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´╗┐Title: Address to the First Graduating Class of Rutgers Female College
Author: Pierce, Henry M.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Address to the First Graduating Class of Rutgers Female College" ***

  Rutgers Female College;








  New York:


In the year 1839, with great labor, care, expense, and after long
consultation, was the Rutgers Female Institute founded. It grew out of
an increasing sense of the importance of the duties of women, and of the
need that her work should be well done. Hence the establishment of the
school, with its course of studies, its libraries, its apparatus, its
teachers. A quarter of a century has witnessed a great change in the
education of woman; and the position of Rutgers Institute to-day, as a
College, marks the character and degree of that change.

It has been my custom, to make a personal address to the members of each
graduating class, as they have gone forth from the quiet of the school
to the busy walks of life. My heart now impels me to follow this usage,
but the change that has taken place in this institution, during the
past year, seems to make appropriate to the present occasion, a few
preliminary statements of my views as to what is the true position of
woman, and what should be her education.

These are questions that deeply agitate the public mind. They are, in
fact, the leading questions of the day; but in regard to them, I shall
not shrink from the utterance of my opinions. Underlying the question of
the education of woman, is the question of her equality with man; for if
woman be inferior to man, so should be her education.

Some might be disposed to reverse this proposition, and to say that
just in proportion to her inferiority, should her training be more
careful and complete. There might seem to be some truth in this idea;
but a little deeper thinking will convince us that to try to make
up in this way for her supposed deficiency, would be to attempt an
impossibility. The end could not be reached; the bounds that nature
had appointed could not be passed.

It is also clear that if woman be the equal of man, she should receive
as good an education as man, a proposition too plain for argument.
So is also our third proposition--which exhausts this branch of the
subject--that if woman be superior to man, she should receive a better
education than man: for it is a first principle in morals, that every
power which God gave, He meant should be unfolded to its fullest extent.

I am fully persuaded that the time is not far distant, when it will be
thought almost incredible that the question of the inferiority of woman
should ever have been seriously debated. For it is not without higher
warrant than that of human reason, that I would claim for woman an equal
place by the side of man. When in the beginning God created the heavens,
the earth, the sea, and all that in them is, even as He then made laws
for the stars and the seas, so did He then fix and determine forever the
sphere and the destiny of man and of woman. Driven out of Paradise into
the world on account of sin, neither man nor woman took their place at
once; and in the nature of the case, woman's sphere was the last of the
two to be understood.

The Old Testament contains the germs of the great truths of all time;
but over four thousand years were needed to prepare the human mind for
the coming of Christ; and it was reserved for Christ fully to declare
what place the Creator had designed for woman. I am fully persuaded
that upon all great questions touching humanity, the human mind will at
length accept the teachings of Christ as final; and the question whether
or not woman is the equal of man, I conceive to be authoritatively
settled by Him, when he pronounces marriage such a union as excludes the
idea that there can be essential inferiority in one of the parties. His
ideal of marriage, unknown alike to the classical nations and to the
Hebrews, is incompatible with the inequality of the sexes. Nor do we
find a trace in His life or teachings, or in those of His Apostles,
which tends in the least to countenance such an idea. The few apparent
exceptions to this statement grow out of Oriental usage, or are
explained by the truth that subordination is consistent with equality.
Not even superficial reasoners should have been misled by these
exceptions, when, generally speaking, there is no distinction in the
moral duties enjoined on each, none in the warnings and promises
addressed to each, none at the cross, none in the day of judgment.

Equality, though it excludes the idea of inferiority, is consistent with
diversity. There is a difference between the sexes, that at once raises
the question whether there should not be a difference in their

After the most careful thought that I could give to the subject, I
am of the opinion that it should be the same to a much greater extent
than most persons are willing to concede. Up to a certain point, the
education of men is much the same: beyond that point comes in a special
training. Thus, on leaving college, the young man who is to pursue law,
receives a legal training. But the great fact here to be noticed is,
that up to a certain point, all liberally educated men are trained much
in the same manner. For a long time, a liberal education seems to take
no note of the specific ends, which finally it may be desirable to aim
at. It contents itself with enlarging and strengthening the mental
powers. It unrolls before the young man the ample page of knowledge,
confident that this is the best preparation for any path that he may
finally choose.

If, then, it is best for the young man that by a liberal education, his
memory should be strengthened, his reasoning powers disciplined, his
judgment matured, his mind enlarged--why is it not best for the young
woman also? This is a question for those who differ with us to answer.
It is a question that none would seriously ask, were it not that the
minds of many are unconsciously swayed by a belief in the essential
inferiority of woman. It can only arise from this pernicious error, or
from some doubt as to the real advantage of a liberal education;--an
error and a doubt, both of which should be remanded to the Dark Ages.

