Story type: Essay
Why is it that comparatively few women find intense enjoyment in life after middle age?
Why is it that you cannot duplicate among women such careers in old age as the careers of Spencer, Gladstone, Huxley, or any of the great men whose interest lies in mental activity and mental achievement?
One reason is this: A great majority of women are inclined to accept and adopt without question the ideas formed for them.
THEY GIVE UP THINKING EARLY IN LIFE.
When a human being stops thinking, that human being’s life practically ends.
All over the country you may see thousands and hundreds of thousands of calm, settled, placid-faced, middle-aged women.
They admire themselves and they are admired generally. They ought to be pitied.
They think now on all subjects just as they thought ten or twenty or thirty years ago.
They view with horror things which they know nothing about. They reject opinions which they don’t understand; they have unlimited faith in matters of which they know absolutely nothing. —-
Every one pities a man whose existence and enjoyments are limited to the physical, sentimental side of life.
We all feel that a man of fifty, unless hard conditions and want have ground interest and vitality out of him, ought to be at his best. He ought to be active, alert, OPEN TO NEW IDEAS.
His mind is his one asset, and he should be constantly adding to his knowledge, to his observation, and therefore he should be constantly changing his mental point of view.
Many women suffer undoubtedly from the sentimental, physical and intellectual reaction caused by the cessation of the responsibility of maternity.
Such passionate affection, devotion and self-sacrifice are lavished upon the children that when they grow up nothing more seems worth while except to set them a good example.
Many other things are worth while: And as improving civilization frees women more and more from the endless cares of the petty household and the worries of poverty, the field for their mental development will steadily expand.
When woman shall have accomplished her greatest material duty, that of fully populating the earth, big families will no longer be known, not more than two years of any woman’s life will be devoted to the worries of infancy, and then woman will have to do her share of the world’s thinking and its original intellectual work. —-
For her own sake and for the sake of those about her, every woman, whatever her age, should realize that there is no old age for the brain well cared for.
Many men and women view with sentimental reverence the picture of a middle-aged lady, old before her time, sitting in her rocking-chair, knitting placidly, without one original thought in a month.
This sentimental idea is a false one.
The type of woman to be admired is Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, eighty-four years old, filling Carnegie Hall with her wonderful voice, thrilling with admiration all of those who listened to her, reciting with the greatest mental power her splendid battle hymn, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord.”
THERE is a woman who enjoys her life. It is safe to say that the eighty-fourth year of her existence is as happy as any year that preceded it.
She is an old woman, and to most women that means sorrow and dulness. But she is happy, admired and useful, BECAUSE SHE THINKS.
There are in the United States hundreds of thousands of splendid brains going to waste among our women, because they do not realize the duty of using, to the last, all the intellectual power within them.