Read To Mrs. McAllister of A Woman of the World, free online book, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, on

Concerning Her Little Girl

How strange it seems that your daughter is ten years old.

It is such a brief hour since you wrote me you were eighteen and had entered Vassar.  Having no children of my own to stand as milestones on life’s highway, and keeping a very young heart in my breast all these years, it seems at times little less than impertinent in the children I have known to develop so rapidly into matrons and fathers.

I am glad for you that the doctor has reached the desirable goal where he can rest from his laborious profession for two years, and take that journey abroad you have so long contemplated.  And I am glad that you feel the satisfaction you say you do, in never having left him alone for a whole season as you once thought of doing.

A satisfied conscience is a better comrade to journey along beside, than a remembered pleasure.

But now about Genevieve.

You tell me she is to be left with your sister, and that she will, for the first time, attend the public school.

You are right in thinking this will make her more American in spirit than an education gained through home teaching or private schools.

The girl who attends private schools only, is almost invariably inoculated with the serum of aristocracy.

She believes herself a little higher order of being than the children who attend public schools, and it requires continual association with people of broad common sense to counteract this influence.  I know you and the doctor have exerted this influence, but your sister might not realize the necessity of making a special effort in that direction.

Then, too, since the fathers or grandfathers of our most conspicuous social leaders were self-made and self-taught, and since our American society is composed of so many varied types of humanity, it is well for a young girl to come in contact with all classes while she is yet a child, that she may understand humanity as she is sure to encounter it later.  Yet, as you say, it is indeed a serious thought to know your little rosebud of a child is to be tossed into the dust of the public schoolroom.

“I do not want the delicate leaves forced into premature blossom or blight,” you say, and I feel for you, as I read the words.

You remember your own experience as a school-child in the country, and you tell me you would fain guard your daughter from hearing or seeing much that came to your ears and eyes as a school-child.

But now, my dear Winifred, listen.

It is utterly and absolutely impossible for you to keep Genevieve ignorant of life, or of the great fundamental principles of life.  It is utterly useless to undertake to ignore the set impulse in all nature.  Since God did not ignore it in constructing the universe, parents cannot afford to in educating children.  The one thing to do is to teach your child early to respect and revere the subject, and to regard all things pertaining to birth as sacred, never to be lightly discussed.  Wherever the eyes of an observing child turn, they see something to arouse curiosity upon this subject.

All literature (the Bible particularly) contains some reference to sex and birth.  Unless you stuff the ears of children with cotton, they must hear expressions, suggestions, and references, which necessitate explanations of the same vital subject.  From insects to man, through all the various kingdoms, sex laws are the foundation of life.

Why parents have chosen to taboo this important subject, and why they surround it with falsehood and subterfuge, and suggest that it is unclean or vulgar, has always puzzled me.

Inconceivable harm, lifelong disaster, has befallen many a girl and many a boy through this mistaken attitude of parents to God’s basic law of the universe.

Genevieve is only ten.  But she is a child with a most inquiring mind, and she already indicates a tendency to coquetry.  She prefers boys to dolls, and evidently finds them more interesting than girls.

The things you would guard her from knowing, she is sure to learn in some undesirable and unfortunate manner, unless you prepare her for them with loving delicacy and refinement.

My suggestion is that you take a plant, and talk to her about its growth.  Tell her how it springs from a seed, and hides in the bosom of the earth, expanding until it bursts through, and becomes the baby of mother earth.

Tell her, too, of the bird life in the egg, and make her realize the mother-impulse in all nature.  Then say to her that she is a part of it all and that she came into life by the same divine law, and that when she is older you will explain whatever puzzles her young mind.

Tell her that she was carried under your heart, as the sprout was carried in the bosom of mother earth, and that it is a very holy and beautiful thing; so holy and so beautiful that the refined and sweet people of the world do not talk freely of the subject, but keep it like a religion, for those very near to them.

Then say, You will hear other children, who have not been told this by their mothers, speak rudely and even jest on this subject.  They are to be pitied, for not knowing such jests are vulgar, but you must walk away from them, and refuse to listen, after telling them your mother has explained all you need to know.  Impress upon her that she is never to discuss the topic with any one else, unless you advise her to do so.

I have known only two mothers who took this method with their children, but both succeeded in rearing beautiful and remarkable daughters and sons.  For the sons were included in the talk by one mother, and they were ideal boys and gentlemen-popular with, and respected by their comrades, in spite of their delicacy and reserve on subjects jested over by other boys.

I am sure that you can protect Genevieve from the soil and shock you fear for her, by making her your confidante at this early age, and by convincing her of your loving companionship in the future.  Under no other conditions would I for one day allow a little girl (or a little boy for that matter) to attend a public school.  Not one parent in a thousand realizes the moral dangers surrounding small children who go to and from school in country or city places.

Many remember their own precocious education on forbidden topics, yet seem to imagine their children will be immune from such experiences.

But until the Creator produces life by some new process, children will never be exempt from curiosity regarding the present method, and parents may as well realize the fact and become their children’s reverent instructors, instead of leaving them to be taught God’s holiest truths by vulgar chance or dreadful design.

Do not imagine that innocence necessitates ignorance.

Your child will be far more innocent minded, if you give her the instruction I suggest, than if you leave her to ungoverned imagination and unenlightened observation.

Deep in each human entity the sex impulse is planted, and will assert itself sooner or later.

Ignorance and curiosity lead often to precocious development of the impulse.  By proper care on your part, your child’s mind may be kept normal, innocent, and wholesome.

See to it that you give this important care before you leave.