This section is from the book "A Sewing Course For Teachers", by Mary Schenck Woolman. Also available from Amazon: A sewing course for teachers.
Lessons in drawing or color should accompany the entire course in sewing. The simple plans of the first grade for ornamenting a little burlap mat, needle-case or cover, as well as the high school designs for underclothing, shirtwaists, hats, embroideries, gowns, and home furnishings require art appreciation. Drawings or color sketches should be made and applied directly to the problem in hand. Improved line, adequate decoration, correct placing, harmonious color combinations, temperance and simplicity in results should be gradually attained. The divorce of art from handwork is responsible for much of our bad taste, and as a result, the furnishings of our homes are frequently vulgar; our clothing is commonplace, over-decorated or tawdry, and our shops are filled with poorly constructed articles. The product of many of our industries is influenced entirely by the demands of women. It is necessary for our country's success that the taste and the knowledge of practical buying should be improved. The home worker, the seamstress, the dressmaker, and the milliner usually know little or nothing of art; the teacher of design has been too ignorant of the technique of these industries to be of much service, and the teacher of the Domestic Arts has given her time to her direct field, omitting the fundamental connection of applied art. It is absolutely necessary that she should now give sufficient time to the study of design to be able to improve the art of every-day life. This will again react on the industries. She should either herself give the necessary art lessons in her classes, or be able to direct the work of the regular art teacher, so that good practical results may be obtained.
The Vocational Foundation. The early cessation of education confronts the teacher in the industrial sections of large cities. A large number of children leave school to become wage-earners the moment the compulsory school years are over (about fourteen). Many have not graduated, but stop about the sixth school year, or even before that. As the usual public school courses are planned to culminate later, the education which these young workers have received is of questionable service to them in making a living. The only gainful occupations into which they can enter, therefore, are those which require unskilled labor. These seldom give good opportunities for advance, for the skilled operatives are too busy to train the young beginners. The result is that numbers of these children drift from workroom to workroom, making only a small, inadequate wage. The girls remain a few years in the market, but find it difficult to rise to $5.00 per week, which in large cities is merely a living wage. They then marry and begin homes of their own, but, even there, are unprepared to be economic factors. They have not had handwork enough to be good workwomen, they do not think clearly, express themselves adequately, take hold of a difficulty with any force or initiative, and they are frequently untrustworthy. Their English and arithmetic seem unadaptable to the needs of the trade, or the home. Their employers complain of them and their homes show poor management. The industries of the country, the homes, and society in general would all be benefited if they were given a different education in the elementary school. They should have a training of which they could make direct use, even if they do leave in the fifth or sixth grade. It need not be a direct preparation for wage-earning, but the teacher should plan her course of study according to the needs of the children in the different schools. It is unprofitable to give the class of work leading to entrance into the high school in sections of cities where the majority of the pupils will never even graduate from the grammar grades. In schools where large numbers of children will probably enter industrial life the handwork could be made an especially valuable factor. The teacher of sewing needs the insight and the judgment to so plan her work that a foundation may be laid which will be of service either in the trade workrooms or in the homes She can, through the lessons in sewing and garment making, train the girls to think clearly and quickly and to execute well. She should discourage all slipshod thought and work and endeavor to develop trustworthy natures. In districts where the children usually go to work early good handwork courses, offered in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and correlated with their other studies, would often induce them to remain longer in school. Both parents and children value instruction which they feel will directly aid in life and will sacrifice much to obtain it. Such vocational work as this is greatly needed in city schools. The question of direct trade education is also important. Public instruction must soon meet it, for both boys and girls, by establishing special schools or continuation classes. The trade schools, under private control, which have been already started have demonstrated the value of this class of instruction. While the aim of the grammar grades is for a good foundation for life, not for specialization, the work may and should be vocational in the broadest sense, in localities of large cities providing workers for industries. The training given will thus be beneficial, whether education ends in the early grades, or whether it continues into the secondary schools. The fault at present seems to be that while the present public school curriculum is satisfactory for those who will continue their education, it fails to provide adequately for trade life which begins at the end of the compulsory school years. This subject, in all of its phases, should receive the careful consideration of every sewing teacher, as an ever increasing number of girls are going into trades which use the needle or the sewing machine.