good wife, a good mother, able and willing to perform the first and greatest duty of womanhood, able and willing to bear, and to bring up as they should be brought up, healthy children, sound in body, mind, and character, and numerous enough so that the race shall increase and not decrease.

...Just as the happiest and most honorable and most useful task that can be set any man is to earn enough for the support of his wife and family, for the bringing up and starting in life of his children, so the most important, the most honorable and desirable task which can be set any woman is to be a good and wise mother in a home marked by self-respect and mutual forbearance, by willingness to perform duty, and by refusal to sink into self-indulgence or avoid that which entails effort and self-sacrifice.

...If you mothers through weakness bring up your sons to be selfish and to think only of themselves, you will be responsible for much sadness among the women who are to be their wives in the future. If you let your daughters grow up idle, perhaps under the mistaken impression that as you yourselves have had to work hard they shall know only enjoyment, you are preparing them to be useless to others and burdens to themselves. Teach boys and girls alike that they are not to look forward to live spent in avoiding difficulties, but to lives spent in overcoming difficulties.

...There are many good people who are denied the supreme blessing of children, and for these we have the respect and sympathy always due to those who, from no fault of their own, are denied any of the other great blessings of life. But the man or woman who deliberately forego these blessings, whether from viciousness, coldness, shallow-heartedness, self-indulgence, or mere failure to appreciate aright the difference between the all-important and the unimportant,--why, such a creature merits contempt as hearty as any visited upon the soldier who runs away in battle...

...The existence of women of this type forms one of the most unpleasant and unwholesome features of modern life... ...and think of the fate that would surely overcome any nation which developed its average and typical woman along such lines... ...These unpleasant tendencies in our American life are made evident by articles such as those which I actually read not long ago in a certain paper, where a clergyman was quoted, seemingly with approval, as expressing the general American attitude when he said that the ambition of any save a very rich man should be to rear two children only, so as to give his children an opportunity "to taste a few of the good things of life."

This man, whose profession and calling should have made him a moral teacher, actually set before others the ideal, not of training children to do their duty, not of sending them forth with stout hearts and ready minds to win triumphs for themselves and their country, not of allowing them the opportunity, and giving them the privilege of making their own place in the world, but, forsooth, of keeping the number of children so limited that they might "taste a few good things!"

...a race that practised such doctrine--that is, a race that practised race suicide--would thereby conclusively show that it was unfit to exist, and that it had better give place to people who had not forgotten the primary laws of their being.

...The woman's task is not easy--no task worth doing is easy--but in doing it, and when she has done it, there shall come to her the highest and holiest joy known to mankind; and having done it, she shall have the reward prophesied in Scripture; for her husband and her children, yes, and all people who realize that her work lies at the foundation of all national happiness and greatness, shall rise up and call her blessed.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary who said that it as his "pastoral opinion" that a couple should ordinarily have 2 children, so as to give them the most attention and the best possible life.

Betsy said...

"the best possible life" being one without the support and friendship of fellow siblings? And "most attention" until when? age 7? 18? 30? 45? The childhood years fly by and I'd rather have siblings to grow old with than constantly hovering parents, as great as they may be.

GL said...

Indeed, Betsy. While too little attention may be a problem for many children, that doesn't seem to be the problem for many American children of our time. Quite the opposite.