Some financial advice addressed to young girls appeared in Harper's Bazar magazine of 31 October 1885:
.... The moral is that no woman's property is safe, even in the hands of a saint, unless he is also careful and prudent; and no woman can ever form an opinion as to a man's care and prudence unless she herself cultivates common-sense, and takes pains to know something about business affairs.
This is needful for a woman of large property, and still more for one who has but a trifle. If it lies in real estate, she should know something about the value of real estate and its laws. If it lies in stocks of any kind, she should know what they represent, and watch for herself their rise and fall. It is not necessary that she should manage her property in person, any more than it is necessary that a man should build his own house; but as the wise man visits his house frequently while building, and does not leave all to even his treasure of a master-carpenter, so a woman at least needs to know how the house of her own fortunes is to be built and kept in order. Most fathers now recognize this in the abstract in the case of their own daughters; but when the daughter actually asks a question, it is much easier to reply, hurriedly, "Don't trouble your little head about that, dear," than to spare a moment to explain to her how a bank is carried on, or a joint-stock company organized. Years ago I read an admirable address by a Boston merchant, then eminent, in which he strongly urged the training of women in business habits, and the value to a husband of a wife who could understand his affairs. When I reminded his daughter the other day of this address of forty years ago, she said, with regret, "I wish he had given that instruction in his own family, but he never did."
The mysteries of the Stock Exchange may not be needful to master, but the general principles which govern investment and income are within the reach of all. The commonplaces of this knowledge — that something can not usually be obtained for nothing — that a low and certain income is better than one dangerously high — that people can not afford to play a game they do not understand with opponents who know every move of it — that the investment of even a small property should be made in a variety of directions, so as not to have all one's eggs in one basket, as the saying is — these things are not so hard to learn. If those who yearn for a tempting speculation could once comprehend that if you lend a man $1000 at exorbitant interest, he can easily pay you that interest for a year or two out of your own money if he can then be allowed to abscond or go into bankruptcy with the rest of it, then it would not be so easy to allure women into worthless "Women's Banks." The folly is not confined to women, as the victims of Grant & Ward proved, but probably those sufferers were less innocent, and therefore less the subjects of pity.
In our public schools girls are, on the whole, the best mathematicians. They know the difference between principal and interest in the arithmetic-book, and can rattle off the problem on the blackboard very quickly. What they need is, whether they are supporting themselves or not, to be encouraged to keep their own accounts, and ....
Here the page is cut off. This advice is simply brilliant, especially (as is worth repeating):
- that something can not usually be obtained for nothing
- that a low and certain income is better than one dangerously high
- that people can not afford to play a game they do not understand with opponents who know every move of it
- that the investment of even a small property should be made in a variety of directions
All still true today, and particularly relevant given the stock market mania of the past several years. Who wrote this essay? It was spotted by my wife (Paulette Dickerson — thank you!) on the back of a beautiful engraving of a woman gardening. The page was torn out for sale by a modern merchant out to make a few dollars, who little realized what a treasure existed on the other side of the artwork. Amazing....
Sunday, May 20, 2001 at 06:19:39 (EDT) = 2001-05-20