Happenings

The educated woman of the 1920s

May 2006    

Eighty-five years ago, Chia Kim Lian (who married Dr Chen Ah Poh, a member of the Baba Church) shared her views on the educated woman in a talk. Trained at the Bible Woman’s Training School, she provided insights worth reflecting as we celebrate Mother’s Day on May 14 this year.

‘THE woman of half a century ago was a woman with brains, heart and hands, capable of doing just as much as the woman of today, but she was not at liberty to pick and choose her special life-work. Housekeeping and caring for her family were her only work. Besides these she had nothing to occupy her mind …

Her school was her home; and her teachers were her mother and her superiors in the family circle. Her subjects for study were washing and sweeping, plain cooking for every day and special dishes for birthdays, New Year sacrifices to the idols, plain sewing and embroidery in silk and beads on belts and slippers. Paying ceremonial respects to elders was always taught, and preparation for the wedding was the final part of her education.

After marriage, the woman was given the liberty of going into society that meant going to weddings, attending funerals and paying visits to the temples of the many deities. On the second and fourth days of the Chinese New Year, she made special visits to the homes of her parents and nearest relatives. Her duty was to serve tables and to pay close attention to the wants of all her elders.

In contrast, the woman of today has many opportunities and responsibilities – of attending school and being taught by qualified teachers. Under their careful discipline, and in contact with missionaries interested in her welfare, she has the chance to grow up to be an orderly and well-educated woman.

Having passed the examinations – Standard Seven, Cambridge Junior and Senior – she can aspire to join the Medical School, the Normal Teachers’ Training Class and the Commercial School. When they are through with their training, these girls take up their respective life-work each giving her best, and thus doing much good in helping the women around her.

With all her training mentally and physically, she still sees that home- making and the bringing up of children is not a work to be despised. As a married woman she gets the chance of knowing more about life and its problems, the opportunity to render service to those in need, a service of equal importance with that of her doctor, teacher or business sister may do.

She has the opportunity to teach her neighbour sister who may not have had the same opportunities as she herself.

She may show her how to care for and feed her children and how to keep her home in a sanitary way … and strive to improve the conditions in the community in which she lives. She need not be shut off from the larger world. Her education has made it possible for her to read books and magazines, to know and to follow with intelligent interest many things that are going on in the world.

The woman of today has many responsibilities. She is responsible for the welfare of other women about her, socially and religiously. In society, a mother likes to watch her daughters’ manners and tastes that speak for her. If she has some quality that influences for the good, the number of followers increases; if her influence is bad, she loses her hold upon those who live and respect her … The woman of today should make the best of her opportunities by acting modestly at home and in society.

As a Christian, she will find that she has more responsibilities than her non-Christian sister has, and should all the more be careful in the use of her rights. The majority of mothers are still ignorant of the valuable qualities of Christianity, but they are always keen to know more of the all-loving and all-divine power which seems to rule over the lives of Christian men and women.

Therefore, let the woman of today, as a true Christian, present to her neighbours the true ornament of Christian womanhood which, as described in 1 Peter 3:4, is “a meek and quiet spirit”, and is expressed in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control”. (Gal.5:22-23).’ — MM, June 1920, pages 56-57, edited.

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