This section is from the "The Ladies' Work-Table Book: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America" book, by Margaret Vincent. Also available from Amazon: The Ladies' Work Table: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America.
We have before alluded to the various and interesting uses to which the needle can be applied, and the high moral ends it is so well calculated to promote: and if such be its importance, then it will be readily admitted by all, that he who has made the most improvements, and produced the most finished specimens of this all-important instrument, has conferred a real benefit upon his race.
We have a higher end in view, than promoting the acquisition of accomplishments, however elegant or pleasing. We wish to direct the minds of those whom we are thus endeavoring to interest and instruct, to the immortal beauties of moral excellence. These works may be made conducive, in a high degree, to the development of family affection, and the promotion, to a vast extent, of the purposes of genuine charity, benevolence, and friendship. But there is yet a higher kind of use, to which we would apply them. We would have the young lady, who is becoming expert and clever at her needle to reflect, as the beautiful fabric grows beneath her forming hand, that her work, and the power and skill to plan and execute it, is an emanation of the Immortal Mind; of that Mind, whose creative powers are a faint, but legible transcript of the Omnipotent Wisdom of the Deity. This thought gives a permanency to what would, in any other light be only transitory as the summer cloud. It is Omnipotent Wisdom and Power, which has contrived and executed all the beautiful wonders of creation; and that Wisdom and Power were called into activity by Omnipotent Love. We wish to impress this sublime truth upon the mind of our young readers, because we wish them to place their Heavenly Father before them - as their pattern and example - in all that they take in hand; and to remember that, as He formed the universe by Wisdom, from Love - so all their actions and elegant contrivances should be the result of judgment, guided by affection - that they may thus become like their Father, who is in Heaven.
Indeed, it is only when accomplishments are rendered subservient to the development of moral goodness, that they may become pursuits at all worthy of an accountable being. We were not sent into this world to flutter through life, like the gaudy butterfly, only to be seen and admired. We were designed to be useful to our fellow beings; and to make all our powers and capabilities, in some way or other conducive to the happiness and welfare of our co-journeyers on the path of time. To this end, we wish our fair countrywomen to devote their best attention; and, in its attainment, to exert every energy which they possess. We wish them to make all the knowledge which they may acquire subserve some noble purpose; which will outlive the present hour. But to do this, the well-spring of the purest affections must be opened in the soul; and the elegant productions of taste and genius become vitalized, and animated, by the spirit of love. Thus, and thus only, can the occupations of a leisure hour be converted into efficient ministers of good; and such they will assuredly be found, if practised from right motives, and placed in due subordination to the right exercise of more important duties. The young votaress of the needle, of drawing, or of music, should ever bear in mind, that the time employed in those pursuits, will be accounted lost or improved, by the impartial Judge of all - just in proportion as they have been made to serve the puposes of selfish gratification, or to minister to the development of an elevated moral character - generous and warm affections - and the cultivation of those virtues, which, as essentials of the Christian character, shall outlive the ravages of time, and qualify the soul for all the beatitudes of a coming eternity.
In all then that the young lady aims to learn, or to accomplish, let her place a high and moral standard before her, and resolve to render every transaction of her life conducive to her preparation for a higher state of being. Our various faculties and powers were not given us to be wasted, but to be used to the honor of our Creator - the comfort and welfare of those around us - and, as a consequence of our faithful discharge of our several obligations, conducive, in an eminent degree, to our happiness. No mistake can be more fatal, than an idea that, for what we call trifles, we shall have no account to render. What we call trifles, may be, in their consequence, both to ourselves and others, the most important acts of our lives. It is not by great events that our characters are formed; but by the neglect or performance of our duties in that state of life, into which the Wisdom of our Heavenly Father has seen fit to call us. To elevate the sufferings, sooth the sorrows, increase the comforts, and enhance the joys of all around us, should be the highest aim of a laudable ambition - and every endeavor should be most assiduously devoted to the accomplishment of these important ends. It is, in fact, only when we thus employ our various talents and capabilities, that they are really useful, in any other case, they are only ministers to our personal pride, and selfish gratification, instead of becoming links in that golden chain, by which the faithful performance of appointed duties is elevated to the possession of " a crown of righteousness, that fadeth not away."
Let, then, the youthful female, as she plies her needle, or exercises her judgment or ingenuity, in the choice of colors or materials, or in the invention of new developments of creative genius, ever remember to exercise those powers as a Christian - let her cultivate, in her inmost soul, the conviction, that all her skill and power is imparted from on high - and let her be careful to make all she does, a sacrifice, acceptable to her God, by doing all in the spirit, and under the influence of that sacred charity - that boundless benevolence - which ever rejoices, in making its various capabilities subservient to the good of others, and thus gives to the otherwise perishable occurrences of time, an endurance and a continuity, that shall endure for ever.