The Physical Education of Girls in 1849

The Physical Education of Girls in 1849

More issues of The Lily are now online. This story was carried in the June 1, 1849 issue and contains a reprinted article from the N.Y. Commercial newspaper. This issue also contains apologies to readers about the difficulty in gaining access to The Lily due to the higher than expected demand for the paper. This, the first newspaper for women published in the United States, was far more popular than the editors expected from the beginning.

The Physical Education of Girls

We copy from the N. Y. Commercial the following excellent remarks upon the proper education of young females, in order to ensure their health and vigorous action even till ago approaches:

Shame on us, that we, who boast of having raised women in this nineteenth century to the position in life which she ought to hold, so educate her that not one of her powers, physical or mental, can ever attain a full and healthy action. Better go back to the days of our great grand-mothers and be content with Dilworth’s Spelling Book and the Assembly’s Catechism,–nay, better to far earlier days, when neither catechism nor spelling-book detained the damsel from the distaff or the loom, than rear for the coming generation a race of nervous wives and sickly mothers.

From Godey's Lady's Book, July, 1850

From Godey’s Lady’s Book, July, 1850

When the boy runs merrily after his ball, or chases in the race, or leaps over the bound, the girl must walk demurely in the garden, because, forsooth, running and leaping and jumping are ungraceful in the girl. When the boy roams freely over the hill, or through the woods in the Summer, or coasts down the hill or skates merrily over the pond in the Winter, the girl, untrusted, unbenefitted, walks pensively by the side of her teacher to the village, or takes a two mile airing in the sleigh once in the week. She never pitches the quoit, never throws the ball, never slides down the hill, never roams through the woods, because, save the mark! all these are deemed unfeminine. In fact, she never thoroughly exercises her body at all, and in consequence soon becomes unable to endure any kind of physical fatigue.

‘Fit only for boys,’ said a principal of a large female institute to me, the other day, when I remonstrated with him on the importance of these and other like exercises for girls. For boys, indeed! And has not a girl a physical system to be developed, and matured and invigorated? Has she not fatigue to bear, obstacles to encounter, hindrances to overcome, enterprise to carry out, duties to discharge? Has she not the burden of life to carry and its toilsome road to travel, for herself? In her own sphere does she not require, and will she not require through life, all the energy and strength and endurance of which her system shall be capable? It matters not whether she is to live in the midst of fashion, or to move quietly in the circles of country life, or to find her lot upon missionary ground, or to struggle against unforseen adversity, all that can be made of her during her years of education, physically, morally and intellectually, she will need. To every woman, in whatever situation she may occupy, life is a FACT, stubborn, earnest, real, to be shaped and moulded by her own efforts, or to be borne and endured by her own fortitude. Happy is she who is prepared for it, not by her own despairing efforts in after life, but by the judicious, careful and thorough discipline of early education.

The three most difficult things are, to keep a secret, to forget an injury, and to make good use of one’s leisure.


Collection: The Lily
Publication: The Lily
Date: June 1, 1849
Title: The Physical Education of Girls

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