Undergraduate Statements about Woman's Sphere 

The students of Franklin and Marshall College in the mid 1880's were men who came to study religion as well as other academic areas. These young men came from middle-class families that could afford to send them to a private institution, and most had similar goals and expectations of life. The essays these men have written on Women show the power and pervasiveness of the dominant cultural ideology: during the time when the culture of domesticity was an integral ideology in America, young men at Franklin & Marshall were writing essays that supported thisunderstanding of the role of women, especially in the domestic sphere, as teacher, care-taker and nurturer. These essays were a reflection of the society they had grown up with, and a lifestyle that had become an American norm.

Even though it's only been 27 years since women have been allowed to study alongside men at this institution, it is probably safe to conclude that essays on this topic would be a bit different- especially from the female students!

Jennifer Podkul '98


Many are the blessings that man receives at the hands of his creator. If we turn our eyes back to the beginning of time and consider the different works of creation, the mind instinctively stops with surprise and wonder when it sees that man the noblest of all the rest is left solitary and alone, with none to char or invigorate- more to infuse new life into him but the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. And surely they were poorly calculated to increase or strengthen his happiness, even with the peaceful and harmonious natures they possessed while soaring over the delightful and sinless places of Eden. There was even, there, a mighty chasm between man and happiness- a great gulf separating them. There was yet a golden link left about of the great chain that encircled and bound peace and happiness to his simple soul. True there was no sorrows to endure, but still he had more to share with him the joys that were spread around him on all sides. This, of itself, was sufficient to man the beauty of the faintest scene.

But, at last the glorious and happy day was unshared in that offered to him a fountain of happiness of which he had before been entirely ignorant. the Creator looked down and saw that creation was incomplete that there was yet a great work to be accomplished- "that it was not good for man to be alone" and then at last but Oh not least of all his glorious works, woman, charming, confiding, loving woman was created. Then did man cease to see and realize happiness as through a glass dimly, but as in the clear noon days sun. Then did he see and feel the power of woman in bringing peace, delight and pleasure to reign in Eden's lovely bowers (as she frequently has elsewhere) when at Hayman's Alter they became no more "twain but one flesh". There creation was complete- then and only then was Eden a paradise to man. Then did he also feel that it was not good to be alone but that in order to posses happiness he must also have the lovely charms and sweet fellowship of old mother eve. Not only in the garden, but through every age and land and nation, yes, at the present time, in our land and in our very midst woman is as a genial muse [?] to ripen and mature every noble feeling that lies hidden in the heart of man. She exerts a molding influence that forms and fashions all after her won finer feelings. Who has not felt it? And who would not feel it? Hard indeed must be the heart that yields not to her gentle touch. She rules; but she rules in love, and even rules while serving.

She also possesses a confidence of which man is a perfect stranger. Behold, in imagination, the loving pain as they approach the Holy Altar and see the trusting Virgin willingly and cheerfully placing her all in the hands of another and with a faith sure as that of Heaven itself craving the parental roof and casting herself upon the cold world would leaning upon the arm of a stranger vowing before God and man to love, cherish, and respect while life shall last.


Milton H. Hockman
Woodstock, Virginia
F&M Class of 1860
March 27th [1857]



Influence of Women


No influence has been so universal as that of woman. It is not confined within geographical lines but wherever man "lives and moves and has his being". There Woman is present and his helpmate so cheers, support, encourage and love with all the warmth and intensity of her won living heart. Through poverty and want amid suffering and degradation she is even at his side, whispering sweet consolation to his heart and with her superior powers of endurance filling the despairing soul of the partner with bright leaves of hope and lofty aims.

And yet with what base ingratitude has man rewarded the sacrifices of her generous heart. So far from occupying the position assigned to her by the Creator her condition is absolutely degrading and woman gentle, timid yet heroine woman is treated as slave. But in degrading woman man degrades himself. Wherever she is not respected as she was designed to be then he also cannot prosper.

In our own land under the genial influence of our institutions she has attained and enjoys more freedom, more elevation of character and consequently more influence in public and in any other age. Splendid examples of female worth, excellence and heroism shine out among the nations of classical antiquity but they are like stars in a dark night and only sends the profound darkness around them more distinctly visible. No Christianity and Civilization have advanced over the face of the earth, woman has been lifted out of that bondage in which Paganism and Ignorance held her and the intelligence and justice of manhood are bowing before the shrine of female loveliness and virtue. It is in this great American Republic that woman has commenced to take her proper rank and station in society- a gratifying result of our institutions which is controlled by all intelligent foreigners so be she prominent characteristic of American life and manners. From the family circle the prior sphere of her lavors her influence spreads abroad with blessing in it's wings" The example, the warnings and prayers of the pious mother accompanying her darling son into the cares and seductions of the world, like guardian angels the have around him to support hundreds difficulties, so strengthen him amid temptations and recall him from scenes of darkness and guilt, it may be so she blessed remembrances of innocent childhood when at her knee he was first taught to lisp the sacred name of our Father which is in heaven.


Horace A. Yundt
F&M Class of 1859
Lancaster County, Pa.
March 2nd 1857