Generally, then, we would say, that there is no reason why woman should
be debarred from any part of the studies common to all liberally
educated men.

I say, common to all liberally educated men. I do not wish you to
infer that I consider the course of instruction in our colleges for
young men in every particular the wisest and the best. On the contrary,
early in my college life I thought, and the years of maturer life have
strengthened the idea, that in the curriculum of colleges, too little
importance attaches to the science of nature, and to the study of the
human soul,--not the study of the abstract metaphysics which the
schoolmen bequeathed to us, but of man as he is,--and too little
importance attaches to the study of the Hebrew and the Christian
Scriptures,--the fountain whence the ever-enlarging river of our
civilization flows. Neither did I then think, nor do I now think,
that a familiarity with the classics alone, is either a sufficient, or
altogether the best, preparation for life in our own day--for a life in
which shall pulsate all the great emotions of our time,--for a life in
complete sympathy with nature, with man, and with God.

In the United States, the college course for young men was modeled after
that of the European Universities, which were founded when the Greek and
the Latin were the only fully developed tongues; when the languages of
modern Europe were in a formative process; when works on science,
philosophy, medicine, jurisprudence, and theology, and all legal
documents, state papers, and treaties, were done in Latin; when all
discussions and correspondence were carried on in Latin; and when modern
science yet waited for the thoughts of Bacon, the intuitions of Kepler,
and the discoveries of Galileo.

Now, on the other hand, the Italian, French, German, and other
languages, have been brought to a high state of perfection, and almost
every work on art, science, literature, or philosophy, is composed in
the author's vernacular. Yet our colleges, with unfortunate fidelity,
have hitherto adhered much too closely to the course of study marked out
by their ancient models.

But nothing should gratify the friends of education more than the
changes that are now beginning to take place, not only in our own
institutions of learning, but even in the English Universities of Oxford
and Cambridge. The Novum Organum of Bacon has triumphed, and is leading
us from the study of a dead Past to the study of living and eternal
truth. The establishment of scientific departments and schools of
mines, in connection with some of our noble and time-honored colleges
and universities, is a virtual acknowledgment that not the ancient
classics, but the modern classics, should rank first in the studies of
youth; not the classics of the Greeks and Romans, but the classics of

I would not be misunderstood in this matter. The grand classics are
grand indeed! Greece and Rome were grand; but their grandeur grew out of
high aspirations, tending to a grand life. They turned neither to the
right nor to the left, they looked not backward, they went right
straight on, and thus became truly great.

We, too, have a greatness, as a nation, to attain: and we must attain
it, if at all, in the same way. We need not fear that the truth
developed by different nations, will or can be lost. Truth once known
can never be hidden. The results of each generation and century, pass on
into the future, and are interwoven into the woof of our ever-growing

The Greek and Roman energy, thought, and character, permeate the life
and soul of modern Europe. The arts, the sciences, the literature, the
civilization, of Greece and Rome we have to-day. They are out on the
air; they are incorporated in our social and intellectual life; they
are not afar off, they are here to-night--here in our streets, here in
our homes and in our hearts. They are living, and speak with living
tongues:--that part of them found in books alone may truly be called

In our opinion, a college founded to-day, should conform its curriculum
to the growth of the world, in letters, and thought, and science, and
civilization, and Christianity;--while the Greek and Latin languages
should be studied only for specific ends.

If we had the years required for a thorough study of the classics,
and an equal time to give to the natural sciences, then both might
be pursued to advantage. But as we have not time to pursue to any
considerable extent more than one of these departments, I would give a
rudimentary training in the classics, and devote the best energies of
the young to those studies which have for their objects, life and its
pursuits, man and his destiny, God and His works.

The sphere of woman differs widely from that of man; but this is neither
the time nor the place to unfold our views upon the question in what
way, and to what extent, this fact should modify the course of study in
a college for women; a question which all must recognize as one of great
practical difficulty, as well as of great practical importance. The
conclusions at which we have arrived on these subjects--the results in
part of experience, and in part of the cordial aid of a large number of
distinguished educators--will soon be laid before the public in the
curriculum of the college.

We therefore here content ourselves with repeating, that generally the
studies pursued by women should be those that are pursued by men; and
that they should be pursued much to the same extent. Surely, there is
nothing which the under-graduate learns in his college course, which he
should not be glad that his wife should know as well as himself. Surely
a liberal education has miserably failed of its aim, when a man desires
in a wife, not an equal, but a toy or a slave.

