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Woman And Peace

Creator: Helen Keller (author)
Date: May 1930
Publication: Home Magazine
Source: Towson University

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A Spring-time message to Mothers on a subject of world interest -- sent to you by a woman who has never acknowledged defeat.


By Helen Keller


IT is fitting and proper that we should turn our minds to a new way of thinking and feeling in the Springtime -- the season of the year that suggests renaissance, youth, vigor. We are symbolists all, and I see in each bud, leaf and blade of grass, life with its new hopes, dreams and aspirations.


That these leaves and buds will pass away ought not to discourage us. Each has played its part, has spent its brief hour in the world, and goes to prepare the way for others. Ideals, if they possess truth and beauty, will grow with time and expand into greater truths with greater beauty.


Down through the ages woman has accepted a sphere of activity far below her intelligence and capacity. Deceived, denied and bullied, she has frittered away her life in trivial pursuits. Only in child-bearing has she seemed to fulfill her destiny. Even in the education of her children she has had little to say. But at last she is beginning to shake herself free from the old laws, old customs and old ideas which our fathers held to be the best of civilization. She is challenging fear and superstition, and facing unashamed, unafraid, the facts that science has discovered.


ONE of the old ideas that is passing away is the commandment, "Thou shalt not eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge." This has been the command of man, church and school. Always there have been subjects which convention and prejudice tabooed for woman. Even in my youth it was considered unwomanly to discuss the causes of blindness in the new-born child. At first not one newspaper or magazine would open its pages to the subject. It was years before we broke down the barriers of reserve and prudery that hindered free discussion.


The time has come for woman to open the graves of dead institutions, and breathe new life into them, and thus bring into the land live men and women. The first thing she ought to do is draw aside the curtain of convention and peer with the naked eye of love into the mind of her child. It is her duty to study the child and learn what he really is. In order to do this, it is vital for her to know the facts that are being accumulated in biology, eugenics, psychology, the relation between habits and impulses in human development. On this development depends her efficacy in shaping the child's character.


Tomorrow our children will be sitting where we sit today. They will carry out the policies we lay down, they will bear our influence into their enterprises. They will exercise authority in business, in Congress, on the bench of justice, and many will be on the battlefields of industry. They will control cities and states, and hold in their hands the destiny of their country. They will act according to the character, intelligence and knowledge we have developed in them in their formative years.


Start today, O mother, and understand the laws of your child's growth and happiness. Only through him will come a civilization that shall conform with the highest attributes of human nature.


OBVIOUSLY, the mother is the first teacher, and the home is the school from which the child receives his earliest and strongest impressions. Happy is the child who grows up in an environment where he hears intelligent conversation and discussion! For such worthwhile talk and exchange of views give balance to his mind and dispose him to noble feelings.


It is in the mother's power to sow in his mind the seeds of future deeds. She can substitute for the football hero that he admires the lives of great men, their lofty thoughts and creative works. By word, story and example she can teach her child that humanity is enriched, not by athletes and money-makers, but by the ideals, the unselfishness and the courage of the Franklins, the Lincolns, the Newtons, the Tolstoys, the Pasteurs and the Einsteins. All these men did their great work for mankind without the help of machinery, intensive production and wealth of which we are so proud.


Again I urge you, study the child, learn to meet with sympathy his reactions to the world about him, and endeavor to create for him an environment favorable to his development. Then he will be able to take charge of himself intelligently, serve his fellowmen with his mind and contribute something to the common good. These are only a few of the things that a mother needs to know if she wants her children to be happy and intelligent. Such children, when the opportunity comes, will shape to higher ends the new order of society that is now emerging from the chaos of the world.


Yes, new times demand new measures, new women and a new education.