A Celebration of Women Writers

"Harmonious Culture." by Miss Ida K. Hinds.
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 438-442.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 438] 



I hold that woman, including man, is the supreme being on this earth. For a long time the human race was spoken of only as man. Woman was not considered; later, as man, sometimes including woman; and still later, women were usually included as an important part of the human race; but now, when the wave of woman's advancement has grown large enough to wear a white cap of its own, I think we can, in many cases, say woman, particularly when we refer to the higher development of the race. I believe, then, that the human race, the last and best creation of God, is the supreme race, and should at least be composed of the most perfect physical beings; but it is not. A race made in the likeness of God, capable of being "gods in the germ", and yet in many cases sinking so low that we insult the animal kingdom by calling them brutes. Furthermore, we have not only this physical nature to perfect, but we have in our being two other distinct and higher parts. Browning says, "What is, what knows, what does, three souls, one man." I say one soul, one mind, one body, and when each of these parts are developed to their full capacity, we have a highly developed and perfected man or woman. The person whom I consider has the most perfect culture can use to advantage the greatest number of faculties; that is, the education which makes a man or woman better and more useful to himself and to the world.

The first part of our being that is manifested, is the physical or animal. The young child moves and cries, it is a young animal; then the soul nature begins to show itself, expressed through the body, and the child laughs, smiles, puts out its hands, puckers up its lip in fear; the cry is changed to Ah-g-goo, and last the mind awakes, the child thinks, speaks, and from that time the mind is taken in charge, and the child's education begins, but this education is usually directed to the one part of the being, the mind, to the neglect of the other parts, and these other parts have been so long neglected, that all those who are interested in the welfare of the human race are becoming alarmed at this degradation and deformity of the physical, and are realizing that the accumulation of a lot of facts in the mind, with no knowledge of how to use them, is not education.

I also hold that a man or woman, taking his or her own being and working out each part to its full perfection, or taking the pliable material of childhood and molding this material into a perfect being–perfect body, perfect mind, and perfect soul–is a greater artist, and has done a greater artistic work, and should have as immortal fame as one who chisels from marble the most beautiful form, or paints on [Page 439]  canvas the most beautiful conception of an inspired, artistic imagination. I have been led to consider this subject, because, while traveling through the length and breadth of the country, I have not only been pained by the undeveloped and deformed boys and girls, but I have heard the cry everywhere for more physical strength to do the work that has to be done. The pressure in all directions is a hundred-fold greater than it was fifty years ago, but the strength to meet it is not as great. So I am striving to awaken an interest in this work–the salvation of bodies–and, through the bodies, of the soul. We know that those things that degrade the body-intemperance, immorality, etc., likewise degrade the soul, and, as truly those things that elevate, strengthen and purify the body, must have a like influence on the soul. By the soul I do not mean the spiritual part of the being, but that part that we elevate and build in this world–the seat of order, affection, character and all the virtues, the part into which was breathed the breath of life, and out of which must grow the immortal; but the seed here planted, unless nourished by sunshine and proper food, can not grow, and must perish. As the body is the soil in which the brain and soul live, and which could exist without either, but neither of these can exist without the body. Therefore I say the body should receive the first attention. It is the foundation on which we must build. What would you think of an architect who built a beautiful palace, and before he had finished the interior decorations he found it was settling, because he had paid no attention to the foundation, and when it should have stood completed in its beauty it was only a heap of ruins?

When the cathedrals of Europe were built the greatest artists and architects in the world were sought, first to design and build them strong enough to last through the ages, and then to decorate them; and when they were then built as strong and as beautiful as human skill could make them, they were consecrated. They did not consecrate a heap of stones. So should we build, and decorate with soul and mind, our temple.

A friend of mine who was getting up a class in painting in one of the New England villages, visited almost every house, and she told me she had not visited a house where the woman or her daughters were not "ailing." Think of that in New England, where there is the purest water, and where the people should be as healthy and rugged as the peasants of Europe. I visited a friend, a handsome and well-developed woman, and was introduced to her two daughters–girls twelve and fourteen years old–and when they came into the room I should not have been any more shocked if they had come in dressed in rags and dirty; they would not have shown any more neglect. They were thin, sallow, round-shouldered, had bad teeth and weak eyes, and were very nervous. When I saw the way they lived I did not wonder, for no attention was paid to diet, exercise or rest. I believe the time will come, as it has in some of our cities, when any mother will be as much ashamed to present such children as she now is to present them in rags. If the same time and care could be given to the bodies as is given to the clothing of the bodies, I think the result would be more satisfactory. It is just as easy to predict what will be the future of hundreds of half-starved, delicate children in well-to-do families as it would be to predict what must be the future of a crop of wheat sown in the sand along our ocean or lake shore; and if you saw a man sowing a crop there you would think he was crazy or a fool if he expected it to grow and mature there, or be worth gathering if it did come up. Almost every one would be able to tell him the reason why. You understand these things in regard to the vegetable or animal kingdom, but fail to understand them in the human being, and there is no excuse for such ignorance and indifference in these days of cheap books and intelligent magazine articles.

