Document 15: Frances Hazen, "Young Women," Oberlin Students' Monthly, May 1859, p. 267, Student Life Records (Publications), Record Group 19/00/1, Box 1, Oberlin College Archives.

Introduction

        Oberlin College student Frances M. Hazen (b. 1836) published her essay "Young Women" in 1859 for the Oberlin Students' Monthly, the college literary magazine. Hazen was a senior in the Ladies Course at the time. The Monthly published works of "religion, politics, and literature" by students in all Oberlin degree programs, and often included written transcriptions of speeches given by both male and female students. While it is unclear if Hazen ever presented "Young Women" aloud, she was a member of the Young Ladies' Literary Society at the time. This group, devoted to writing and oratory by women, shaped Hazen's political views and her view of women's roles. Readily apparent in her words is the antebellum tension between the proper women's sphere and the emerging woman's rights movement. Hazen calls for a recognition of the influence women exercised over men. While remaining deferential toward men, she nevertheless points out the significant part women have played in history, and asks acknowledgment of the intellectual and active roles she and her female compatriots were taking as college students in the 1850s. For more on the Young Ladies' Literary Society, see Young Ladies' Literary Society Bylaws (Document 8).

YOUNG WOMEN.

       LORD KAMES has said, "Manifold are the advantages of criticism," and as persons of cultivated minds "enjoy criticism," there can be at least no harm in indulging in this rational enjoyment, when a tempting opportunity is presented. Not long since, we listened with eager minds and glowing hearts to a lecturer, who eloquently discoursed on "Youthful Ardor," and convinced us by the "most enticing sort of logic" that "the world could not possibly get along without young people." The fact was not new to us; however, we were gratified that so much could be said on the subject, and that it could support gracefully and with dignity so much eloquence. But it must be confessed that one portion of the audience were particularly interested in the "Ladies' department" of the address, and could not avoid assuming the critic, and taking the most unaccountable exceptions to a certain aspect of the otherwise unexceptionable discourse. Words in all their glowing vividness fell upon the ear as they flowed from the lips of the speaker, telling of the gladness and rich coloring with which youthful enthusiasm tinged human life. We were told that this ardor overleaped barriers, which the sober, calculating fathers could never do; that it was this ardor that took Time by the forelock; that forced its way through danger, when others would say that "discretion is the better part of valor."[A] These just sentiments touched an answering chord in every youthful heart, and when, now and then a convincing argument closed with, "what would the world do without young men and women?" we echoed, "what would it do without us?"

       But let us assume the listener again. We were told that it is the young men who rush to the standard at the call for freedom--who take the foremost stand in battle--it is the young men who are most engaged in moral reforms, and in renovating society by bringing it up to a higher standard--that so does this ardor in young men urge on to further attainments they are as steam to a locomotive." It was a young man, who, in mounting the rugged difficulties of life, urged on by the burning enthusiasm of his soul, still cried, "Excelsior!" Why marvel that our hearts burned within us as we followed such glowing words? but neither marvel that we could not but feel that young women were added to the list most to contribute in forming a beautifully rounded period. We will allow that it contributed in no small measure to that effect; but "why," we asked ourselves, "in that oft repeated query, must we haunt the footsteps of the young men like the ghost in Hamlet? Why may we not have a bodily presence given us?" Do not our hearts burn with youthful enthusiasm in not only contemplating but acting the good and the true? Does not human life glow with the bright coloring which young women give it? The deeds of the young men during America's struggle for freedom are chronicled upon the pages of history; but ask of your grandmothers the unwritten history of the enthusiasm which burned in their bosoms when in those times they were young women. We are told that these were "the times that tried men's souls,"[B] but we know that those are the times that have tried the soul of women. The young men shouldered their guns and fought and bled for the cause of freedom: -- and the young women let them go; and we exclaim, what would America have done without young men--and women. It is the young men who are seen in action. When the three cheers that are raised for a triumph achieved are borne on the air, think not that the voice of every young woman's heart doth not raise the same triumphant chorus, though it may be unuttered. When one of our number appears and gives vent to the enthusiasm that burns in his soul, and the rest catching the same ardor, manifest it in applause, think not, because we are silent that we do not catch the infection. Our enthusiasm differs from that of young men only in that it is less demonstrative--still, we would have its existence acknowledged.

       There is a tendency in those on one side, to show their gallantry by tenderly protecting those of the other side from the ills of life, and screening their gentle natures from the rough usages of the world, for which they are very grateful, and which they never fail to accept, acknowledging, as gracefully as circumstances will allow, that their brothers are the strongest. But this is not all. They are not merely to contribute to forming a beautifully rounded period, they are not merely to adorn society, their mission is not merely to demand flattery. No! those who are true to their womanly nature, shake flattery indignantly from the ends of their fingers, and claim that their words should be heeded as, mounting the rugged difficulties of life, they blend their voices though in softer cadence in the enthusiastic cry, "Excelsior!"

       But it may be said that "true worth needs not to speak its own value." It is this which consoles us; and we know that you cannot imagine "what the world would do without" young women. What desolation would follow! Methinks youthful enthusiasm would be somewhat dampened. Without the young women's hands to supply this great want, and to rectify that evil, without their voice to cheer the loneliness there would be something lacking, at least the fuel with which to kindle youthful enthusiasm. In short, from the gown and slippers to the higher calls of the moral nature, all speak of the desolation that would ensue if all the young women should turn their back upon the world and make their exit. But we are too well acquainted with our lecturer to suppose that he knows nothing of the amount contributed by young women to the gilding of life, and excuse him by saying that "he didn't think of it." And remembering that the hour was too short to unburden his whole heart, we are sure that he left some thoughts unspoken, and we reserve our indignation until we shall find occasion to make exceptions to actions, which (they say) are more truthful than words, implying that young women have no share in spreading a radiance over the every day of life by their enthusiasm. But we are sure that in the address referred to, the shadowy termination--"young women" in the oft repeated query, was only the shadow of good things to come, and we look forward to the occasion when our lecturer shall re-gather his focuses of eloquence in depicting, "What would the world do without young women and men?"

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A. William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I (1597) act 5, sc. 4, l. [121]
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B. Thomas Paine, The Crisis (1776).
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