The idea of woman as a slave is a barbarian idea. The savage has it to
perfection, and because he has it he is a savage. The savage makes woman
do the work of a beast of burden; the half-civilized Chinese puts on her
all the drudgery of hard work;--"the wife drags the plough, the husband
sows the grain."

To the savage, woman is a slave. The half-civilized man combines with
this the idea of woman as a toy. This is an unchristian idea; unhappily
it is too common even with us; yet, with some other degrading ideas, it
is a relic of heathenism. The whole difference between civilized Europe,
half-civilized Asia, and savage Africa, can be accurately measured by
the idea of woman; the best test of civilization, in either a nation or
an individual.

The question, then, whether our civilization is to advance or to
retrograde--stand still it cannot--depends on the place hereafter to be
given to woman. As to this question, the present seems to be a sort of
crisis. The signs point both ways; on the whole, the prospect is hopeful
and cheering: but we must either go back or go on; we must become either
more Asiatic or more Christian.

The hopeful indications are general in their character, and embrace all
that is cheering in the signs of the times. Those that forebode evil are
more specific in their relations to women; and, though differing among
themselves, they all point to one common end, viz., the destruction of
the family.

The Church, the State, and the Family, are alike ordained of God. The
ordering of the Family pertains to woman; of the State, to man; of the
Church, to the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these organizations exists by
divine right, and therefore, within its own sphere, is sovereign.
Yet the preservation and perfection of all, depend on that of each.
In the words of a distinguished Greek scholar: "Each inculcating the
same lesson, although with sanctions continually ascending; each
successively, in the order of its rank, supplying the defects of the
lower; yet each to be regarded as divinely appointed by the same eternal
Source of all law and rightful authority, in heaven and earth."

The family is destroyed when its unity is destroyed. Of various causes
tending to this result, we shall speak only of two particulars in our
legislation. According to the law of Christ, the husband and wife are
one person: to this fact, the old common law in a good degree conformed;
but the tendency of recent statutes is to do away with this idea, by
making the property of the wife distinct from that of the husband, and
giving to her separately its management;--thus at once creating a
diversity of interests.

We recognize the necessity, in certain cases, of such a distinction in
the control of property: but we deplore this necessity, we are fearful
as to its tendency, and we hope that the practice may never extend
beyond rare and exceptional cases.

If each of the contracting parties, as they might properly be called,
have large possessions, so that the disposal of property does not often
arise, the evil is less. But with the great majority of families that
compose the body-politic, the spending of a little of their very little
money is a question of moment, that comes up from day to day, and almost
from hour to hour: and if a garment cannot be bought, or a meal
provided, without raising the question of separate pecuniary interests
between the heads of the family, and that too in the presence of the
children, the unity of the home, its sacred peace, and its hallowed
lessons, are at an end; and it may be that the strong passions so
constantly appealed to, will rend the family asunder. We have heard of
a legacy of seven hundred dollars to a wife, that led to a divorce.

In accordance with the effect of such legislation, made to cover
exceptional cases, but which is ominous of general corruption, are those
laws of divorce which, in several of our States, practically tend to
make marriage a contract dissoluble at the will of the parties; thus
encouraging persons foolishly to rush into it, and madly to break from
it. It is said that in one New England State, one marriage in ten is
thus dissolved! The State thus presumes, for causes that the Church does
not hold to be sufficient, to put asunder those whom God hath joined

Our object is by no means to discuss these subjects, but merely to
glance at them as illustrations of a strong tendency to innovate without
due regard to the sacred oneness of the family. Even education is an
evil, so far as it may tend to infringe upon this unity; and it is of
the highest value, only as it may tend to secure it. This is the true
ground of the principle which we before laid down, and which we would
extend to every grade of society, from the highest to the lowest, viz.,
that the wife should have as good an education as the husband; and, what
is of equal importance, the mother should have as good an education as
the children.

Whatever breaks in upon the oneness of the family, brings with it evil
for which it cannot furnish any sufficient compensation, either to woman
or to man. The destruction of the family is the destruction of woman: it
is that of man also.

The destruction of the family is likewise the destruction of the State.
The family is the foundation stone on which the higher edifice rests;
and if this stone be removed out of its place, or ground to powder, the
more imposing fabric of government falls to ruin. The no-family and
no-government fallacies are the same in principle; and they complete
themselves when they add, no Church, and no God.

