“Conservation” by Mrs. F.B. Ashcraft, from the June 16, 1916 issue of The Monroe Journal.
(A paper read before the Woman’s Club and published by special request.)
I shall not attempt to discuss conservation in its broadest sense. As it pertains to our forests, our mountains, our Niagara Falls, not even Monroe’s shady trees, for they have been ruthlessly sacrificed for a block of cement. To simplify the word it means to save, to preserve. So today I want to make the application very practical. I want to discuss a very vital side of conservation, namely, the saving of our Monroe boys and girls, and Monroe’s yards, gardens, streets, alleys and public grounds.
For the second time I present my views to an organization of public-spirited women. It is not a fine spun theory of mine, but as I am very much a home-lady, I should say it is a home-spun theory, for I have given it right much serious and sometimes unpleasant thought. There are people who object to anything that calls for money, or more money, this might appeal to them as it requires no extra outlay of money but, is neither a money saving scheme.
It is this—That the children of the public schools be graded or given credit on their monthly reports for work done in their home or around their homes, that is, domestic work, physical and manual labor, to enumerate: cooking, sweeping, washing dishes, sewing, cutting wood, carrying it in, cleaning yards and side-walks, and the backs of the premises, working in the flower yard or garden, in fact, anything that children and young people can and should do.
Some one may say, what is the object of this? I should say:
Firstly—To teach our boys and girls habits of industry, to teach them to be able to appreciate a well-kept sanitary home and something of what the mother has to do in the home.
Secondly—To teach them to stay at home contentedly and thereby keep them off the streets and intruding on others who wish to have their children work and study.
Thirdly—To teach them that work is honorable and a credit to them. If there are parents who have plenty of servants and it is not necessary for their children to work, let them show their public spirit by going out and helping beautify our town. We observe there are side walks that are disreputable.
Fourthly—To teach our boys and girls that it is unbecoming and a reflection on their home training to be seen on the streets of Monroe every afternoon and often at night, loafing at some corner, or at the picture show, ice cream counters, post office, or at the depot. It would be far more to their credit to be at home and relieve mother or father of some of the domestic cares.
Fifthly—It will partly or largely solve the servant problem and alone with other good reasons save money these war times. But some one says, how can I keep my boy or girl at home and employed when some John or Mary is always calling to them to come and let’s go up town, or play ball, or to walk, or to the depot, or picture show or something else.
It seems to me that some such system inaugurated in our public schools would be greatly beneficial to the children, the parents and the community. It would prove especially good if adopted in our mill and colored schools. Miss Sowman, the expert sent out by the United States government, recommends home gardening from a money making basis. I argue it for the conservation of our boys and girls. It has been dinned in our ears always that the smartest men came from the rural districts. Why? It is not because they are born with more brains, but mix their brains with their muscle and thereby saved from the devil’s work-shop. Listen! We cannot vote, but we can be training our future city officials.
The children need the work and the work needs the children.
--Mrs. F.B. Ashcraft