A Woman’s Thoughts about Women (1858)

January 14, 2013

For Christmas, I received the truly magnificent, original book I called: A Woman’s Thoughts about Women by Dinah Craik – published in 1858.

The cover is barely holding it together (I feel like Indiana Jones handling a priceless artefact), but the words are strong and beautifully expressed. I find myself raising my eyebrows and shaking my head a little as I read her thoughts, confirming the notion that little has changed in at least 150 years.

This is disconcerting, to say the least. I have always intimated that people have essentially stayed the same ‘on the inside’, but is that changing now with our ever-shrinking world? One that has lost its ability to protect us against the saturation of opinion?

At least this is one person’s opinion I am interested in.

There are so many issues that I want to share form this book and lifestyles from a bygone era, that’s it’s hard to know where to begin. Flicking through, I landed on the chapter title that resonated with me: Women of the World.

Dinah writes:

‘What will the next generation come to? What will they be – those unborn millions who are to grow up into our men and our women? The possible result, even in a practical, to say nothing of a moral light, is awful to think upon.
Can it not be averted?
 Can we not – since, while the power of the world is with men, the influence lies with women – can we not bring up our girls more usefully and less showily?

Can we not teach them from babyhood that to labour is a higher thing than merely to enjoy; that even enjoyment itself is never so sweet as when it has been earned?
Can we not put into their minds, whatever be their station, principles of truth, simplicity of taste, helpfulness, hatred of waste; and, these being firmly rooted, trust to their blossoming up in whatever destiny the young maiden may be called to?’

A woman after my own heart.

Better still, her words can equally be applied to our young boys – all people, really.
What simple, logical and fantastic guidelines to live by.

Question #135: So what does the future hold for us, knowing the same questions were being asked 150 years ago?

If we envision dark days – can it not be averted? Evidence seems to point to the gloomy fact that no, it can’t. I long for a time when we can look back at our ridiculous notions of gender roles and see that they have (in the long run) made us worse and more pigeon-holed than ever. Males in power; females on show and all that’s in between.

I wonder what Dinah would think of today’s state of affairs…how intriguing would that conversation be?

Deep Breath.


Dinah Craik

Dinah Craik

5 Responses to “A Woman’s Thoughts about Women (1858)”

  1. lamehousewife said

    I think we are stuck in many ways. My son was reading some quotes from GK Chesterton (sp?) yesterday–stuff from the 1920’s, and said the same thing–GK was talking about the same issues then that we still have now. We haven’t learned yet, apparently.
    Have you read Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women? One of the things that she had hoped was that education for women would help them stop living the life of a doll. She thought if they started to think more deeply, then they would not be that robot. But now we have more education than ever, and that still hasn’t seemed to change. Perhaps we humans are just too stubborn, or we aren’t applying the right remedy. Thank you for the post! God bless…

    • lamehousewife said

      Oh, and Wollstonecraft’s article was written in 1792–women have been working at this for a long time!

    • questionsforwomen said

      No, I haven’t read any other articles but it’s starting to seem clear that SURELY we should be using all this easy access to the past to good use.
      I know we’ve been cyclical in our behaviour since the dawn of time and it’s obvious that, in a way, we are who we are, BUT when are we going to hit enlightenment?
      Just a tad frustrating!
      Thanks Juliet 🙂 x

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