The profligacy of our cities, like the poison of the cholera, infecting
the whole of the country; the frenzy of fashion, bewildering the minds
of women; the lust of gold, gnawing at the hearts of men; these things
of themselves might lead us to fear that the family and the home might
become things of the past; and if so, our civilization would vanish,
"like the baseless fabric of a vision." But we look for better things:
Christ, the Word of God, "by whom and for whom are all things," laid the
foundations of the family so deep, that they cannot be removed. We may
disregard them, to our destruction, as did Babylon and Rome of old, but
whatsoever He hath decreed, He will finally bring it to pass.

That ideal of woman which we would fain behold realized, is His ideal.
He ordained that the place of woman should be by the side of man, as his
equal; and this ideal, which He foreshadowed in the Scriptures from the
beginning, He will accomplish. His religion is a religion of
far-continuing purposes; it is one religion, from the first promise that
the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, to the end of
the world.

It may be an appropriate close to these somewhat discursive, yet
related, remarks, to show that the idea of woman in the old Hebrew
Scripture, was the germ that Christianity is ripening to the flower.

One book of the Scripture seems to have been written to place a Hebrew
youth in full possession of all the wisdom of age. It states that its
design is "to give to the young knowledge and discretion." I speak, of
course, of the book of Proverbs. This is an extended series of practical
precepts; of precepts everywhere marked by that religious sentiment
which ever gives to practical truth its highest value; of precepts
embracing the whole life of man; of precepts so profound and exhaustive,
that the wisdom and the experience of all subsequent ages and nations
have added to them but little.

From the difficulty of rendering axioms and pithy sayings into another
language, our translation of this book is somewhat defective. It often
misses the point of the saying which it aims to reproduce. But there can
be no mistake as to the leading ideas in the description before us. The
place that it holds in the book of all human wisdom, is good evidence
that a high place was meant to be given to woman in the Hebrew
Scripture; its opening and its closing words, moreover, strengthen
this impression. The value of a perfect woman "is far above rubies."
"The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her; he shall have no
need of spoil." Precious gems--the favorite form of wealth among the
Orientals--are thus disparaged in comparison with her; and he that hath
a true woman, needs no other riches.

In the very spirit of the first divine word as to woman--"It is not good
for man to be alone"--it is here written; "She shall do him good and not
evil all the days of her life."

Again, at the close of the description, it is written, "Give her of the
fruit of her hands"--that is, deal justly with her--yield not to the
mean spirit, that thinks that whatever is conceded to woman, is so much
taken from the birthright of man. The writer goes beyond the proverb of
the French: "A good wife is half the battle;" and, though the husband is
"known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land," his
prosperity seems wholly attributed to her. Indeed, he is reduced to such
insignificance, that all he can do is to stand still and praise her.
This he does with hearty good will; saying, as good husbands always say
to good wives--common excellence in woman always affecting a man with
uncommon surprise--"Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou
excellest them all."

Young Ladies of the First Graduating Class of Rutgers Female College.

In this portraiture of a woman of another country and of a distant age,
to which, for various reasons I have called the attention of the general
audience, there are inwrought characteristics, the excellence of which I
would, in this hour of parting, hold up to you for imitation.

"She worketh willingly:"--"in her tongue is the law of kindness:"--in
her heart is the fear of the Lord.

Of the many things that I would gladly impress on your hearts, as I
address you, as my pupils, for the last time, I can select but few, and
perhaps none more appropriate than the virtues and excellencies which
this portrait suggests.

One characteristic of this woman is energy: "She riseth while it is yet
night":--"She eateth not the bread of idleness." She exemplifies the
spirit of the truly Scriptural precept: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth
to do, do it with thy might." Her example, then, is one of habitual
industry, a habit which has much more to do with a truly virtuous life
than is generally supposed. Labor strengthens all the virtues; idleness
weakens them all:--idleness is the fruitful source of vice.

In every sphere in which you may be placed, there will be work to be
done;--to be done religiously--that is, faithfully as unto God;--to be
accepted by you as His manifest will, and to be done willingly as unto

One of the chief ends of your education has been, to give you the
trained intellect, that you may quickly and correctly discern, in each
relation and circumstance of life--from day to day, and from hour to
hour--what is the work that you are called upon to do. Another chief
aim has been to give you that disciplined self-command that will enable
you--not lazily putting it off till a more convenient season--to do it
at once, and to do it thoroughly and well.

If you have here gained or strengthened the habit of industry, preserve
it to the end. Without labor, there is no excellence and no happiness.
It is the most vulgar of all vulgar errors, that a lady is a person who
does nothing. Such a person would be good for nothing, and miserable
indeed. Work, however, is of many kinds; work of the brain, and work of
the heart, as well as work of the hands; and the humblest kind is not
the hardest.

It is another vulgar error, that work is degrading. Labor was imposed
on our fallen race, because it was fallen; but the decree went forth
more in pity than in anger. Work was not imposed upon the angels, for
they needed no such compulsion. Angelic natures work willingly and
cheerfully; and how is the idea that to do nothing is a desirable thing,
reconciled with the sublime words, "My Father worketh hitherto and I

In the description of the woman of old, it is said: "In her tongue, is
the law of kindness;" and this I would most earnestly entreat you to
emulate, believing that few things would conduce more to your usefulness
and happiness. Saint James tells us that "if any man seemeth to be
religious, and bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is vain."
Elsewhere in his Epistle, you may learn how difficult a thing he
conceives this to be. It requires a perfect control of one's self, and
a large charity. Of the former, we hope that you have gained something
here; the other, you can gain somewhat from experience, but in
perfection only from the grace of God.

I would have your conversation governed by the charity of which the
Apostle Paul saith, that it "suffereth long and is kind; envieth not;
vaunteth not itself; is not easily provoked; thinketh no evil." This
kindness of spirit, this charity, is a high Christian grace; but it
might almost be taught by experience, seeing how little we really know
the motives that sway the human soul, and how often the severe judgments
which we pronounce on our fellow-mortals, have to be reconsidered with
much pain and self humiliation, when perhaps it is forever too late to
right the wrong, and to recompense the suffering that we have

Friendships broken, causeless enmities, opportunities for doing good and
getting good thrown away, too often teach us--too late to prevent, to
ourselves and to others, much lasting injury--the value of the law of
kindness as the law of our words. Especially is this law of kindness
needed in the speech of woman, whose hasty, thoughtless words can
influence to fury the pride and wrath of man, and set on fire his
heart with the fires of hell. Dissensions in families, hatred between
neighbors, enmity between states and nations, follow when woman's tongue
embitters man's jealousy and passion.

If the sphere of woman is hereafter to be enlarged, we all should more
earnestly hope, and more fervently pray, that she may everywhere carry
with her "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight
of God of great price."

What is the characteristic in woman that should most fasten the
affections, and secure the esteem, of man? Is it the varying charm of
manner, or beauty of person? The Scripture before us, answers these
questions in a few decisive words: "Favor is deceitful,"--that is, an
unsatisfying thing--"and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the
Lord, she shall be praised."

I know few things, even in the Scripture, so thoroughly justified by
observation, and at the same time so little known and regarded, as this.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the fear of God answers to the love of God in
the Christian Scriptures, and so may be taken as equivalent to true
piety: and true piety in woman is that alone which really can draw from
out the heart of man, the sentiment of lasting veneration.

I cannot urge this as a motive for cultivating the spirit of piety; but
I surely should not conceal from you what this Scripture so clearly
reveals, in this: "Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is,
as well as of that which is to come." But I would here enforce upon you
the duty of piety, from other considerations. Piety is not only the
highest of duties, but the greatest of privileges.

Young Ladies, life is so limited, our responsibilities are so great,
the consequences of pursuing a wrong course are so terrible and
destructive,--even so far as this life goes,--that you cannot afford to
make a mistake at the outset. Experience is not always a sure guide--it
cannot teach all the important truths that concern this life; nor can
you trust implicitly to the wisdom of either parent or teacher, nor
commit yourselves to the guidance of passion, or to the customs and
opinions of the world. To what, then, should you go, to-night,
to-morrow, and every day of your lives, for safe guidance--for true
wisdom? Need I say, to the Bible alone?--to the Bible as opened to your
minds, and brought home to your hearts, by the Holy Spirit granted to
you in answer to prayer. By thus listening to its voice, you listen to
the voice of God; by taking hold on its truths, you take hold upon
eternity. You are thus lifted above yourselves;--above your passions,
your littleness, your ambition;--above the world. You are thus brought
into communion with the Father of your spirits;--with God, who alone is
sufficient to fill all the aspirations of the soul. He alone is wise
enough to be your sufficient counsellor;--He alone is strong enough to
give mortals strength.

Of His glory and His beauty, all the glory and the beauty of the things
that He has made, are but faint emblems and reflected lights. He alone
is worthy to be loved "with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and

"Remember," then, "your Creator in the days of your youth." "The fashion
of this world passeth away:"--"lay up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt." "Set your affections
on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God": "and
the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole
spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ."

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Address to the First Graduating Class of Rutgers Female College" ***

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