What would you think of a guardian who had the keeping of the fortune of a child, the money to be handed over when the child is of age, but who spends the money for himself, and thus defrauds the child? You would call him a criminal, and punish him by law; but I say his neglect is not as criminal as the neglect that defrauds the child of health, and starts him off in life with no moral or physical capi- [Page 440]  tal. The first loss can be made up, but the last, never! Boys and girls are put into an open boat and pushed out to sea; their chart, a basket full of facts that they have never assorted or applied; their arms too weak to use the oars, and if their boat is not swamped, they will drift on to an unknown shore, and must make their way as best they can. But give a boy a pair of strong arms, and the simplest chart of the waters he has to navigate, and he will make his way to some objective point and make a success of his life. In reading the lives of our great self-made men, merchants, ministers, professional men, I find this statement in every case; they had only a common-school education, but a vigorous, healthy constitution and uprightness of character; and usually this added: they had good mothers; and I would say to all mothers who regret their inability to send their sons to college, give the boys a healthy, vigorous body and good moral training and their chances of success in life will be greater than with a college education, lacking these. Goethe's mother said she knew her son would be a great man, because she gave him so much of her young life, which she followed up with careful training, and her predictions were fulfilled. Her son was one of the greatest men of Germany. With all our improvements in science, in agriculture, and in many arts, we have left the human race to nature. But all persons who think know that we can leave nothing to nature, when we desire improvement. She shows us many examples of what can be done, but does not do the work for us. Everything that has life, or mind, or soul, left to nature, runs to weeds. We must work out our salvation, physically, mentally and morally. If you walk up the boulevards and through the parks of this city, you will see beautiful velvety lawns and bright flowers, and a street beyond you will see vacant lots filled with weeds; one is nature cultivated, the other nature uncultivated. Way up in New England you will find in the gardens, in autumn, a little, yellow blossom, prized because it is a late bloomer, and bright when everything else is going to decay; and last winter in New York I saw this same little chrysanthemum, developed into a hundred varieties of color and form, marvelously beautiful; one was nature cultivated, and the other nature uncultivated.

Last year we had a dog show in New York, and there were dogs there valued at $10,000, each one having an attendant who understood dog culture; they were not left to nature; if they had been they would not have been worth ten thousand cents. When you look around you and see the possibilities of development in the animal and vegetable kingdom, do you ever think of the wonderful possibilities of human development? I believe artists only have conceived this possibility of the body. Some few persons have attained to this possibility in mind and soul, but how very few have reached the harmonious development of the whole being, and these few have been our greatest men and women. But painters and poets and novelists have been trying to do for us physically what others have been trying to do for us spiritually, revealing to us the beauties of perfection, until we all aspire to it, but are only now beginning to find out the way. We now have systems of exercise that will develop a healthy and graceful body. We are beginning to understand that to produce a healthy body we must give it fresh air, exercise, wholesome and well cooked food, and I particularly emphasize the last, for it is one of the rare things in life. I would like to work and travel hand in hand with the cooking teacher, and I think if I could, and form a sort of crusade, there would be fewer doctors, fewer prisons, and fewer missionaries needed.

There seems to be a general idea that city children are more feeble than country children, but I have not found this to be true among the same class of people. The idea that the children of society ladies are neglected is incorrect; there is no class of children so well brought up physically; their diet, rest and exercise are prescribed, and they follow a perfect system of development, and are as thoroughbred as the horses in their father's stable. The girls will be brought out into society, and their mothers would be ashamed to introduce sallow, misshapen young ladies, and therefore everything is done to make them as perfect, physically, as possible. The boys of many of the leading families will have the responsibility of large fortunes and large business [Page 441]  on their hands when they become of age, and so they must be trained and educated to bear these responsibilities. When I walked up Fifth avenue last Easter, after church, and met the crowd of fashionable people coming from their churches, I thought I had never seen so many bright, healthy looking, handsome women and girls as I saw in half-an-hour there, showing what can be done by proper culture, even amid all the unhealthy influences of city life; and, if such is the case, what might the boys and girls on the farms and in country homes do for themselves? While we are educating the physical, we must not forget the moral.

