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.
The needle is also capable of becoming an important monitor to the female heart; and we would impress this truth seriously upon their recollection, that as there is
" Sermons in stones, And good in every thing." so the needle they so often use, is, or may be, a silent but salutary moral teacher. They all know that however good the eye of a needle may be, if it were rusted and pointless, it would be of little use. Let them also recollect, that though it may posses the finest point and polish in the world, if destitute of the eye, it would be of no use at all. The lesson we wish them to derive from hence, is this; that as it is the eye which holds the thread, and that it is by the thread alone that the needle becomes useful, so it is the eye of intelligence directed to the attainment of useful ends, that gives all the real value to the point and polish, which is so much admired in the educated female; and that unless the intellectual powers of the mind be engaged in the pursuits of goodness, all other endowments will be useless to their possessor. Let them learn also, not to despise such of their companions as, though intelligent and useful, are neither possessed of wit or elegance equal to their own. Circumstances may have rendered them, like the needle, rusty and pointless; but the eye of intelligence is there, and they may still be useful.
The want of a work containing clear instructions, without unnecessary diffuseness, by which the uninitiated may become their own instructors, has long been sensibly felt; and this want, the following pages are intended to supply. Our aim is, not to make young ladies servile copyists, but to lead them to the formation of habits of thought and reflection, which may issue in higher attainments than the knitting of a shawl, or the netting of a purse,
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, which we owe to Heaven, to our fellow beings, and to ourselves.
We are anxious to render elegant amusements conducive to the attainment of moral ends; and to lay that foundation of intellectual superiority, and affectionate regard, for the comfort and happiness of others, which can alone give light and animation, sweetness and blooming freshness, to the interesting scenes of future life. All engagements, which are calculated to elevate, soften,and harmonize the human character, have this tendency; and it is in the assured conviction that the employments here treated of, are, when cultivated in due subordination to higher duties, well adapted to secure these objects, and to promote these domestic ends, that the Ladies' Work-Table Book has been prepared, and is now presented to the lovely daughters of our land. The public will be the best judge how far we have succeeded in our effort. Small as the work is, it has not been produced without much labor, and considerable exercise of thought; and it is dedicated to our fair countrywomen, in the fervent hope, that it will not be found altogether unworthy of their favorable notice and regard.
In conluding these introductory remarks, we wish to say a word or two to the parents and guardians of those, whose excellence of character is so essential to the welfare of our beloved country, We trust by you, our little manual will be cordially approved, and placed, as a memento of affection, in the hands of those you most desire to see models of sincerity, elegance, and accomplishments. This will be well; but we trust the matter will not be allowed to rest there. It is not when good instructors and proper books are provided for the young, that the duties of the parental relationship are performed. No; care must be taken to give efficiency to the means thus called into requisition, by the most assiduous care, devoted attention, and judiciously expressed approval on the part of those who claim the highest regard from the rising generation. The path of education is not always strewed with flowers, nor can it ever be pursued with either pleasure or advantage unless a foundation of practical piety and moral worth be laid, on which the superstructure may securely rest.
It has been well remarked " that intellect may be cultivated at school, but that the affections of the heart can only be properly developed amid the scenes of home." Our aim in this work has been, while seeking to promote the purposes of genuine education, to raise high the moral sentiments, and cultivate to an eminent degree the best sensibilities of the soul. In this we ask for your cordial and careful co-operation. We know the influence of a judicious mother, and we confidently commend our labor to your favorable regard.