EVERY HOME SHOULD BE A
Rev. J. H. Vincent, D.D., has been widely known for many years as a very successful educator, as well as preacher and Sunday school teacher. He is now an honored bishop of the M. E. church. About twenty years ago, as is well known, Brother Vincent originated a plan for educating the masses. It finally developed into what is known as the "Chautauqua Idea or Plan." Dr. Vincent and his helpers have arranged a course of study and prepared books, which require a certain number of years to complete the course. These pupils study their lessons at home. A certain number of persons in a neighborhood form themselves into a Chautauqua Circle, and meet once a week. They appoint one of their number as teacher and recite what they have studied during the week. Once a year all who have the money and time to spare, attend the annual meeting, for one month, where lectures are given on different subjects, and lessons taught by the best of teachers, and those who have completed the course graduate, and receive their diplomas. In 1887, through the kindness of the ladies of the Fourth Baptist Church, Pittsburgh, Pa., I was furnished with the means to attend one of these meetings. I never met a more enthusiastic class of pupils in my life. Gray-haired men and women received diplomas with as great delight as young school girls. This annual meeting I saw was needed to keep up the interest in every-day study at home. Here they received an impetus that sustained them through the year.
I sat me down and studied and thought over and pondered the whole subject, and concluded that I had blunderingly gotten hold of Dr. Vincent's idea without knowing it. My Training School for Married Women was the "Chautauqua idea," in a form adapted to the class of persons, among whom I labored. My plan is to keep these wives and mothers with me only one month of the year. So many have told me, "You can do nothing in one month." But I knew I could. In one month you can awaken thought: you can sow seed that will keep on growing all the year. You can arouse the intellect and start it to thinking, and if followed up year after year, you will soon have an intelligent class of wives and mothers. Their judgment is more mature than their intellect, and they can see the need of this education, and the need of a knowledge that is not learned from books. The daily lectures that I gave my women on Economy, Punishment of Children, Amusement of Children, Care of Babies, Little Plans for Making Home Happy, How to Teach Bible Lessons to Their Children, the Wife's Duty, and a dozen other subjects on practical every-day duties, interested them, because it was on a line with their every-day life work. You cannot interest a young girl on these subjects as you can a wife and mother, because the home of the latter is a present reality, and a girl's home is away in the future. I found that the more intelligent these women were, the more interested they were in all the lessons taught. The best housekeepers were the ones who wanted to learn more about housekeeping, and the best mothers were the ones that were so eager to learn more of correct plans for training their children, just because their minds were waked up on that subject. When individuals say they know all about a subject, you may feel sure they know but little about it. There are hundreds of women, both white and black, that will tell me, "I know how to keep house and how to take care of my children just as well as I want to, and I will not fool my time away trying to learn anything more on that subject." We must be patient with such women and try to show them how much there is yet for them to learn. This is what we were doing.
Then there is a multitude of married women, who think after marriage they do not need their brains, nor their books, they only need their fingers and their feet. This is a very great mistake. Above all things a wife and mother should keep on learning from books, every day of her life. My school was especially needed for women who had never had a chance for an education in early life, and at this age they did not want to sit down in a school with a lot of giggling children who would laugh at the fact that these grown-up women could not spell even book or house. So you see it was necessary to get the women in a school by themselves. Besides, as I have shown you, there were so many other subjects needed to be taught these women, that would not be appropriate for children. This month in our school was our colored women's Chautauqua meeting, where they got the start and the inspiration that would carry them through the year. We had also our plan of study at home adapted to our ability. My paper HOPE has its theological department in Bible Band lessons. Then it has lessons on Home-Making and Care of Children, Social Purity, Temperance, Biography, Lessons for the Children, etc. We are sure that we have the right plan and it will not be long till we have these schools started all over the South. Are you going to let all these poor colored women remain in ignorance simply because they are married? No, verily, not if I can help it. But there must be something done to awaken the sleeping intellect and show these women what great possibilities are folded up in their hearts, heads, and hands. And that is just what my paper and my school is doing.
It is fireside study that makes the scholar. No one ever yet became intelligent by what he learned in school, and no one can be ignorant who spends his spare moments in study at home. The mother is queen of home. Our school was established to teach these queens how to rule wisely. Every mother should be able to read God's Word to her child. If it be but a few verses, it will do more to establish them in the right faith than all other schools of theology. One lesson taught a child by its mother is worth ten taught by a teacher. Is it any wonder that I am so anxious to grasp the hand of a mother and to put down deep in her heart the seeds of truth? Any one who has studied the condition of the colored women of the South will know that my school and schools like it are a great necessity.
For centuries the light of intelligence was shut out from these poor people. To even look at a book was a crime that brought severe punishment. While on the other hand the white race has had superior opportunities for mental culture for centuries. "We that are strong must bear the infirmities of the weak," especially when our injustice made them weak. I appeal to the intelligent white mothers of our land for help for the hundreds of mothers on the plantations in Louisiana who have never received even the first lesson in the holy duties of motherhood, especially the young mothers. My plan is to bring them together once a year in a model home, for lessons during two weeks or a month. This will do much to awaken thought and suggest improvements which will be carried out when they return to their homes. My schools from 1884 to 1890 have proved the wisdom of this plan.
One great school can not supply the needs of these people, there should be at least one in each state, kept open six months with not more than ten boarders at a time; a larger number would take away the family idea and prevent us showing our pupils a model home. But if each class only stayed one month we would reach sixty women each year. The other six months should be given to holding parents' meetings in touch with the homes of our pupils. The furniture and everything pertaining to these schools should be of the simplest kind, only two teachers would be needed. A rented house is best, because every two or three years we want to change the locations in order to reach those who could leave home only as day pupils.
Our great need is not so much money, but wise, patient, well-prepared teachers, who will know how to adapt their lessons to the needs of their pupils in a loving way.
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