We have been told that the greatest virtues of the soul are hope, faith and charity. These are the higher virtues, but there are lower or more homely virtues, we may say, and we must commence with these, and the greatest of these, I think, are order and cleanliness. All reformers, all workers for the uplifting of the lower classes, have found this the first lesson to be taught. Ruskin says that "the essence of all vulgarity lies in the want of sensation;" and when we commence to cultivate the senses, refinement begins, and refinement is one of the attributes of soul culture, and out of soul culture and soul refinement grows spiritual culture and the Christian graces. So I say that order and neatness should be taught to every child. It should be a part of their school education, as, in many cases, it is not taught at home. I think it is even more necessary to teach it to the boys than to the girls, for, if boys were taught to keep their persons and surroundings clean, we should not have so much filth in public places, waiting-rooms, railroad cars, etc. If boys were taught to take a pail of water to their rooms and bathe themselves before going to bed, after working all day in the field or other dirty work, they would learn to look upon their bodies as something to be kept clean and pure; they would soon desire to have their surroundings cleaner; this would again have its influence upon them, and they would grow morally better and healthier, for, as I have said before, what elevates the body must elevate the soul. You know and I know of boys who have been ruined because the family thought that anything and any place was good enough for the boys, until they thus grew away from refinement of the family circle, where they felt awkward and out of place, and sought more congenial companionship. Did you ever sit down to a breakfast-table where the linen was spotless, the coffee fragrant, the dishes nicely arranged, and other things in keeping? If you have, it has been in a refined family, for where artistic virtue has been cultivated you may be sure that others have been, for they are seldom found singly, and moreover, I think we can usually tell, when we see the head of a house, even for a few minutes, what kind of a housekeeper she is, and what kind of a table she sets.

No one who has cultivated the virtues of cleanliness, the senses to admire music and other arts, the mind to refined and beautiful thoughts, would ever put before herself, or anyone else, a disorderly table and ill-cooked food. In a very weak, and I think incorrect, article, which appeared in one of our leading magazines, the writer said: "We can get along without learned women, but we can not get along without wives and mothers." Now, I want to know if there is any vocation that calls for more learning than that of wives and mothers, particularly mothers. What we want is more learned women among the mothers; for much of the neglect of which I have spoken is due to ignorance, and ignorance on most vital subjects. What we want are clubs, as widespread as the Chautauqua reading-clubs, devoted to subjects of physical and moral interest. There are some such clubs, called the "Young Mother's Clubs." I hope they may become numerous, more numerous than the ladies' whist clubs. There has been a great deal said about higher education unfitting a woman for her home duties. This is a mistake, for I tell you it is a positive fact that the best housekeepers and the best cooks are educated women; the poorest cooks and poorest housekeepers I have met have been women that knew nothing else; brought nothing from outside; and, having nothing else to do, it was a marvel that they did not learn how to do the one thing well. There is no broader sphere or higher sphere than woman's sphere, for its center is the hearthstone, its circumference eternity; but in some cases [Page 442]  it is a very empty sphere. There is much to do to fill this vastness, and women are beginning to realize how much they are the great soul-educators, and that is what they are doing with their flower missions, their fruit missions, working girls' clubs, open-air funds, and all those things that are educating and refining the senses, and through them the soul, trying to open the eyes of the people to see some of the beauties of the world. What could you tell a child of the beauties of Paradise who has never seen a flower? But take the children from the slums of our cities out into a daisy field, and they will think they are surely in Heaven.

I have no sympathy with those who sing, "Earth is a desert drear, Heaven is my home." Earth is not a desert drear, unless you have pitched your tents in vacant lots; and if you have, plant some flowers around it; cultivate your surroundings, and when flowers bloom take them to those who have no flowers and teach them to cultivate them, and thus bring some beauty into their lives. If you live in a desert drear all your lives, do not imagine you will blossom out in the gardens of Paradise and feel at home there. Your soul would be so dried up that it would take all eternity to get it into condition to enjoy, or appreciate, even the beauties of Paradise. When you have cultivated your soul-nature so that it can look out and enjoy the beauties around us, and realize the possibilities of an earthly paradise, and also realize how much there is to do to help others toward this earthly perfection, then there will not be much time for complaining, nor will any dare to be idle. Woman must be the torch-bearer, and there are many dark places to be lighted, and I hope many that hear me will take up the work with new zeal, and that there may be more and more who will take up this work for the salvation of bodies and the elevating, purifying, and beautifying of the human race.

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Miss Ida K. Hinds is a native of New York City. Her early school-life was spent in Brooklyn. She was graduated from Pacher Collegiate Institute, and has traveled all over the United States and Canada. Her profession, reading, lecturing and teaching, all pertaining to harmonious culture, particularly voice and physical culture. Miss Hinds has given lectures in courses, "Harmonious Culture," "Trinity of Color" and "The Art of Decorating." She is preparing a course of readings from Lew Wallace, "The Prince of India." Her post office address is No. 55 Franklin St., New York City.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom